Donald Vivian Bennett (May 9, 1915 – November 28, 2005) retired as a four star general from the United States Army in 1974. He attended Michigan State University and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1940 then served overseas in WWII. Bennett won the Distinguished Service Cross as well as two Purple Hearts for his service. He was born in Lakeside, Ohio and retired to Asheville, North Carolina. He entered military service from Ohio.
As a Lieutenant Colonel, Bennett, along with the 62nd Armored Field Artillery Battalion on the June 6, 1944 landed with the second wave at 0720 on D-Day. His party was subjected to a tremendous volume of machine gun fire which inflicted 50 percent casualties before they reached the comparative safety of the shingle at the base of the cliff adjoining the beach. Observing that following units were pinned down on the beach, he immediately left his cover and moved about the beach under heavy fire in order to assemble and reorganize the infantry assault companies, four tanks, and an antiaircraft unit.
By redistributing the remaining officers and equipment; by emplacing the .50 calibre machine guns of the antiaircraft unit so as to give close support to the infantry; and by radioing for tank and artillery fire support from the LCTs, he organized a sizeable force and at about 10:00 hours, which successfully assaulted the ridge. He then continued moving about the beach under intense fire and succeeded in locating a protected place to bring his battalion and move it across the beach. Lieutenant Colonel Bennett, in disregarding his own safety under such heavy enemy fire throughout the day and in his clear thinking, contributed immeasurably to the establishment of the beachhead.
General Bennett recounts his WWII experience in his memoir, Honor Untarnished, published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC in 2003. General Bennett also served as superintendent of the United States Military Academy from 1966 to 1969. He retired in 1974 as commanding general of the U.S. Army Pacific Command.
Bennett died on November 28, 2005 at the age of 90 and was buried at the United States Military Academy Cemetery in West Point, New York.
Former Superintendent dies
Story by Eric S. Bartelt
Retired Gen. Donald Vivian Bennett, 47th Superintendent of West Point, died Nov. 28 in Asheville, N.C. He was 90.
Bennett, a 1940 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, served in the military until 1974 when he retired as the commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific Command. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross and two Purple Hearts for his service during World War II. As a lieutenant colonel commanding the 62nd Armored Field Artillery Battalion, Bennett landed on Omaha Beach with the second wave on D-Day June 6, 1944.
His unit faced tremendous machine gun fire which inflicted 50 percent casualties before they reached relative safety at the base of the cliff adjoining the beach. By disregarding his own safety under heavy enemy fire throughout the day, he contributed immeasurably to the establishment of the beachhead by the Allied Forces. Bennett recounted his WWII experience in his memoir, Honor Untarnished, as he explained the sense of honor that was instilled in him by the Cadet’s Prayer and the way it sustained him during the war. Born in Lakeside, Ohio, on May 9, 1915, Bennett’s military service led him back to West Point where he served as superintendent of the academy from Jan. 1966 to June 1968.
After his time as superintendent, Bennett served as commanding general of U.S. VII Corps (1968-1969), director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (1969-1972), the Commander in Chief, United Nations Command, Korea (1972-1973) and then finished his career at USARPAC. Bennett was pre-deceased by his wife, Elizabeth and son, Peter. He is survived by his daughter, Marylyn.