This decoration was instituted in 1918 to award any person serving in the Army, or officers and men of military forces allied to the United States, for 'having distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism against an armed enemy in circumstances which do not justify the award of the Medal of Honor'. Further acts of gallantry justifying the grant of the decoration, a bronze oak cluster is awarded to be worn on the ribbon. The decoration can also be awarded posthumously.
The cross is made of bronze with the American spread eagle on it. Below the eagle is a scroll with the inscription: 'For Valor'. The ribbon is blue with narrow white and red stripes at either edge.
The first hundred decorations that were made had the arms of the cross decorated with oak leaves, in later models the leaves are omitted.