b. 07/04/1947 Morgantown, West Virginia. d. 11/02/1969 Plieku, Vietnam.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 11/02/1969 Plieku, Vietnam.
Born in Morgantown, West Virginia, Thomas W. Bennett was sociable and deeply religious. He was raised Southern Baptist, but while a student at West Virginia University, he formed the Campus Ecumenical Council during his freshman year.
When he was placed on academic probation after the Fall 1967 semester, he considered his options should he lose his academic deferment. Deeply patriotic, but opposed to killing on religious grounds, he opted to enlist as a conscientious objector who was willing to serve. This classification is different from a conscientious objector who will not assist the military in any way. He was trained as a field medic.
Cpl. Thomas W. Bennett arrived in South Vietnam on January 1, 1969, and was assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. The unit began a series of strenuous patrols in the dense, mountainous terrain. On February 9, 1969, the unit came under intense fire, and Cpl. Bennett risked gunfire to pull at least five wounded men to safety. That evening, his platoon sergeant recommended him for the Silver Star.
Over the coming days, Cpl. Bennett repeatedly put himself in harm’s way to tend to the wounded. On February 11, while attempting to reach a soldier wounded by sniper fire, Cpl. Bennett was gunned down. On April 7, 1970, his posthumous Medal of Honor was presented to his mother and stepfather by President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office, The White House.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Cpl. Bennett distinguished himself while serving as a platoon medical aidman with the 2d Platoon, Company B, during a reconnaissance-in-force mission. On 9 February the platoon was moving to assist the 1st Platoon of Company D which had run into a North Vietnamese ambush when it became heavily engaged by the intense small arms, automatic weapons, mortar and rocket fire from a well fortified and numerically superior enemy unit. In the initial barrage of fire, 3 of the point members of the platoon fell wounded. Cpl. Bennett, with complete disregard for his safety, ran through the heavy fire to his fallen comrades, administered life-saving first aid under fire and then made repeated trips carrying the wounded men to positions of relative safety from which they would be medically evacuated from the battle position. Cpl. Bennett repeatedly braved the intense enemy fire moving across open areas to give aid and comfort to his wounded comrades. He valiantly exposed himself to the heavy fire in order to retrieve the bodies of several fallen personnel. Throughout the night and following day, Cpl. Bennett moved from position to position treating and comforting the several personnel who had suffered shrapnel and gunshot wounds. On 11 February, Company B again moved in an assault on the well fortified enemy positions and became heavily engaged with the numerically superior enemy force. Five members of the company fell wounded in the initial assault. Cpl. Bennett ran to their aid without regard to the heavy fire. He treated 1 wounded comrade and began running toward another seriously wounded man. Although the wounded man was located forward of the company position covered by heavy enemy grazing fire and Cpl. Bennett was warned that it was impossible to reach the position, he leaped forward with complete disregard for his safety to save his comrade’s life. In attempting to save his fellow soldier, he was mortally wounded.
BURIAL LOCATION; EAST OAK GROVE CEMETERY, MORGANTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA.
SECTION S-2, LOT 167, GRAVE 6
LOCATION OF MEDAL: WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY, MORGANTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA.