b. 25/10/1890 Warrensburg, New York. d. 25/04/1928 Quebec City, Canada.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 09/05/1926 Arctic Circle.
Bennett was born in Warrensburg, New York, in 1890. He was an automobile mechanic before he enlisted in the Navy in 1917, during World War I. Bennett attended flight school, learned to fly and was rated as an Aviation Pilot. Bennett served with Richard E. Byrd on an aviation survey of Greenland in 1925, on which Byrd came to respect his ability as a pilot.
Byrd named Bennett as his pilot for an attempt to reach the North Pole by air in 1926. Bennett was at the controls on May 9 as the two men made their attempt, in a Fokker Tri-motor called the Josephine Ford. They returned to their airfield in Spitzbergen on the same day. Although members of the European press were skeptical of their claim (because it seemed that the plane had been away from Spitzbergen too briefly to have reached the North Pole), Byrd and Bennett were lionized as heroes in America. Both Bennett and Byrd received the Medal of Honor for this feat. The subsequent discovery of Byrd’s diary of the flight, with erased (but still legible) sextant readings, has been considered as evidence they could not possibly have reached the North Pole.
Bennett received his Medal of Honor from President Calvin Coolidge at The White House, on 25 February 1927. After returning to the United States, Bennett flew the Josephine Ford on a goodwill tour of America, with Bernt Balchen as his co-pilot. Byrd and his team had been leading candidates to win the large Orteig Prize in 1927, to be awarded for the first nonstop flight between France and the United States. Once again, Byrd named Bennett as his pilot for the attempt. However, Bennett was seriously injured during a practice flight and the airplane, a Fokker F-VIIb-3m named America, was badly damaged when it crashed on take-off. Byrd and his fellow pilot George O. Noville were also slightly injured in the crash. Following this failure by Bennett and Byrd, Charles Lindbergh won the Orteig Prize, flying from Long Island, New York, nonstop to Paris, France.
The Bremen was a German aircraft which had just completed the first successful transatlantic aeroplane flight from east to west, but was damaged and unflyable after a landing on a peat bog on Greenly Island, Canada at the end of that non-stop flight from Europe, on April 13, 1928. Floyd Bennett and Bernt Balchen flew a Ford Trimotor to pick up the three stranded Bremen Flyers. Bennett had developed pneumonia following a previous crash. His condition worsened during the rescue, and he died shortly afterward, while in hospital in Quebec City, on April 25, 1928. Balchen was paid $10,000 ($158,000 today) for the effort, an amount that was passed to Bennett’s widow. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Virginia.
For distinguishing himself conspicuously by courage and intrepidity at the risk of his life as a member of the Byrd Arctic Expedition and thus contributing largely to the success of the first heavier-than-air flight to the North Pole and return.
BURIAL LOCATION: ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA.
SECTION 3, GRAVE 1852-B
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM, WASHINGTON DC. (NOT ON DISPLAY – OFTEN ON LOAN).