Obituary of Bennett L. Lewis
Lieutenant General Bennett Leonard Lewis, U.S. Army (Ret.) passed away on Wednesday, April 5, 2023 at the age of 96. A superb example of “The Greatest Generation,” Ben was a prince of a man to his friends, well loved by his family and by most everyone he met. Born 18 June, 1926 in Boston MA, Ben attended Boston Latin, and later moved and grew up in Center Strafford, NH around Bow Lake. Ben lived larger than life with a ‘service above self’ ethic, combined with a relentless determination to take care of others and always do what was right - no matter how difficult.
LTG Ben Lewis served nearly 40 years in uniform spanning 3 major wars - World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. During World War II, Ben served as an Aircraft and Engine Mechanic Crew Chief on the Martin B-26 medium bomber. Soon after the war, Ben attended the US Military Academy, Company I-1, graduating June 1950 into the US Army Corps of Engineers. Ben and many of his classmates were given orders to cut their graduation leave short and shipped off to fight in the Korean War soon after it began on 25 June 1950.
Assigned to the 62d Engineer Bn, all 9 platoons were led by Ben and his 2nd LT Class’50 graduates - none given time to attend basic branch training. Out of 670 graduates, 42 classmates were killed in action in Korea. Ben’s unit boarded a troop ship that set sail and took part in the Inchon Landing. During the battle for Seoul, Ben’s unit built the first floating bridge across the Han River that enabled tanks to enter Seoul. General MacArthur also crossed this bridge with the President of Korea, Syngman Rhee, enroute to a ceremony celebrating the recapture of Seoul. Thirteen months (late October ’51) after arriving and with considerable travel on the peninsula (south and then back north) in four different assignments, Ben departed Korea for Yokohama, Japan.
Shortly after arrival in Japan, Ben was introduced to Malvene Laurena Wolseley Malanot of Australia and Canada. Smitten, they were married in May 1952. In the nearly 71 years since, Malvene became Ben’s best buddy, supporter, informed counselor and, most importantly, actual working head of the family – for 23 moves. Son Michael arrived in Dec 1953 at Murphy Army Hospital, Waltham MA; Alan in 1956, at Fort Belvoir, VA; and Debra, 1958 at 97TH General Hospital, Frankfurt, Germany. Adults now, each child and their children benefitted from Ben’s sage guidance and continuous involvement in all their lives with a memory and skill undimmed by fading eyesight and a stroke in 2019. Throughout, Ben remained the loving and devoted husband to Malvene, as well as loving patriarch and mentor to his kids, grandkids, and great grandchild. With the help of Veterans Affairs, Ben obtained and trained on multiple IT devices and gadgets to stay informed and in touch with the family. Ben dearly loved his family and always let them know how proud he was of them.
Ben’s extensive Engineer military assignments included: 1950 Plt Ldr, A Co, 62d Engineer Bn (Inchon Landing, Korea; Cdr, 518th Engineer Detachment (Gas Generating); Plt Ldr then XO 570th Engr Company (Water Supply)(Platoon built several bridges and decked railroad bridge over Naktong River); 1951-2, Regional Post Engineer, Camp Yokohama; Student and instructor at The Engineer School, then at Fort Belvoir; Resident Engineer Office, Hanscom AFB, Bedford, MA; Graduate School, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; Project Engineer, Construction Section, USASAE, Frankfurt, Germany; Analyst, Strategic Planning Group, USACE, Washington, DC; Student then Author/Instructor CGSC, Fort Leavenworth, KS; XO 8th Engineer Bn, 1st CAV DIV, Korea; CO 14th Engineer Combat Bn, RVN; Deputy Chief, Construction Section, Engineer, HQ USARV; Chief Engineer Branch, MILPERCEN; Commander, North Atlantic Division (District HQs-NYC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Norfolk), USACE, New York City, NY, assigned additional responsibility for building two airbases in Negev Desert, Israel, part of Camp David Accords.
Other significant assignments included: Member, Study Group chaired by Paul Nitze, ASD (ISA); Systems Analyst, Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense; Staff, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Manpower and Reserve Affairs); Student, Army War College. In Army Materiel Command: Commander, Mobility Equipment R &D Center, Fort Belvoir; Director, R&D, HQ MECOM, St Louis; Special Assistant to Commander, AMC; Commander, US Army Armament Command; Commander US Army Armament R&D Command; Deputy Director, FEMA; Executive Secretary, Emergency Mobilization Preparedness Board (chaired by Judge Clark, National Security Adviser to President Reagan). In DOD: assigned as the Deputy ASD (Mobilization) and Commander, Defense Mobilization System Planning Agency, retiring from this position.
Unable to discuss many of his assignments for security reasons, Ben’s significant accomplishments stayed under the radar until… shortly after retiring, Ben and his family were invited into the Oval Office by President Reagan. With cabinet members and agency heads present (CIA, OSD and more), the President capped Ben's distinguished career with his award of the National Security Medal (51st recipient) for his role in leading development of critically needed national security capabilities that directly contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union.
After the military, Ben applied his service ethic and engineering expertise as a VP for Sverdrup Corporation, Deputy Program Manager, Embassy Task Group assisting the State Department in the design and construction of new secure embassies world-wide; directed the construction of 35,000 seat amphitheater for Expo Pilipino (a world fair organized as part of the 100th anniversary of independence for the Philippines). In 1996, Ben led construction of the Pampanga Megadike that channeled the flow of lahar runoff following the catastrophic eruption of the Mt. Pinatubo volcano, preventing further damage to the region. With MG (R) Bill Ward, Ben was a member of 4-man team that met in Moscow with Deputy Foreign Minister, Srpska, obtaining the Serb position on resolving conflict with other residual elements of former Yugoslavia. Ben's additional roles were as member of the Construction Industry Advisory board, Florida Institute of Technology College of Engineering, Chairman for Veterans in Defense of American Liberties, and supported many more activities and individuals at the Indian River Colony (IRCC), where he and Malvene lived and Ben enjoyed playing golf, working out, and living near a great many friends for decades.
Ben’s military awards and decorations include the National Security Medal (51st recipient), FEMA Distinguished Civilian Service Award, Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit (2OLC), Bronze Star Medal with V device, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation medal (2OLC), World War II Victory medal, Army of Occupation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal (5).
Ben is survived by his loving wife Malvene Laurena Wolseley Malanot Lewis of Melbourne FL whom he married 2 May 1952; son Michael Lewis and his wife Carolina Vega of Hillsborough NJ; Michael’s boys – Graham Lewis and fiancée Liz Manderski of Jersey City NJ, Scott Lewis & wife Nicolette (Minutillo) of Morris Plains NJ, and Bennett Lewis; son Commander (USN (RET), USNA ‘80, and retired DoD SES) Alan Lewis and wife Cheryl (Benn) of Stevensville MD; Alan’s son Rob Lewis and his wife Christine Coffman of Baltimore MD and their daughter Arwynn Asta; Daughter Colonel (USA-Ret, USMA ‘80) Debra and husband Lieutenant Colonel (USA-Ret, USMA ‘80) Douglass S. Adams of Hilo Hawaii; Debra’s daughter Dr. Emily Cardarelli of Pasadena CA; and Doug’s kids Theresa Adams and husband Chris Gsell of Brooklyn NY; and Douglass Adams, wife Stephanie and Douglass’ son Mac of San Diego CA; and nephew Laurence and wife Yvonne Alberts of Newton MA; and Lisa (Alberts) and husband Greg Handorff of Newton MA.
A memorial service and celebration of life will be held at the Chapel Room, Indian River Colony Club IRCC at 10:30 am on 14 April. Services and internment will take place on 1 May at 1000 hours, United States Military Academy, West Point Cemetery with military honors. Donations in memory of LTG Lewis may be made to the West Point Jewish Chapel Fund, a building he helped construct. Online condolences and fond memories of LTG Ben Lewis may be offered to the family here at https://alumni.westpointaog....To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Bennett Lewis, please visit Tribute Store