The Navy Cross was established by Act of Congress (Public Law 253, 65th Congress), approved on February 4, 1919.
The Navy Cross has been in effect since April 6, 1917.
The Navy Cross may be awarded to any person who, while serving with the Navy or Marine Corps, distinguishes himself in action by extraordinary heroism not justifying an award of the Medal of Honor. The action must take place under one of three circumstances:
The Navy Cross is worn after the Medal of Honor and before all other decorations.
Additional awards of the Navy Cross are denoted by gold stars five-sixteenths of an inch in diameter.
The Navy Cross was designed by James Earl Fraser (1876-1953).
The first actual recipient of the Navy Cross is unknown because intial awards were made from a lengthy list published after the First World War.
DESCRIPTION AND SYMBOLISM
The Navy Cross is a modified cross patée one and a half inches wide (the ends of its arms are rounded whereas a conventional cross patée has arms that are straight on the end). There are four laurel leaves with berries in each of the re-entrant arms of the cross. In the center of the cross a sailing vessel is depicted on waves, sailing to the viewer's left. The vessel is a symbolic caravel of the type used between 1480 and 1500. Fraser selected the caravel because it was a symbol often used by the Naval Academy and because it represented both naval service and the tradition of the sea. The laurel leaves with berries refer to achievement.
In the center of a bronze cross patée one and a half inches wide, crossed anchors from the pre-1850 period, with cables attached. The letters USN appear amid the anchors.
The ribbon is navy blue with a center stripe of white. the blue alludes to Navy service and the white represents the purity of selflessness.