Medal of Honor
Levitow, John L.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. 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.
John Lee Levitow was born 1 November 1945 at Hartford, Connecticut. He was the the first of two children of Lee Tobias Levitow and Marion V. Winialski Levitow.
Levitow attended Glastonbury High School, in Hartford, graduating in 1965. He then studied at the Porter School of Engineering and Design, Hartford.
John Lee Levitow enlisted in the United States Air Force on 6 June 1966. He went through basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He was initially trained as a power line specialist, but cross-trained as an aircraft loadmaster. Airman Levitow was then assigned to the 3d Special Operations Squadron.
The flight on the night of 24 February 1969 was Levitow’s 181st combat mission.
A1C Levitow married Miss Barbara Ann Corbeil, at St. Augustine’s Church, Glastonbury, Connecticut, 19 July 1969. They resided near Norton AFB in Southern California. They would have two children. They later divorced.
President Nixon presented the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Levitow in a ceremony at The White house, 14 May 1970.
In January 1998, a McDonnell Douglas C-17A Globemaster III, 96-0005, was named The Spirit of Sgt. John L. Levitow in his honor.
John Lee Levitow died of cancer at his home in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, 8 November 2000. He was buried with full honors at the Arlington National Cemetery.
The Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs named its skilled nursing facility at Rocky Hill The Sgt. John L. Levitow Healthcare Center.
© 2021, Bryan R. Swopesby