15
May
09

On This Day, May 15: Airman Levitow Awarded Medal of Honor

May 15, 1970

Air Force sergeant awarded Medal of Honor

At the White House, President Richard Nixon presents Sgt. John L. Levitow with the Medal of Honor for heroic action performed on February 24, 1969, over Long Binh Army Post in South Vietnam. Then an Airman 1st Class, Levitow was the loadmaster on a Douglas AC-47 gunship. His aircraft had been supporting several Army units that were engaged in battle with North Vietnamese troops when an enemy mortar hit the aircraft’s right wing, exploding in the wing frame. Thousands of pieces of shrapnel ripped through the plane’s thin skin, wounding four of the crew. Levitow was struck forty times in his right side; although bleeding heavily from these wounds, he threw himself on an activated, smoking magnesium flare, dragged himself and the flare to the open cargo door, and tossed the flare out of the aircraft just before it ignited. For saving his fellow crewmembers and the gunship, Airman Levitow was nominated for the nation’s highest award for valor in combat. He was one of only two enlisted airmen to win the Medal of Honor for service in Vietnam and was one of only five enlisted airmen ever to win the medal, the first since World War II.

“Air Force sergeant awarded Medal of Honor,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=1879 [accessed May 15, 2009]

On This Day

1618 – Johannes Kepler discovered his harmonics law.

1768 – Under the Treaty of Versailles, France purchased Corsica from Genoa.

1795 – Napoleon entered the Lombardian capital of Milan.

1856 – Lyman Frank Baum, author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” was born.

1862 – The U.S. Congress created the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

1926 – Roald Amundsen and Lincoln Ellsworth were forced down in Alaska after a four-day flight over an icecap. Ice had begun to form on the dirigible Norge.

1942 – Gasoline rationing began in the U.S. The limit was 3 gallons a week for nonessential vehicles.

1948 – Israel was attacked by Transjordan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon only hours after declaring its independence.

1957 – Britain dropped its first hydrogen bomb on Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean.

1958 – Sputnik III, the first space laboratory, was launched in the Soviet Union.

1963 – The last Project Mercury space flight was launched.

1970 – Phillip Lafayette Gibbs and James Earl Green, two black students at Jackson State University in Mississippi, were killed when police opened fire during student protests.

1972 – Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace was shot by Arthur Bremer in Laurel, MD while campaigning for the U.S. presidency. Wallace was paralyzed by the shot.

1997 – The Space shuttle Atlantis blasted off on a mission to deliver urgently needed repair equipment and a fresh American astronaut to Russia’s orbiting Mir station.

May 15, 1942

Ronald Reagan applies for transfer to Army Air Force

On this day in 1942, Lieutenant Ronald Reagan, a cavalry officer, applies for reassignment to the Army Air Force, where he would eventually put his thespian background to use on World War II propaganda films.

The transfer was approved on June 9, 1942, and Reagan was given a job as a public relations officer for the First Motion Picture Unit. The First Motion Picture Unit (FMPU)–its acronym was pronounced “fum-poo”–produced military training, morale and propaganda films to aid the war effort. FMPU released Frank Capra’s Why We Fight series and a documentary of the bomber Memphis Belle, the crew of which completed a standard-setting 35 bombing missions in Europe. The films were screened on domestic training grounds and in troop camps overseas as well as in movie theaters at home.

Another film, Air Force, which was later renamed Beyond the Line of Duty, conveyed the true story of the heroic feats of aviator “Shorty” Wheliss and his crew, featuring narration by Ronald Reagan. The documentary, originally intended to promote investment in war bonds, won an Academy Award® in 1943 for best short subject. Reagan went on to narrate or star in three more shorts for FMPU including For God and Country, Cadet Classification and the The Rear Gunner. Reagan also appeared as “Johnny Jones” in the 1943 full-length musical film This is the Army.

“Ronald Reagan applies for transfer to Army Air Force,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=528 [accessed May 15, 2009]

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1 Response to “On This Day, May 15: Airman Levitow Awarded Medal of Honor”


  1. 1 nikolaykotev
    May 15, 2009 at 7:34 am

    Dear Friend!
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    Best wishes
    Nikolay Kotev
    Sofia, Bulgaria


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