The James Gordon Bennett Medal was established in 1869 and, for years, it was the sole decoration awarded for valor in the FDNY. As a result of it's seniority among medals, it is awarded annually for the most outstanding act of heroism after the consideration and deliberate judgement of the members of the Board of Merit of the FDNY.

The following letter was sent by James Gordon Bennett Jr. to the Commissioners of the Metropolitan Fire Department:

New York, April 13, 1869. Gentlemen: My father, being desirous of adding an additional competition to the members of the Metropolitan Fire Department, in the discipline, courage and honesty with which their duties are now performed, and which was particularly called to his notice at the fire at his country residence during last September, has directed me to enclose the sum of fifteen hundred dollars, and requests that you will pay five hundred dollars to Messrs. Tiffany & Co., for the die of a medal they are preparing, and use the income of the balance in procuring, annually, a gold metal to be struck from the same, and to be conferred by you and your successors in this trust, upon such members of the Department as you may, in your judgment, consider best entitled to the reward. Very truly yours, James Gordon Bennett, Jr.

The reply:

New York, April 16, 1869. Dear Sir:--We have received your note of the thirteenth instant enclosing your check for fifteen hundred dollars, with the request that we should use five hundred dollars of the amount in payment for the die of a medal which you have ordered, and the income of the balance in annually preparing and conferring a gold medal, in the name of your father, on the members of the Fire Department whom we consider to be the most meritorious. Although it will be difficult to make the selection from so much individual merit, as the Department is developing, we accept the trust with a full appreciation of the compliment conferred in our selection as trustees of your fathers' generous endowment, and will cause to be prepared a formal acceptance insuring its perpetuity. We are, very truly yours, T. Bailey Myers, James McLean, Robert S. Hone. The first recipient of Bennett Medal was Assistant Foreman Minthorne Tompkins. The medal continues to be the highest honor bestowed by the Board of Merit of the FDNY.

1869 - Lt Minthorne D Tompkins, L-1, Captain Benjamin A Gicquel, E-9

1870 - Lt Charles L Kelly, E-9

1871 - FF Ambrose L Austin, E-15

1872 - Lt Thomas Henry, L-6,  FF Thomas Hutchinson, L-1

1873 - BC William H Nash, Bn-7, FF Alfred Conner, L-10, Lt Henry Schuck, E-34

1874 - Captain William Mitchell, E-10

1875 - Lt James Horn, E-11

1876 - FF Joseph McGowan, E-6

1877 - FF Thomas J Dougherty, L-1

1878 - Captain Daniel J Meagher, L-3

1879 - FF Paul Bauer, L-4

1880 - FF John Levins, L-2

1881 - FF Michael Connerford, E-12

1882 - FF John L Rooney, L-10

1883 - FF William B Kirchner, E-11

1884 - FF John Binns, E-32

1885 - Captain Peter H Short, L-1

1886 - FF Michael Brady, E-34

1887 - Lt Samuel Banta, L-10

1888 - Lt William Quirk, E-22

1889 - FF William Reilly, L-12

1890 - Captain Thomas J Ahern, E-5

1891 - FF Patrick F Lucas, E-30

1892 - FF Patrick H Apell, L-4

1893 - FF John Walker, L-6

1894 - FF Denis Ryer, L-15

1895 - FF William H Behler, E-35

1896 - FF Martin M Coleman, L-3

1897 - FF Patrick Desmond, L-14

1898 - FF James Pearl, L-7

1899 - FF John Hughes, L-14

1900 - FF William Clark, L-14

1901 - FF Thomas J McArthur, E-29

1902 - FF Richard Nitsch, E-35

1903 - FF Charles F Douth, L-3

1904 - FF James R McAvoy, L-4

1905 - FF Michael J Stevens, L-4

1906 - FF Cassimer C Wodzicki, E-17

1907 - FF Michael Nicklaus, L-4

1908 - FF John T Oakley, L-11

1909 - BC George Ross, Bn-7

1910 - FF John R Harcke, L-12 & FF Frank C Clark, L-24

1911 - FF Richard J Condon, E-12

1912 - FF Robert J Boyle, L-10

1913 - Engineer Seneca Larke, E-20

1914 - FF John F Mooney, L-4 - Escape by roof or stairway being cut off, Mrs Bertha Bradley, with the assistance of a citizen, clung to the sill of a window on the 4th floor rear until the arrival of FF Mooney and Lt Simpson on the roof. Mooney lay flat on the roof and extended his body head downward over the cornixe, with the Lieutenant holding his legs to keep him in position. He then reached down and grasping Mrs Bradley by both hands, laboriously drew her upward to the cornice where her further progress was obstructed by the overhang of the ironwork. Mooney then extended his body still further out over the cornice in order to overcome this obstacle and finally drew her to the roof of the building. This rescue required not only great strength but also great courage and coolness, as any mishap or lack of judgement would have plunged both to certain death in the yard 60ft below.

1915 - Captain Thomas W Smith, E-2 - While engaged at this fire, Captain Smith went down to the 5th floor of 301 W 46 Street, in order to bring his stream to bear across a court 8 ft in width into the 5th floor windows of the building on fire. Louis Berlin was found standing at this window partly overcome from the heat and smoke which filled the room. Captain Smith passed the charged line across the intervening space and shouted to Berlin to pull it into the room. This being done, he procured a stepladder and pushed it across the hose line until it rested upon the window sills of both windows, forming a bridge. Straddling the sill of the window in the 46th Street house, with the men of his company holding his left leg, the Captain leaned far out and persuaded Berlin to creep across the ladder, and soon as he was within reach, grasped him by the collar to assist him. At this juncture the ladder broke; Berlin was precipitated straight down the shaft, drawing the Captain with him, head downward. The Captain maintained his grip, however, and the men of his company held him fast by the leg. With great labor, the 2 men were drawn upward, inch by inch, and brought in through the window from which both had been hanging suspended.

1916 - FF James T Daniels, L-26 Forced to make a lightening calculation in order to safe life, FF Daniels succeeded in performing a remarkable rescue at this fire; the young man rescued was standing on the window sill of the 4th floor when a sudden sweep of the fire compelled him to jump before th eladder could be placed in position. FF Daniels, who was standing on the top of the ladder, succeeded by an effort of great strength and dexterity, in getting the young man safely on the ladder. He caught the full weight of Windman's body. Had it not been for his remarkable strength, he would have been thrown from his position. 

1917 - FF John Walsh, L-1

1918 - FF Patrick R O'Connor, L-14 By extending his head, arms and a portion of his body over the edge of the roof, in company with FF George J Nelson, and being held in that position by brother members, FF O'Connor grasped the rescued man by the wrists and succeeded in drawing him up to the edge and safely over the roof. Had it not been for the fireman's extraordinary effort, Mr Mahoney would doubtless have lost his life, as all other means of escape had been cut off. The smoke and flames issuing from the building at the time added greatly to the discomfort and punishment endured by the fireman in making this successful rescue, and as rescued man weighed over 200lbs and the coping bent down by the weight of the men, the work was performed at extreme personal risk.

1919 - Lt Francis Blessing, R-1 With full knowledge of the possibility of a serious explosion, Lieutenant Blessing with his comrades, equipped with smoke masks, entered the heat charged engine room compartment of this vessel in an endeavor to rescue Ensign N J Sharkey, who was later found dead in the aft battery compartment. The members of the Department worked for hours in the smoke, fumes and gases, in extinguishing this fire which, had it not been put out, would have undoubtedly detonated the explosives on board, killing them instantly and causing untold property damage, performing their duty during all this time with the ever present danger of explosion of hydrogen gas, owing to the great heat generated by the flames. The Commandant of the Navy Yard, in highly praising the work of members of the Department, stated that 2 naval officers, who worked with the firemen, had been recommended for the highest form of commendationin the US Navy for good work performed at extreme risk.

1920 - Engineer of Steamer Timothy J Fitzpatrick, E224 - Mrs Lillian Canda, while mentally deranged, attempted to leap from the window of a locked room on the 9th floor. Responding on a special request for his services, Engineer Fitzpatrick upon reaching the 10th floor window just above where the desperate woman peered over the coping upon which her unsteady feet rested, had a stout rope fastened around his body and was swung out into the air by his comrades, like a human ball at the end of a string; swinging back against the woman, the impact of his body threw her into the room, where he held her until assistance arrived. The indifference tho his personal safety and the great daring displayed are deserving of the highest commendation.

1920 - FF Timothy O'Leary Jr, E-15 

1921 - FF Frank J Costello, L-12 When his company was forced to abandon their line, the rescued fireman failed to reach the sidewalk with other members. Undauted by several unsuccessful attempts made to rescue him, FF Costello, disregarding his personal safety, descended into the cellar opening from which a terrific volume of heat and smoke was issuing like a chimney. He located his brother fireman and carried him as far as the foot of the ladder. There he was forced to leave him, being exhausted by his efforts, and the work was completed by another fireman. His splendid spirit and courage displayed in the rescue of his comrade, well merit the honor conferred upon him.

1922 - FF Jacob F Ferber, E-239 - The stairs to the upper floors having been burned away, FF Ferber gained entrance to the building on fire by means of a 'home-made' ladder placed across an open space from a rear building. Twice making his way along the 3rd floor, through intense heat and smoke, he found the girls lying on a bed unconscious, and succeeded in bringing them to safety. He was severely punished by the extreme fire conditions and was partly overcome at the conclusion of his double effort. His daring action saved the lives of these girls and his quick judgement in taking the only means of rescue available is deserving of the highest praise.

1923 - Captain Edwin A A Quinn, E-14 - While performing the duties of an ActingChief of Battalion, Captain Quinn was the 1st officer to arrive at this fire. He immediately entered the top floor where the employees were cut off from escape and in danger of suffocating from the fumes of burning celluloid. Under cover of a line of hose, he crawled to a point about 15 feet from the front windows, found the unconscious forms of 4 girls and succeeded in bringing them to safety. He was severely punished by the extreme fire conditions and received burns on the face and hands. His daring action saved the lives of these girls, and his quick judgment in taking the only means of rescue available is deserving the highest praise.

1924 - Hon Med Officer Harry M Archer, MD

1925 - Captain Thomas J O'Toole, E-27

1926 - FF William GR Mitchell, E-18

1927 - FF Michael McInerney, L-12

1928 - Captain James A Walsh, E-234

1929 - FF George W Reilly, L-19

1930 - FF Edward V Conroy, L-1

1931 - Captain Albert B Carlson, E-66

1932 - FF Vincent J Hyde, R-3

1933 - Captain Cornell M Garety, R-1

1934 - FF Rudolph F Musil, L-12

1935 - FF George J Wolken, E-60

1936 - FF Joseph E Smith, E-211

1937 - FF James P Nevin, E-201

1938 - FF Charles G Roscher, L-1

1939 - FF Daniel J Sullivan, L-3

1940 - FF Charles A Merz, L-168

1941 - FF Thomas F Brennan, L-111

1942 - Captain John W Heaney

1943 - FF John Colgan, L-2

1944 - FF Harvey W Crook, R-3

1945 - Captain George H Winter, L-3

1946 - FF Arthur L Speyer, L-24

1947 - FF Anthony J Riccardi, L-26

1948 - Captain Patrick T Green, R-1

1949 - FF James S Norton, L-163

1950 - FF Wilbur J O'Donnell, L-111

1951 - FF Victor F Rossi, L-120

1952 - Lt John F McGlynn, L-10

1953 - FF Angelo Michelini, E-97

1954 - Deputy Chief John T Oakley

1955 - FF Bernard F Curran, E-92

1956 - FF Michael J O'Driscoll, L-28

1957 - FF William Von Diezelski, L-4

1958 - FF Nicholas Sharko, L-11

1959 - Captain Arthur J O'Connor, Squad 4

1960 - FF William V Russo, E-254

1961 - FF Joseph G Peragine, L-14

1962 - FF Joseph E Almon, L-35

1963 - FF Lawrence F Duenas, E-59

1964 - FF David Crowley, L-14

1965 - FF James E Bowler, R-2

1966 - FF Robert E Farrell, L-31

1967 - FF Thomas D Ferraiuolo, L-28

1968 - FF Gene P Dowling, L-25

1969 - FF James N Tempro, E-217

1970 - FF Charles Varner, L-55

1971 - Lt Richard R Hamilton, R-2

1972 - FF Steven C DeRosa, L-102

1973 - FF Raymond G McCann, L-40

1974 - FF Gilbert J Murtha, L-108

1975 - FF Thomas J Neary, L-31

1976 - FF Martin McGovern, L-114

1977 - Captain Frederick W Gallagher, R-2

1978 - FF James H Battillo, L-152

1979 - FF John J Pritchard, R-2

1980 - Lt Thomas J Neary, L-28

1981 - Lt Howard R Kennedy, L-154

1982 - FF Joseph H Dirks, L-103

1983 - FF Kenneth L Connelly, L-111

1984 - FF Robert Merkel, L-42

1985 - FF James A Sollami, E-62

1986 - Captain James F McDonnell, L-42

1987 - Lt William F Maloney, L-34

1988 - FF John J McDonnell, L-28

1989 - Captain Richard Jacquin, L-59

1990 - Lt Gerard M Murtha, R-3

1991 - FF William E Jutt, L-22

1992 - FF Michael M Dugan, L-43

1993 - FF Albert J Gonzalez Jr, L-18

1994 - Lt John M Fox, Squad 1

1995 - FF Gregory J Smith Jr, L-108

1996 - FF Gerard J Triglia, L-132

1997 - FF John K Duddy, L-28

1998 - FF Stan J Sussina, R-1

1999 - Captain John J Prichard, E-255

2000 - FF Stephen  P Fenley, L-78

2001 - FF John F South, L-44

2002 - 

2003 - BC James Marketti, Bn-48

2004 - FF James Mills, L-176

2005 - FF Victor J Rosa Jr, L-138

2006 - Captain Christopher J Joyce, E-318

2007 - FF James T Byrnes, L-121

2008 - Lt James F Congema, Bn-19

2009 - FF Anthony M Romano, L-142

2010 - FF Michael A Czech Jr, L-142

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