Steven Bennett – Hometown Hero

Captain Steven Logan Bennett

Born: April 22, 1946
Died: June 29, 1972
Place of Birth: Palestine, Texas

Steve Bennett decided to join the Air Force in 1968 receiving his pilot wings in Big Spring, Texas, at the Webb Air Force Base. In 1970, he completed advance training on the B-52 bomber at the Castle Air Force Base in Atwater, California. Bennett then undertook training as a Forward Air Controller at the Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico.

Following FAC graduation, in 1972, Steve Bennett reported for active service in Vietnam. Part of Bennett’s training was done with the OV-10, a sturdy twin turbo-prop multi-mission air craft used by the Air Force and the Navy. The problem with the OV-10 was, because of it’s structure, that no pilot had ever ditched this plane successfully.

On June 29, 1972, Bennett was on a mission flying with his backseater, Marine Captain Mike Brown. Bennett was marking targets for friendly forces and Brown was directing fire from Navy ships. They had been on duty for over three hours and had learned that their replacement craft was going to be delayed.

Bennett received a message that several hundred North Vietnamese were going to attack a small South Vietnam platoon that was located only a mile away. Without help, the smaller platoon would be virtually wiped out and there was no way to get more troops there in time nor could they call in the guns from the ships as it would be too dangerous.

Knowing the OV-10 was the only chance to save the soldiers below, Steve Bennett made several passes chasing the North away. Then the plane was hit from behind by a SAM missile, damaging one engine, forcing the left landing gear down, coupled with a fire aboard.

Steve Bennett headed the plane to the water of the gulf so he could drop some fuel and then the two could eject but Brown found his parachute had been damaged by the hit they took. Rather than save himself by ejecting, and leaving Brown in a non-pilot plane, Bennett ditched the plane but it flipped over and started sinking nose first. Bennett knew this would still give Brown a chance to get out. Brown was picked up by a rescue craft and they recovered Bennett’s body the next day.

For his personal sacrifice, Captain Steven Bennett was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

In addition, in a joint move by the Navy and the Air Force, he was further honored by having an ammunition ship named after him, the M/V Captain Steven L. Bennett.

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