Monday, June 15, 2020

The power was not turned off when I thought it was turned off

I'm composing this post on Thursday as I'm anticipating a restful, relaxing 3 day weekend.  If all goes as planned, I will depart Rancho Juvat Friday and proceed to Moscow on the Colorado to assist MBD and SIL in the packing of their worldly goods.  I will return home that evening to rendezvous with Mrs J who will have quick turned our guest house in anticipation of our third set of guests thus far this month.

It is very nice to live in a state that is not still in lockdown.  BTW, did you know our governor is Republican?

"Back on subject, juvat!"

"Back on subject, Aye,  sargento Matusalén de la Fuerza Aérea!"

Saturday, Mrs J and I will return to Moscow on the Colorado and begin the delightful process of loading the U-Haul with said worldly goods and then driving it and 3 vehicles to Detroit on the Bayou.  Then unloading said goods into MBD and SIL's new abode.  Undoubtedly, because this is a juvat family move, it will be very hot, very humid and will involve at least one drenching rain storm.

As this has happened in virtually every move I've made, one comes to expect such things.

So...All this to explain that, if anything exciting happens between now and Monday morning when this goes live, I will not be commenting on it.  

Replies to comments will depend on whether my back will allow me to sit at the computer.

Yes...I am looking forward to this weekend!

Update: It's Sunday Evening.  Mrs J and I have returned to Casa Juvat safely, but achely.  MBD and SIL's earthly belongings have been transported to a nice part of Detroit on the Bayou...relatively, and mostly unpacked.  (It is Military tradition to leave the last box packed as long as possible as unpacking always foretells arrival of transfer orders).  Saturday evening, our hotel was next to some train tracks.  I'm told several trains went by during the evening.  Nary a peep was heard by me.

MBD puts the finishing touches to the living room
Master Bedroom is pretty much ready to go.

 MBD had a friend who pretty much took charge of the kitchen and got that organized for her.  That was nice.  

Except for the ever present unpacking goblin who hid the TV power cable for about an hour to the consternation of all concerned, it went better than could be expected in a Juvat Family move.  So, maybe the curse has been lifted.  Now, back to our regularly scheduled broadcast.

 On with the story.

One may wonder about the title of this post.  Which is as good a place to start as any.

That statement was made as the catalyst that caused one of the most well known Enlisted Person in the US Air Force to become so.

Airman First Class John Levitow joined the Air Force in 1966 and was trained as a Civil Engineer.  He served as a Power Line Specialist at McGuire AFB NJ until, in his own words, he experienced an incident in which "the power was not turned off when I thought it was turned off."

Ya know, sometimes you're given a tap on the shoulder to let you know you need to change directions.

You generally should take the hint.

In any case, Airman Levitow cross trained to be a loadmaster.  Cross training completed, but not documented, he is assigned as a load master on AC-47's in Vietnam.

 On February 24th,1969, A1C Levitow is filling in as loadmaster on Spooky 71 to provide night air support for Long Binh Army Base as well as Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base.
Time Lapse photo, of fire from an AC-47 Gunship.  At max rate (18000 rounds/minute) a single AC-47 firing a 3 second burst could put a round in every square foot of a football field

A1C Levitow's role in the mission is to hand aerial flares to " set the ejection and ignition timer controls on Mark 24 magnesium flares and pass them to the gunner for deployment. These flares were 27-pound (12 kg) metal canisters 3 feet (0.91 m) long that would burn at 4,000 degrees, illuminate with the intensity of two million candlepower and burn for two and a half to three minutes." (Source)

Long Binh is under Mortar attack as Spooky 71 arrives overhead.  The crew begins to dispense flares to help the defenders see the attackers as well as allow the aircraft itself to employ its weapons.  A1C Levitow has just handed the gunner a flare and the gunner has his hand on the safety pin getting ready to drop the flare when the aircraft is hit in the right wing by a mortar round.

A one in a bazillion shot.  Classic case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The mortar shell's explosion knocks the crew in the back off their feet with shrapnel injuring all.  As a result, the gunner drops the flare which pulls the safety pin activating the 20 second timer.  The flare is rolling around the floor as the aircraft is in a 30o bank.

A!C Levitow realizes that if the flare ignites, the aircraft will be destroyed, however he is badly wounded in his legs and can't walk.  After trying to catch the flare with his hands, he finally tackles it and holds it to his chest as he crawls to the open door.

He manages to get to the door and throw it out, and it almost immediately explodes.

Never give up, Never surrender indeed!

The airplane manages to make it back to Tan Son Nhut and lands.  Inspection of the aircraft reports 3500  holes in the wings and fuselage to include one in the wing measuring over 3'.

Spooky 71's interior
Mortar impact point

A1C Levitow is transported to a Hospital in Japan  for surgery to remove 40 pieces of shrapnel from his back and legs. After two months, he returns to the squadron completing two more combat missions. He's boarding the airplane for another when the Squadron Commander told him he had been grounded by the 7th AF Commander as he'd been nominated for the Medal of Honor.

He is rotated stateside to Norton AFB while the nomination paperwork is being processed.  While this is going on his initial enlistment is running out.  When he tries to reenlist, he is told that he can't  because he didn't have 5 years in the load master career field, therefore he couldn't be promoted to Sgt (E-4) therefore he couldn't reenlist.  Remember my earlier comment, "but not documented"?  Well...The fact that he had been cross trained meant that he had the 5 years and should have been promoted almost a year earlier.

The Air  Force had even issued instructions to " promote Levitow to sergeant without regard to skill level", but they had not been carried out.

Apparently, a week or two before the ceremony, A1C Levitow was promoted to Sgt but still took an early out because when President Nixon hung the Medal of Honor around his neck, he was a civilian.

After leaving the service, Mr. Levitow became a strong advocate for Veteran's affairs for the remainder of his life.  He passed away in 2000 from cancer at age 55.

I've done several of postings like this and I've discovered that almost to a man the recipients display a sense of humility about it.  Mr Levitow is no exception.

"I’m very careful what I do, I realize that what I say will be represented not only as a Vietnam veteran but as a Medal of Honor recipient, and the media will have a field day. I try to control what I say, although for the most part, I’m very quiet. I stay away from publicity and things like that. … If I got stopped drinking and driving, it’s going to say, ‘Medal of Honor Drunk.’ I realize that. I’m not going to bring shame on either the medal or myself, so I do watch it very carefully.”

Sgt Levitow's Citation:
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.
 Rest in Peace, Warrior!



  1. John died way too young. A very brave man.

    Glad the move went well and you survived. A bonus!

    1. Thanks.

      Yes he was. Living another day is always a bonus!

  2. Bear-hugging a burning flare, wounded, plane bucking....words fail me. 55 years on this earth, gone too soon. RIP Warrior.

    1. A complete change of life in a mere 20 seconds. One wonders if, given the same circumstances, they could do as well.

  3. Thanks for the great post about SGT Levitow, juvat! I was stationed at Tan Son Nhut for most of 1967, and spent a month or so at the 90th Replacement Battalion in Long Binh. We used to see the parachute flares frequently, and I was always amazed when the planes would be firing at Charlie at times when TSN was under attack by the VC. With the tracer, the stream always looked like a fat red laser beam going down to the ground.

    Sounds like SGT Levitow was almost a victim of military "before this can happen, something else must happen first" for the presentation of his CMH. But somehow the USAF decided that his actions were so deserving of high honor that the "stool of a common barnyard fowl" was bypassed and he got his richly deserved recognition.

    Darn shame he died at such a young age. There was Agent Orange in use in the area in the late 1960s, and I wonder if perhaps that was what caused his cancer, as happened to the son of CNO Zumwalt somewhere around that time frame?

    In any case, thanks for illuminating this CMH winner's story!

    1. It would be hard to fit your body in less than a square foot, it an AC-XXx were firing at you, that's for sure.

      As to his paperwork, fiasco, I asked my former personnel officer wife to explain that whole process. As best she could figure, this was pre-computer age, so the paperwork was multipage forms, signed by different offices and collated back at personnel for entry into the "permanent record". If one page got lost, and never updated, the document could stay in the "awaiting action" file until noticed by someone. If that someone was not real diligent...Shoe Clerks gotta Shoe Clerk.

      That having been said, I think Mr. Levitow did more good as a civilian than he would have by remaining in the AF. An active duty MOH recipient would probably be a talking head. A civilian on the other hand would have less restrictions and therefore more weight in conversations regarding Veteran's needs. Col Day is another excellent example.

      Thanks, Ox.

  4. Glad to progeny's move went well - although not sure if their destination is a step up,from their previous locale. Hope all goes well for them there.

    I also wondered about agent orange exposure possibly being contributory to SGT Levitow's cancer - thanks for brining his story to our attention. Would be nice if his example or courage and humility were followed by many more in our society! RIP...

    1. City wise, I'd agree. Specific living accomodations though, is a step up. Large fenced in yard makes the GrandDog very happy. Larger square footage, two bedrooms, a separate living room, a dining room that they're going to use as an office/dining room plus a garage (single car though), makes it a step up from their previous apartment.

      I didn't see any mention of the cause of the cancer, just that it was.


  5. "the power was not turned off when I thought it was turned off." I've been on the receiving end of a couple of those incidents involving household voltages, and I'm much more wary of electricity.

    The links are well worth reading.
    An amazing young man.

    1. I very nearly electrocuted myself repairing a clothes dryer. I'd done everything as I was taught in the USAF, including taking off ring, watch, and metal-framed glasses), but when I got interrupted by the spouse anxious to get the weekly errands run that Saturday, I was looking around for something to tag the the drier with, but got stampeded out the door before I found something. When we came back, We came back and I went back to work, I forgot the power was on and the main thing that saved me was that no metal was in my grip when I closed the connection with my poor tender flesh. It was across the back of my right hand my left hand on the exterior, so my fingers closed on air. Still, it was a couple of seconds of 220VAC. My wife was right there, and all I had time to do was to experience a moment of horror thinking she might try to grab me and pull me away. That could've ended badly. I think she'd have have realized she needed to throw the house main breaker before doing anything, but it's hard to tell.

    2. Larry, I've always said I'd rather be lucky than good. I think that applies here. Glad you're alright!

  6. Wow. What a story. Thank you for sharing.

    (Glad the move went well. At the best of times, they are horrible things.)

    1. Thanks.

      Yeah, thank goodness for Naproxen and BenGay!

  7. I pray that the locals cross town move goes as well.
    It will be interesting, I’m sure.

    Whenever a tale such as Sgt. Levitow’s is related I wonder what I might have done in similar circumstances.
    Also, I sure would like to know what, if anything, repercussions there are when the @$$clowns don’t follow up on instructions.

    1. Thanks

      I've wondered if I could do as well also.

      Probably not, I can see screwing up the paperwork, but not following through on specific orders? Nope, that direction was given to someone specifically and not done. There should have been some action taken there. Didn't see any mention though. So who knows?

  8. A remarkable warrior who deserves more recognition. And, despite the shafting Levitow had received from Big Air Force, thankfully Captain Carpenter stood by his crew and ensured that Sgt Levitow was properly recognized.

    1. Yep, definitely a Leader.

    2. Captain Carpenter did what he was supposed to do. The responsibility of his position.

      Unfortunately far too many leaders choose not to do the right thing and take responsibility, for good or bad actions, in response to their underlings.

      I've been fortunate to serve under a couple good bosses who had that same noblese oblige attitude. Unfortunately, the good ones get taken away and replaced with bad ones all too often.

    3. Worse than that, at least in the military, the good ones often don't get offered good follow on positions, so they're not promoted. Not promoted means retirement generally. One can remain until 30, but the jobs, responsibilities and authority are generally not incentive to stay. So, yeah, just like any bureaucracy, go along to get along is the key to promotion.

      Until we go to war. Then, the go-along'ers are shown for what they are, by the losses their people take. (Typically it's not them that are shot, shot down or sunk, just their underlings.) They're moved to other jobs, and when the fighting's over, they continue their upward progression.

      And....We NEVER learn to do it differently.

  9. High voltage power situations are rather... powerful. Thanks to a high school physics teacher I learned to touch all possibly energized items, even ones supposedly de-energized, with the back of my hand, never the front, as bazillions of volts and amps tend to make the hand contract closed rapidly and stay closed.

    To survive a flash takes a lot. Glad he did.

    As to the flare? Lesser men would have bailed on their compatriots. Or died screaming. He did what he had to do. Which seems to be another common thread amongst high-honor medal citations. Doing what needs to be done, against all common sense and self-preservation.

    Glad the move went well and no major injuries. So, what other nicknames for liberal hell-holes do you have for cities in The Great State of Texas?

    1. Good technique. Think I'll incorporate it.

      "Going against all common sense and self-preservation", yep? And making the assessment and decision in the blink of an eye? That takes a lifetime of upbringing, all to prepare one's self and have pre-made the decision. All that's left to do when the occasion arises is execute.

      Re: the move. So am I, and thanks for the suggestion of the back brace. Bought one for each of us. Best money I've spent in quite a while. So...Thanks!

    2. Glad to help. Wish I was smarter when I was younger. Like wearing hats, sunglasses, using a backbrace, shoe inserts to make and keep an arch, things like that.

    3. Don't we all? But then again what's the fun of livin' if there aren't any risks?

      I know, I know...That's heresy in this day and age.

  10. Regarding not following instructions/orders, I was just reading about another amazing man and MoH recipient, Tibor Rubin. Too many details to go into, but the relevant part of the story is that his bigoted SGT was ordered by their company commander to submit paperwork recommending Tibor for the MoH on as many as FOUR separate occasions. Not sure what happened to the SGT, who simply 'forgot' to submit the paperwork... but Tibor finally got the award thanks to lobbying by veterans. An honorable, selfless human being who experienced many hardships and who defines the concept of resilience.... he died in 2015 - RIP!

    1. That's solidly, and officially, No Bueno!.

      His story is here.

      Seems to also have been an exceptional man!

  11. I had to laugh at the missing TV power cable story. I remember this type of thing happening on several moves. I probably got better at it in the later moves- taping it or the remote to the TV before it got packed by the movers, and marking boxes myself to better explain what was in them. By the way Juvat, I'll be heading out to Texas on Thursday, but it's a short trip unfortunately. Flights are fewer and they're taking less passengers so we took what we got, and at a premium. Also unfortunately, it will likely be the last trip for a long while in that the family connection that brought me to your greater metropolitan area are no longer. It was a good run for him. My brother is staying for a week so I'll send him up your way if he can. He's an Army and NG vet so he'll enjoy the Nimitz museum too.

    1. Sorry to hear about your Dad, Tuna. We'll add him to the prayer list. You're brother will be welcome (any excuse to visit the Nimitz will do.)

      We tried hard to avoid the moving goblin and actually knew the power cable was in the house. I had placed it in a basket on the living room coffee table while we were mounting the TV to the wall. The lady that was handling the kitchen came in and grabbed the basket and moved it into the kitchen. Unfortunately, old age, dehydration and exhaustion had erased any memory of the basket. And the rest as they say is history.

    2. Thanks Juvat. Turn down the heat for me tomorrow and I'd be most appreciative.

  12. Glad the move was successful, and Levitow was yet another victim of the admin paperpushers who never did anything... Grrr...


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Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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