Laurence Vincent Benet – Engisn, United States Navy


Engineer With Hotchkiss Firm For 50 Years
Helped Improve Firing Speed of Weapon

WASHINGTON, May 21, 1948 – Laurence Vincent Benet, internationally known engineer and inventor of refinements and improvements to the Hotchkiss Machine Gun, dies this morning in Georgetown Hospital after a brief illness.  He was 85 years old.

Since his retirement, terminating an association of more than fifty years with the Hotchkiss Company in France, Mr. Benet had made his home in Washington, returning here in 1936 with his wife, who died in 1941.  Mrs. Benet, the former Miss Margaret Cox, was a daughter of colonel John Cox, one of Georgetown’s early Mayors.

After his retirement as Vice President and Director of the Hotchkiss Company, Mr. Benet was made honorary President of the Company.  He was an uncle of William Rose Benet and the late Stephen Vincent Benet, poet, who died in 1943.

Born at West Point, New York, son of General Stephen Benet, one-time Chief of Ordnance of the United States Army, Mr. Benet during his father’s tour of duty at the War Department prepared for college at Emerson Institute here and was graduated in mechanical engineering from Yale in 1884.

The nest year he went to France with the Hotchkiss Company, returning here only for brief periods during which the Spanish-American War, in which he served as an Ensign in the Navy, and the First World War, for the last two years of which he was a member of the advisory staff of the American Expeditionary Force Purchasing Board.  He had previously served with the American Ambulance and Hospital Corps in France.

For these and other services he was honored by various Governments, his decorations including the Grand Officer of the French Legion of Honor, French Medal of Honor, Commander of the Military Order of Christ (Portugal), Commander of the Order of the Crown (Rumania) and Officer of Osmania (Turkey).

Mr. Benet was a past president and gold medalist of the American Chamber of Commerce in France and was a member of the American Aid Society.

American organizations to which be belonged include American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Yale Engineering Association, Naval Institute, Military Order of Foreign Wars, Army Ordnance Association, United Veterans of the Spanish-American War, American Geographical Society and St. Augustine’s Historical Society.  He was also a member of the Metropolitan Club and the Army and Navy Club here and the University Club of New York.

Mr. Benet perfected the Hotchkiss Machine Gun, invented in France in 1882 by the late Benjamin N. Hotchkiss, who made ordnance for the Union Army before founding the Hotchkiss gun factory in Paris in 1870.  As perfected by Mr. Benet, the guns, firing 600 bullets a minute, were used by the French army in the First World War and also had been employed so some extent by the Japanese.

Air-cooled and gas-operated, the Hotchkiss was one of the earliest types of machine guns invented.  It was used in the fighting tops of warships before it became a famous land weapon.

Interviewed after his retirement, Mr. Benet smiled and said, “I believe I have been called a ‘merchant of death,’  Do I look it?”  “I’m sorry,” he added, “that my fingers are not dripping blood this morning.”

His profession, he said, did not fill him with horror.  “One of the great satisfactions of my life,” he went on, “is that the Hotchkiss machine guns saved Paris from the Germans.  Most of the liberties we enjoy were won by the sword.  If people have nothing else to fight with they will fight with their hands/”

Mr. Benet was for many years one of the leaders of the American colony in Paris.  In 1927 he presented to the United States Military Academy at West Point a pair of flintlock pistols once owned and used by Napoleon I.


  • Ensign, United States Navy
  • DATE OF DEATH: 05/21/1948


  • DATE OF DEATH: 07/20/1941


Read our general and most popular articles

Leave a Comment