Obverse: The Navy Cross is a modified cross patée 1½ 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. The designer 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.
Reverse: In the center of a bronze cross patée 1½ inches wide, crossed anchors from the pre-1850 period, with cables attached. The letters “USN” appear amid the anchors.