Staff Sergeant Lucian J. Benevich (1918 – 1987)
8th Army Air Force, WWII – Europe, B17 Tail Gunner, Air Medal
Remembering: Staff Sergeant Lucian J. Benevich – MZHS “Hero of Air Power”
Lucian J “Baker” Benevich, son of Polish immigrants Frank and Mary Benevich, was born in Force, Pennsylvania in 1918, the same year his father died during the flu epidemic. He attended Weedville High School through the 11th grade, and he worked as a coal miner to help support his family.
As WW2 was escalating, Lucian (aka Baker) entered the Army Air Forces in September, 1943. After training as an aerial gunner (aka a “Sharpshooter in the Sky”) in the B17 Flying Fortress, he was assigned to the 8th Army Air Force with the 351st Bomb Group at Polebrook Airfield, Northamptonshire, England around August, 1944. Interestingly, Joseph Rebo of Weedville was assigned to the 351st bomb group, 510th bomb squadron at Polebrook about the same time as Lucian “Baker” was there. S/Sgt Benevich and his flight crew with pilot Captain Bill Powell were initially with the 509th bomb squadron, and then in March, 1945 they all were transferred for some reason to the 511th bomb squadron- both within the 351st Bomb Group. Between September, 1944 and March, 1945, S/Sgt “Baker” Benevich participated as a tail gunner in the B17s in 32 combat missions over Germany. His bombing missions included railroad yards, oil refineries, and airfields over Cologne, Berlin, and many other German towns. Like most crews he flew in many different airplanes, some of which had no names, but one he flew in was named: “Flak Magic”. And they did encounter flak. On one mission they had to land in France due to all the flak damage (at least it was in liberated France at that time). Interestingly, his family still has some of the shrapnel from the flak that hit his B17 Flying Fortress that he kept as a “battle souvenir”.
He returned to the States by ship coming into New York on April 28, 1945, and was finally discharged in October, 1945. For his meritorious service, S/Sgt Lucian Benevich received the Air Medal with several Oak Leaf clusters, the V-E medal, and various campaign ribbons and battle stars.
Upon his discharge “Baker” came back to Force and married Theophila Lovenduski of Baumertown in February, 1946 at the St Joseph Church in Force. Together they successfully raised four daughters- Nancy, Peggy, Judy, Bernadette, and one son- Jerry. “Baker” worked at the Stackpole Carbon Company in St Marys for 31 years until his retirement. He loved sports, doing playing cards, gardening, and was a member of the Penfield Firemen’s Club. Like many WW2 vets he did not talk much about his war experiences. He didn’t consider himself a hero. S/Sgt Lucian Benevich just did his job he had to do as a “Sharpshooter in the Sky”, and he wanted to get home safe and sound with his family. “Baker” lived his life after the war in somewhat a similar style- he did his job and wanted to come home and be with his family and friends. That sounds like many of our WW2 vets and heroes.
Lucian “Baker” Benevich passed away in Force on April 12, 1987, at 69 years of age, and is buried in the St Joseph Cemetery there. The Mt Zion Historical Society is proud to honor S/Sgt Lucian Benevich as a man that many can look to as a real American “Hero of Air Power”
“Lest we Forget…”