An Important Book About the Stories of Aviation Heroes who Received the Distinguished Flying Cross

On Heroic Wings: Stories of the

Distinguished Flying Cross

From the “Greatest Generation” flying propeller-driven fighter planes during World War II, to the male and female pilots maneuvering sophisticated jet aircraft over the skies ofIraqandAfghanistan, military aviators have captured a special place in the hearts and minds of Americans.  While the vast majority of these aviators has demonstrated extraordinary honor, only the best and most courageous are awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross.

The Distinguished Flying Cross was created by an Act of Congress in 1926.  Under the initial Act, along with military aviators and crew, a select group of civilians received the Distinguished Flying Cross for aerial achievement.  Shortly thereafter, Congress modified the medal criteria to focus specifically on actions involving heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight.  DFCs have been awarded prior to and duringWorld War II,Korea,Vietnamand on to the present.  The Distinguished Flying Cross has also been awarded to military aviators and/or their crew for civilian rescues during emergencies and natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.

The Distinguished Flying Cross Society authorized Dr. Barry A. Lanman (DFCS historian) and Dr. Laura M. Wendling to write an official publication on the history of the Distinguished Flying Cross and the heroes who received this highest aviation award in the United States.  The Foreword for On Heroic Wings was written by President Bush (41) and the Introduction was written by aviator and astronaut Jim Lovell; both are recipients of the Distinguished Flying Cross.  Thirty-two major accounts and over 180 vignettes are included in the book along with 311 photographs.

While the authors frame each narrative using historical background and context, the stories are predominately told in the first-person words of the hero.  Thus, the humanity of their courageous acts is accurately heard and the reader is compelled to interact with the thought processes of theDFCrecipient.  The accounts also include elements of human interest which make the stories unique beyond the military action itself.  A comprehensive effort was also made to include the five military services, a wide range of aircraft, and various aspects of diversity.  The publication was released in January, 2012.

In concert with the publication, a documentary film is being developed.  Lanman and Wendling are working with the DFCS and production companies to develop a one-hour story for television.  A fourteen-minute pilot has already been produced with actor Gary Sinise hosting the presentation.  The documentary will contain oral history interviews, scene re-creations and state-of-the-art digital animation in order to dramatically tell the stories of the Distinguished Flying Cross.  Educational components in digital format are also planned for the book and documentary.  The curricula will focus on issues of ethics, values, and the ways in which one person can make an impact on the course of history.

The oral history collection, publication, documentary and educational components are the only comprehensive sources that recount the glory of these true American heroes who quietly yet proudly wear the Distinguished Flying Cross.


On Heroic Wings: 

 Stories of the Distinguished Flying Cross


Factual Data about the Publication

Authors:  Dr. Barry A. Lanman and Dr. Laura M. Wendling

Publisher:  The Distinguished Flying Cross Society, San Diego, California

Book type:  Hardback/dustcover

Pages:  325

Additional data: 13 color photos, 298 black & white photos, research notes, bibliography, glossary and index

Dimensions:  8 ½” x 11” x 1”

Shipping weight:  3.4 pounds

Language:  English

Publication date:  2012

ISBN:  978-0-615-52024-7

Library of Congress number:  2011933548

Price:  $39.95

Purchase through:  On Heroic Wings


Unique Characteristics of the Publication

 This is the first comprehensive book published relating to the theme of aviation heroes who received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Foreword by:  President, George H. W. Bush   (DFC recipient during WWII)

Introduction by:  James Lovell, Captain, USN, (Ret.)   (Recipient of two DFCs)

Epilogue by:  The Honorable Anthony J. Principi, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, 1992-1993 and 2001-2005 (Honorary member of The Distinguished Flying Cross Society)

The 80 pound high gloss paper highlights the visual quality of this publication.

In many respects, “On Heroic Wings” has the characteristics of a beautiful coffee table book with 311 photographs; many of which have never been published.  However, the individual stories and collective history of the Distinguished Flying Cross is extensively documented through oral history interviews and traditional historical research methodologies.

The Distinguished Flying Cross Society is a non-profit organization with the mission to educate the public about aviation heroes.


On Heroic Wings



Foreword                    George Bush, Forty-first President of the United States    ix


Introduction                Captain James A. Lovell, United States Navy, Retired    xi


Authors’ Note    xiii


Annotations for the Reader and Researcher    xv


Chapter 1        Establishing the Legacy          1      


Chapter 2        Stories of the Distinguished Flying Cross: World War II          25

Introduction          26

Personal Accounts          27

Memorable Moments          69


Chapter 3        Stories of the Distinguished Flying Cross: Korea          83

Introduction          84

Personal Accounts           85

Memorable Moments          127


Chapter 4        Stories of the Distinguished Flying Cross: Vietnam          139

Introduction          140

Personal Accounts          141

Memorable Moments          187


Chapter 5        Stories of the Distinguished Flying Cross: Recent Decades          203

Introduction          204

Personal Accounts          205

Memorable Moments          249


Chapter 6        In a Class by Themselves          265


Chapter 7        The Distinguished Flying Cross Society          293


Epilogue          The Honorable Anthony J. Principi          305

Photographic and Research Acknowledgments          307

Glossary          309

United States Military Ranks          312

Bibliography          314

Index          317


About the Authors


Dr. Barry A. Lanman and Dr. Laura M. Wendling


Dr. Barry A. Lanman is the Director of the Martha Ross Center for Oral History and a professor at the University

of Maryland, Baltimore County.  Concurrently, he serves as the historian for The Distinguished Flying Cross

Society.  Dr. Lanman has authored numerous articles, pamphlets and books in the fields of education and history.

He has also written and produced several educational and historical media presentations.  Along with other

awards and honors, The Former Members of Congress named Dr. Lanman as its educator-historian for 1984.  He

also received the Judith Ruchkin Research Award and the Forrest Pogue History Award.

Dr. Laura M. Wendling is a professor in the College of Education, Health and Human Services at California

State University San Marcos.  She is the past National Director of the Consortium of Oral History Educators.

Dr. Wendling has published widely in the areas of oral history as an educational methodology, social studies

curriculum and instruction, children’s learning in museums and art education.  She is the recipient of several

honors including the Brakerhill Distinguished Professor Award for excellence in teaching, research and service.


Lanman and Wendling have worked and published together for a decade.  In 2008, the Oral History Association

recognized the professors for their significant contributions to the field of oral history education by

honoring them with OHA’s Postsecondary Teaching Award.