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by KAREN LAGRANGE COX
Captain Steven Logan Bennett, a 1964 graduate of Youngsville High School in Youngsville, Louisiana, was posthumously awarded a Medal of Honor for sacrificing his life to save the life of Marine Captain Michael B. Brown, who was the artillery observer in the backseat of his plane on June 29, 1972.
After Bennett’s OV-10 forward air control aircraft was struck while on a mission in Vietnam, the left engine and left main landing gear were severely damaged by a surface-to-air-missile. Fire had spread to the aircraft’s left engine; Bennett realized landing at a friendly airport was impossible. He instructed Brown to eject from the aircraft; however, Brown advised Bennett his parachute was shredded due to the force of the missile that hit the aircraft. Although Bennett’s parachute was good, if he had ejected from the aircraft, Brown would have had no chance of survival. To save Brown, Bennett ditched the aircraft into the Gulf of Tonkin, off Quang Tri Province in the Republic of Vietnam. That aircraft type was not known to survive a ditch into the water. When ditching in the Gulf of Tonkin, the impact caused the aircraft to cartwheel, severely damaging the front cockpit; Bennett could not escape. Brown was able to escape and was rescued.
The day following the aircraft crash, Bennett’s body was recovered and is buried in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Vice-President Gerald Ford gave the medal to Bennett’s widow, Linda, and daughter, Angela, at the White House in Washington, DC, on August 8, 1974.
The Purple Heart with one oak leaf cluster (two awards) and the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters (four awards) were also awarded posthumously to Bennett. For sacrificing his own life to save his fellow airman, he also earned The Cheney Award.
Born in Palestine, Texas, on April 22, 1946, his parents were Elwin and Edith Alice Logan Bennett. In Palestine, there is a historical marker dedicated to Bennett.
According to Bennett’s daughter, Angela Bennett-Engele, in a National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation YouTube video on the 50th Anniversary of Captain Steven Bennett’s Medal of Honor Mission over Vietnam (the video has Brown), when her father was about two years old, his family moved to the Lafayette, Louisiana, area of Youngsville – Broussard which is where he grew up.
He attended high school at Youngsville High School in Youngsville, Louisiana. The Youngsville Middle School’s library is dedicated to Bennett‘s memory. The library’s website states, “He was a member of the football team, enjoyed swimming, playing golf and chess, and reading about the Civil War as a student in the 1960s”.
After graduating from Youngsville High School, Bennett attended Southwestern Louisiana Institute (now the University of Louisiana – Lafayette) in Lafayette, Louisiana.
In the video, Bennett-Engele, who was two and a half when her father was killed, speaks of her father’s proposal to her mother. He said it is “God, country, and family” for him, and if that didn’t work for her, it wouldn’t work between them. The couple met while attending the University of Southwestern Louisiana (USL), now named the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (UL-L).
Bennett’s Medal of Honor was for service as outlined in the following Citation:
“Capt. Bennett was the pilot of a light aircraft flying an artillery adjustment mission along a heavily defended segment of route structure. A large concentration of enemy troops was massing for an attack on a friendly unit. Capt. Bennett requested tactical air support but was advised that none was available. He also requested artillery support but this too was denied due to the close proximity of friendly troops to the target. Capt. Bennett was determined to aid the endangered unit and elected to strafe the hostile positions. After 4 such passes, the enemy force began to retreat. Capt. Bennett continued the attack, but, as he completed his fifth strafing pass, his aircraft was struck by a surface-to-air missile, which severely damaged the left engine and the left main landing gear. As fire spread in the left engine, Capt. Bennett realized that recovery at a friendly airfield was impossible. He instructed his observer to prepare for an ejection, but was informed by the observer that his parachute had been shredded by the force of the impacting missile. Although Capt. Bennett had a good parachute, he knew that if he ejected, the observer would have no chance of survival. With complete disregard for his own life, Capt. Bennett elected to ditch the aircraft into the Gulf of Tonkin, even though he realized that a pilot of this type aircraft had never survived a ditching. The ensuing impact upon the water caused the aircraft to cartwheel and severely damaged the front cockpit, making escape for Capt. Bennett impossible. The observer successfully made his way out of the aircraft and was rescued. Capt. Bennett’s unparalleled concern for his companion, extraordinary heroism and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty, at the cost of his life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Air Force.”
(Signed) GERALD R. FORD
CAPTAIN STEVEN L. BENNETT, UNITED STATES AIR FORCE
20th Tactical Air Support Squadron, Pacific Air Forces.
Place and date of action: Quang Tri, Republic of Vietnam, 29 June 1972.
50th Anniversary of Captain Steven Bennett’s Medal of Honor Mission over Vietnam
From the YouTube video: On the 50th anniversary of Captain Steven Bennett’s Medal of Honor mission over Vietnam, the National Medal of Honor Museum had the privilege to speak with Capt. Bennett’s daughter Angela and Maj. Mike Brown, USMC, who was with Captain Bennett, in the back seat of the OV-10 Bronco, on this historic mission on June 29, 1972. Captain Bennett is one of 19 US Air Force Medal of Honor recipients and his actions highlight a life of service, courage, and sacrifice that went well above and beyond the call of duty.
To learn more about Bennett and his final mission, visit these websites: