John L. Levitow

Sergeant, U.S. Air Force

from Sgt. Levitow’s Medal of Honor citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty.  Sergeant John L. Levitow (then Airman First Class), U.S. Air Force, distinguished himself by exceptional heroism on 24 February, 1969, while assigned as a loadmaster aboard a AC-47 aircraft flying a night mission.  On that date, Sgt. Levitow’s aircraft was struck by a hostile mortar round.  The resulting explosion ripped a hole through the wing and fragments mad over 3,500 holes in the fuselage.  All occupants of the cargo compartment were 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 forty 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 open 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.  Sgt. Levitow struggled forward despite the loss of blood.  Unable to grasp the flare with his hands, he threw himself bodily upon the burning flare.  Hugging the deadly devise 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 selfless and heroic actions, saved the aircraft and its entire crew from certain death and destruction.  Sgt. Levitow’s conspicuous gallantry, his profound concern for his fellowmen and his intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.

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