On Feb. 24. 1969, Airman Levitow flew on a combat air patrol over South Vietnam as the loadmaster of an AC-47 Dragon Ship. The gunship was patrolling in the vicinity of Tan Son Nhut, when the Army Post at nearby Long Sinh came under mortar attack. The aircraft was diverted to aid in the defense of the post.
Firing its miniguns at the enemy, the gunship knocked out two mortar positions, but further firings were observed a few kilometers away. As the AC-47 flew in that direction, a mortar shell fell on the top of its right wing. A brilliant explosion shook the aircraft violently and the fuselage was riddled by thousands of shell fragments.
Airman Levitow and another crew member were standing near the open cargo door at that moment, dropping parachute illumination flares. The explosion knocked both of them to the floor, and a flare that they were handling was tossed inside the cargo compartment. Spewing toxic smoke, the activated magnesium flare was due to separate explosively from its canister and ignite within seconds.
Although stunned and wounded by shrapnel, Airman Levitow moved foward in the compartment and flung himself on the flare to keep it from rolling. He then dragged himself and the flare back toward the cargo door and tossed it out. The flare ignited just as it cleared the aircraft.
Airman Levitow was awarded the Medal of Honor for his selfless heroism that saved his fellow crew members and the gunship. The presentation was made by President Richard M. Nixon at the White House May 14, 1970.
See the full citation from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society website.
For additional information see the National Museum of the USAF website.
See the AFHSD publication: Air Force Heroes in Vietnam.