Image of the Air Force wings with the museum name underneath

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Sgt. 1st Class Fred C. Graveline

Sergeant First Class Fred C. Graveline

First Enlisted Recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, 1919

Sergeant First Class Fred C. Graveline was part of a small group of enlisted men who flew combat missions in World War I, and the first of only two enlisted men to receive the Distinguished Service Cross in the war.

After hearing about the shortage of officer observers, he volunteered to serve as both an observer and aerial gunner with the 20th Aero Squadron. On two occasions he drove off large numbers of German planes and returned with his aircraft full of bullet holes and out of ammunition. SFC Graveline completed fifteen missions, shot down two German aircraft, and by the end of the war had flown more combat sorties than any other American enlisted man.

SFC Fred C. Graveline’s courageous service demonstrated that enlisted men could excel in challenging air combat roles when given greater levels of responsibility.

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