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EDWARD ELMER BENNETT was born in Coblenz, Germany, to Colonel and Mrs. Eli Elmer Bennett. His father, a Regular Army officer in the Coast Artillery Corps, was serving as a member of the U.S. Army occupation forces following WWI. Therefore, Ed was raised in the Army, spending his childhood in widespread locations such as Fort Mills in the Philippines; Fort Monroe, Virginia; Washington, DC; and Fort Totten, New York.
There was no question as to Ed’s collegiate goal. It was West Point. He attended high school in Washington, DC; graduated from high school in Bayside, New York; attended Millard Preparatory School in Washington, DC; and received a presidential appointment to USMA. However, having also won a congressional appointment, he gave up the presidential appointment to someone else.
In July 1939, a well-prepared Ed Bennett entered West Point. His friendly wit and dependability earned him many friends. Thanks to a quick, active mind, he excelled academically and never wandered far from the first sections. He had few problems and his cadet career was a happy one. Noteworthy was his membership on the cadet skeet team for three years and popularity as a tutor.
He married a beautiful Brooklynite named Dorothy Jacqueline Elizabeth Martin at Ft. Hamilton, New York, immediately after graduation on 20 January 1943. The reception was held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan, where Dorothy’s father was an executive.
Having graduated with a high class standing, Ed was able to choose the Corps of Engineers as his branch. Ed and “Dot” started his career at the Engineer Officers Refresher Course at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia. He then served in a series of combat engineering and staff positions during World War II. Ed was adjutant of the 61st Engineer Battalion (Combat) before being made assistant S-3 of the 118th Engineer Group (Combat) in the U.S. and in the Pacific, where he participated in the invasion of Leyte in the Philippines. He then moved up to the HQ XXIV Corps, where he was assistant G-4 in Leyte, and in the invasion of Okinawa, Japan. During that campaign, he was commended for meritorious service for building and operating a seaport for the XXIV Corps at Abuyog in Leyte.
At the end of the war he was assigned to the Pentagon for a short time before attending postgraduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a master’s degree in civil engineering in one year. Ed then spent three years (1947–50) in Germany with the Engineering Division of HQ EUCOM, followed by three years (1950–53) as the executive officer of the Engineer Detachment, 1802nd Special Regiment, USMA. Then came two years (1953–55) as Engineer staff officer, Army Section, MAAG Formosa. He came back stateside and served two years (1955–57) in the Organization and Doctrine Division of the Engineering section of HQ USCONARC, Fort Monroe, Virginia.
Ed’s outstanding and dedicated performance was rewarded when he was selected to command the 20th Engineer Battalion (Combat) at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, for two years. He then served for one year (1959–60) as area Engineer officer in Saudi Arabia, where he was in charge of the construction of the airport terminal in Riyadh.
His outstanding accomplishments were again recognized with his selection to attend the Army War College (1960–61). Graduation from the War College took him to the Office of the Chief of Engineers for three years, where he was assistant director of military construction for space. He was responsible for high priority and challenging NASA programs with a high degree of national interest and security.
After two years as mapping and chart officer in J-2, U.S. South Command, Ed again was rewarded with a fine assignment: district engineer, Chicago District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (1966–69). He was responsible for the civil works programs throughout five Midwest states. In addition to the responsibilities inherent in the job of chief engineer, he became well-qualified in presenting and defending the Corps of Engineers programs to diverse, and often hostile, civilian interests.
All his previous engineering and staff experiences and qualifications led to his ultimate assignment. He was specially selected to be the deputy civil administrator of the Ryukus Islands (1969–71) and was the principal deputy to a State Department Foreign Service officer preparing for the reversion of Okinawa from American to Japanese control. He also served in the civil administrator’s absence and was responsible for the phaseout of the U.S. public works projects and the phasedown of the civil administration organizations. Unfortunately, Ed was not able to finish the assignment for he was medically evacuated with cancer to Walter Reed Army Hospital.
Ed retired on temporary physical disability on 2 March 1973. Happily, it should be noted that his cancer treatment was successful — for 26 plus years he was physically, mentally, and socially active, enjoying a rewarding and productive retirement life in Alexandria, Virginia.
Ed was a family man. He and Dorothy had two children, Gail Kangas and Edward Martin Bennett. Ed left for his duties in the Pacific during World War II when Gail was an infant and Edward was on the way. He was probably the only classmate who left two babies in the United States while he fought the war overseas. Dot and Ed have four grandchildren: Alan McCauley Biddison, Jr.; Barrie Biddison Bowers; Edward Martin Bennett, Jr.; and Marcus Camp Bennett. They had five great-grandchildren at the time of his death.
Ed was an avid hunter, fisherman, and golfer. He spent his retirement years traveling extensively, reaching most parts of the world. He was a fine gentleman, friend, husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.
Rest in peace.
— DJEMB & REB
Originally published in ASSEMBLY, January/February 2003