Vietnam Hero to be Awarded Medal of Honor
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 10, 2007 More than 40 years after demonstrating the heroism immortalized in the bestselling book and movie, “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young,” retired Army Lt. Col. Bruce P. Crandall will receive the Medal of Honor, the White House announced yesterday.
Crandall will receive the nation’s highest military award for actions during the Battle of Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam in November 1965. The battle, at Landing Zone X-Ray near the Ia Drang River, was the first major ground battle of the war.
During the incident, Crandall, then a major and commander of Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), dodged intense enemy fire as he repeatedly flew to a landing zone to rescue and resupply besieged 1st Cavalry Division ground troops.
The narrative for Crandall’s Medal of Honor credits him with displaying leadership by example and fearless courage as he “voluntarily flew his unarmed helicopter through a gauntlet of enemy fire on flight after flight, delivering desperately needed ammunition, water and medical supplies into one of the most hotly contested landing zones of the war.”
Crandall led a flight of 16 helicopters in support of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, which was out of water, running dangerously low on ammunition and engaging about two regiments of North Vietnamese army infantry “determined to overrun and annihilate them,” the narrative reads.
When the enemy fire got so intense that the infantry commander closed the landing zone, Crandall volunteered for the mission. He and his wingman, Maj. Ed Freeman, are credited with saving more than 70 wounded soldiers by transporting them to safety.
Freeman received the Medal of Honor for his efforts in July 2001.
Several books about the battle recognize Crandall and Freeman’s contributions. Among the most well-known is the bestselling “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young,” coauthored by Lt. Gen. Harold Moore, commanding officer of infantry units in X-Ray, and Joseph Galloway, a combat reporter who was in the landing zone during the battle.
A major motion picture based on the book featured actor Greg Kinnear as Crandall.
Later during his Vietnam tour, Crandall demonstrated another act of heroism. While under enemy fire, using a flashlight to guide his UH-1 Huey helicopter, he dropped through dense jungle to rescue 12 wounded soldiers. For that action, he was awarded the first AVCO-Aviation/Space Writers Association Helicopter Heroism Award. This award is sponsored by the Aviation/Space Writers Association and AVCC Corporation, and is awarded to an individual for heroism efforts involving the use of helicopter..
During a second tour in Vietnam, in 1968, Crandall was downed during another rescue attempt and spent five months in the hospital. He resumed his military career, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1977.
Crandall was inducted into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame at Fort Rucker, Ala., in 2004. He also was the seventh Army inductee into the “Gathering of Eagles,” a U.S. Air Force organization that honors contributors to aviation.
Bush will present Crandall the Medal of Honor during a Feb. 26 White House ceremony.
After receiving the Medal of Honor, Crandall will join 111 other living recipients of the award, 60 of them awarded for actions in Vietnam, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
The Medal of Honor, the highest U.S. military decoration, is awarded "for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty, in actual combat against an armed enemy force." Since it was first awarded during the Civil War, the medal has been awarded 3,461 times.
The Medal of Honor was last presented to the family of 22-year-old Marine Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, who died using his body to shield fellow Marines in Iraq from a hand grenade April 15, 2004. President Bush awarded Dunham’s Medal of Honor posthumously during a Jan. 11 ceremony at the White House.