02 September 2012

George Cross: M. P. Benner

MICHAEL PAUL BENNER

Second Lieutenant, Royal Engineers

Born: 14 April 1935
Died: 1 July 1957, The GroƟglockner, Austria

Citation: The QUEEN has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous award of the GEORGE GROSS to the undermentioned in recognition of great gallantry:—

Second Lieutenant Michael Paul BENNER (448764), Corps of Royal Engineers.

In Austria during the summer of 1957, Second Lieutenant BENNER was in command of a party of noncommissioned officers and men training in moving and living in mountainous country. On the 1st July, after a week in the mountains, he led six of his men on a traverse of the 12,400 feet Grossglockner. The summit was successfully reached at 6 p.m. after the long ascent but a storm had caused delay and made conditions unexpectedly difficult. In preparation for a descent by the ordinary route, which normally is not difficult, the party unroped.
Second Lieutenant BENNER led the way down a ridge closely followed by Sapper Phillips. The storm and the lateness of the hour made the steps, kicked in the snow, icy and slippery. Sapper Phillips missed his foothold and began to slide down a fairly steep snow slope. Seeing this, BRENNER [sic] jumped out of his own secure foothold on to the open slope and caught the falling man, holding him with one hand and endeavouring with the other to dig his ice-axe into the snow. This he could not succeed in doing. Both men slid down the slope together until they disappeared to their death over the steep face of the mountain.
In making his attempt to intercept Sapper Philips this gallant young officer took, as he well knew, a desperate risk. As the two gathered speed down the slope he must have realised that he could save himself only by releasing his grasp of Sapper Phillips' arm but he did not do so. He held on to the last, struggling to obtain a grip in the snow with his feet and axe.
With supreme courage and devotion he sacrificed his life endeavouring to save his companion.

[London Gazette issue 41421 dated 17 Jun 1958, published 13 Jun 1958.]

Victoria Cross: Home, Salkeld, Smith and Hawthorne

DUNCAN CHARLES HOME

Lieutenant, Bengal Engineers

Born: 10 June 1828, Jubbelpore, India
Died: 1 October 1857, Malagarh, India


PHILIP SALKELD

Lieutenant, Bengal Engineers

Born: 13 October 1830, Fontmell Magna, Dorset
Died: 10 October 1857, Bulandshahr, India

Lieutenants Duncan Charles Home and Philip Salkeld, Bengal Engineers, upon whom the Victoria Cross was provisionally conferred by Major-General Sir Archdale Wilson, Bart., K.C.B., for their conspicuous bravery in the performance of the desperate duty of blowing in the Cashmere Gate of the Fortress of Delhi, in broad daylight, under a heavy fire of musketry, on the morning of the 14th September, 1857, preparatory to the assault, would have been recommended to Her Majesty for confirmation in that distinction, had they survived.

[London Gazette issue 22154 dated 18 Jun 1858, published 18 Jun 1858.]


Note: As originally established in 1856, the Victoria Cross was only awarded to living recipients. This rule was not changed until 1905, by King Edward VII. However, as Home and Salkeld had actually been notified of the award by Major-General Wilson before their deaths, in their case the medals were presented posthumously. (There does not seem to have been any other announcement in the Gazette regarding this.)



JOHN SMITH

Serjeant, Bengal Sappers and Miners

Born: February 1814, Ticknall, Derbyshire
Died: 26 June 1864, Jullunder, India

Citation: " For conspicuous gallantry, in conjunction with Lieutenants Home and Salkeld, in the performance of the desperate duty of blowing in the Cashmere Gate of the fortress of Delhi in broad daylight, under a heavy and destructive fire of musketry, on the morning of the 14th September, 1857, preparatory to the assault."
(General Order of Major-General Sir Archdale Wilson, Bart., K.C.B., dated Head Quarters, Delhi City, September 21, 1857.

[London Gazette issue 22131 dated 27 Apr 1858, published 27 Apr 1858.]



ROBERT HAWTHORNE

Bugler, 52nd Regiment

Born: 1822, Maghera, County Londonderry, Ireland
Died: 2 February 1879, Manchester, Lancashire

Citation: " Bugler Hawthorne, who accompanied the explosion party, not only performed the dangerous duty on which he was employed, but previously attached himself to Lieutenant Salkeld, of the Engineers, when dangerously wounded, bound up his wounds under a heavy musketry fire, and had him removed without further injury."
(General Order of Major-General Sir Archdale Wilson, Bart., K.C.B., dated Head Quarters, Delhi City, September 21, 1857.

[London Gazette issue 22131 dated 27 Apr 1858, published 27 Apr 1858.]

Medal of Honor: J. L. Levitow

JOHN L LEVITOW

Airman First Class (later Sergeant), US Air Force; 3d Special Operations Squadron

Born: 1 November 1945, Hartford, Connecticut
Died: 8 November 2000, Rocky Hill, Connecticut

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty [at Long Binh Army post, Republic of Vietnam, on 24 February 1969]. Sgt. Levitow (then A1c.), U.S. Air Force, distinguished himself by exceptional heroism while assigned as a loadmaster aboard an AC-47 aircraft flying a night mission in support of Long Binh Army post. Sgt. Levitow's aircraft was struck by a hostile mortar round. The resulting explosion ripped a hole 2 feet in diameter through the wing and fragments made over 3,500 holes in the fuselage. All occupants of the cargo compartment were wounded and helplessly slammed against the floor and fuselage. The explosion tore an activated flare from the grasp of a crewmember who had been launching flares to provide illumination for Army ground troops engaged in combat. Sgt. Levitow, though stunned by the concussion of the blast and suffering from over 40 fragment wounds in the back and legs, staggered to his feet and turned to assist the man nearest to him who had been knocked down and was bleeding heavily. As he was moving his wounded comrade forward and away from the opened cargo compartment door, he saw the smoking flare ahead of him in the aisle. Realizing the danger involved and completely disregarding his own wounds, Sgt. Levitow started toward the burning flare. The aircraft was partially out of control and the flare was rolling wildly from side to side. Sgt. Levitow struggled forward despite the loss of blood from his many wounds and the partial loss of feeling in his right leg. Unable to grasp the rolling flare with his hands, he threw himself bodily upon the burning flare. Hugging the deadly device to his body, he dragged himself back to the rear of the aircraft and hurled the flare through the open cargo door. At that instant the flare separated and ignited in the air, but clear of the aircraft. Sgt. Levitow, by his selfless and heroic actions, saved the aircraft and its entire crew from certain death and destruction. Sgt. Levitow's gallantry, his profound concern for his fellowmen, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.