The President of
the United States takes pride in presenting the MEDAL
OF HONOR posthumously to
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
as set forth in the following
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 four such passes, the
enemy force began to retreat. Capt. Bennett continued to
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.
GERALD R. FORD
Steven Bennett entered the Air
Force in 1968, and earned his pilot wings at Webb AFB, TX. In
1970, he completed the B-52 bomber training course at Castle
AFB, CA. He then transitioned to become a Forward Air
Controller (FAC), and graduated from the FAC and fighter
training courses at Cannon AFB, NM, before reporting to
Vietnam in early 1972. He had only been in combat for three
months before his Medal of Honor mission and had also won the
Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters.
Capt. Bennett was posthumously awarded the
Medal of Honor. The decoration was presented to his wife by
President Gerald Ford at the Blair House on 8 August, 1974.