Year
1970

Air Force sergeant awarded Medal of Honor

At the White House, President Richard Nixon presents Sgt. John L. Levitow with the Medal of Honor for heroic action performed on February 24, 1969, over Long Binh Army Post in South Vietnam. Then an Airman 1st Class, Levitow was the loadmaster on a Douglas AC-47 gunship. His aircraft had been supporting several Army units that were engaged in battle with North Vietnamese troops when an enemy mortar hit the aircraft’s right wing, exploding in the wing frame. Thousands of pieces of shrapnel ripped through the plane’s thin skin, wounding four of the crew. Levitow was struck forty times in his right side; although bleeding heavily from these wounds, he threw himself on an activated, smoking magnesium flare, dragged himself and the flare to the open cargo door, and tossed the flare out of the aircraft just before it ignited. For saving his fellow crewmembers and the gunship, Airman Levitow was nominated for the nation’s highest award for valor in combat. He was one of only two enlisted airmen to win the Medal of Honor for service in Vietnam and was one of only five enlisted airmen ever to win the medal, the first since World War II.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

First Allied jet flies

On May 15, 1941, the jet-propelled Gloster-Whittle E 28/39 aircraft flies successfully over Cranwell, England, in the first test of an Allied aircraft using jet propulsion. The aircraft’s turbojet engine, which produced a powerful thrust of hot air, was devised by Frank Whittle, ...read more

The Seven Years War begins

The Seven Years War, a global conflict known in America as the French and Indian War, officially begins when England declares war on France. However, fighting and skirmishes between England and France had been going on in North America for years. In the early 1750s, French ...read more

The flight of Faith 7

On May 15, 1963, Gordon Cooper is launched into space aboard Faith 7 on the longest American space mission to that date. Faith 7 was the capstone of Project Mercury, the NASA program that put the first American into space in 1961 and the first astronaut into orbit in 1962. Cooper ...read more

Governor George Wallace shot

During an outdoor rally in Laurel, Maryland, George Wallace, the governor of Alabama and a presidential candidate, is shot by 21-year-old Arthur Bremer. Three others were wounded, and Wallace was permanently paralyzed from the waist down. The next day, while fighting for his life ...read more

Madeleine Albright is born

On this day in 1937, Madeleine Albright, America’s first female secretary of state, is born Maria Jana Korbelova in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic). The daughter of Czech diplomat Josef Korbel, Albright fled to England with her family after the Nazis occupied ...read more

Nolan Ryan pitches first no-hitter

On May 15, 1973, California Angel Nolan Ryan strikes out 12 Kansas City Royals and walks three to pitch the first no-hitter of his career. The game was played under protest, as Royals Manager Jack McKeon complained that Ryan wasn’t maintaining contact with the pitching rubber ...read more

Tornado decimates Texas town

A particularly intense tornado hits Sherman, Texas, on this day in 1896, and kills 73 people. It is estimated that the tornado was a rare F5 tornado, in which winds exceeded 260 miles per hour. Storms of that strength happen, on average, less than once a year. The strength of ...read more

Soviets begin withdrawal from Afghanistan

More than eight years after they intervened in Afghanistan to support the procommunist government, Soviet troops begin their withdrawal. The event marked the beginning of the end to a long, bloody, and fruitless Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. In December 1979, Soviet troops ...read more