SGT JOHN L. LEVITOW
3d Special Operations Squadron.
U.S. Air Force
Long Binh Army post, RVN
24 February 1969
While flying a night mission as Loadmaster on a Special Operations AC-47 fixed-wing aircraft in support of ground troops from Long Binh, Sgt. (then A1c.) Levitow’s aircraft was struck by a mortar round tearing a 2-foot hole in one wing and peppering the fuselage with over 3500 shrapnel hits.
The entire cargo bay crew were wounded by shrapnel and slammed against the floor and fuselage. An activated Illumination flare was dropped in the chaos. – Detonation would engulf the AC-47 in flames.
Sgt. Levitow, although suffering from over 40 fragment wounds in the back and legs and dazed by the explosion, forced himself to his feet. He turned to render medical aid to a wounded comrade. As he was moving, the wounded man forward away from the cargo door. Levitow spotted the activated flare rolling around the deck.
Knowing he had, but a few seconds before the flare would ignite destroying the aircraft and killing the crew, Sgt. Levitow lunged toward the burning flare. In an out of control Yaw, the aircraft was rocking and shaking, causing the flare to roll wildly from side to side. Unable to grasp the rolling flare with his hands, he threw his body on it, hugging the explosive to his body Levitow dragged himself aft to the cargo door where he hurled the flare out the door where it detonated almost immediately. Levitow’s pilots were able to regain control of the aircraft and land her safely. Sgt. Levitow’s quick thinking and bravery saved his aircraft and his entire crew from certain death.
The last line of Sgt. John L. Levitow’s MOH citation reads as follows:
“Sgt Levitows 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.”
If you want to know the origins of Special Operations Aviation, it is here, you might also be surprised who one of the first Special Ops Pilots was.