1965

Medal of Honor

 

CRANDALL, BRUCE P.

Citation:

 For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Major Bruce P. Crandall distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism as a Flight Commander in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). On 14 November 1965, his flight of sixteen helicopters was lifting troops for a search and destroy mission from Plei Me, Vietnam, to Landing Zone X-Ray in the la Drang Valley. On the fourth troop lift, the airlift began to take enemy fire, and by the time the aircraft had refueled and returned for the next troop lift, the enemy had Landing Zone X-Ray targeted. As Major Crandall and the first eight helicopters landed to discharge troops on his fifth troop lift, his unarmed helicopter came under such intense enemy fire that the ground commander ordered the second flight of eight aircraft to abort their mission. As Major Crandall flew back to Plei Me, his base of operations, he determined that the ground commander of the besieged infantry batallion desperately needed more ammunition. Major Crandall then decided to adjust his base of operations to Artillery Firebase Falcon in order to shorten the flight distance to deliver ammunition and evacuate wounded soldiers. While medical evacuation was not his mission, he immediately sought volunteers and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, led the two aircraft to Landing Zone X-Ray. Despite the fact that the landing zone was still under relentless enemy fire, Major Crandall landed and proceeded to supervise the loading of seriously wounded soldiers aboard his aircraft. Major Crandall's voluntary decision to land under the most extreme fire instilled in the other pilots the will and spirit to continue to land their own aircraft, and in the ground forces the realization that they would be resupplied and that friendly wounded would be promptly evacuated. This greatly enhanced morale and the will to fight at a critical time. After his first medical evacuation, Major Crandall continued to fly into and out of the landing zone throughout the day and into the evening. That day he completed a total of 22 flights, most under intense enemy fire, retiring from the battlefield only after all possible service had been rendered to the Infantry battalion. His actions provided critical resupply of ammunition and evacuation of the wounded. Major Crandall's daring acts of bravery and courage in the face of an overwhelming and determined enemy are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.


CNN Video Interview with Bruce P. Crandall GO HERE


Biography


Major Bruce P. Crandall

A Company, 1, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile)

MAJ Bruce P. Crandall received the Medal of Honor during a White House ceremony February 26, 2007 for his heroic actions in the Battle of Ia Drang.

Spouse: Arlene Crandall of Kent, Washington

Children: R. Donovan; Steven; Michael

Hometown: Olympia, WA

Education: BA University of Nebraska, 1969; MPA Golden GateUniversity, 1977

Drafted: U.S. Army, 1953

Commissioned: Engineer Officer Candidate School, Ft. Belvoir, VA, 1954

Deployments: Dominican Republic Expeditionary Force; two tours of Vietnam

Aircraft: U-1 Otter fixed wing; L-20 Beaver fixed wing; L-19 Birddog fixed wing; H-23 Raven "couldn't get off the ground on a hot day"; H-13; H-19; UH-1 Huey "best helicopter ever built"

Biography: LTC (Ret.) Crandall is a veteran Master Army Aviator in both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. He led over 900 combat missions during two tours in Vietnam.

Born in 1933, Crandall grew up in Olympia, Wash., where he played baseball and became a high school All American. He was drafted into the Army in 1953.

After commissioning and graduation from fixed-wing and helicopter training conducted by the Air Force and Army, he was assigned to a mapping group based out of the Presidio of San Francisco "that at the time was the largest flying military aviation unit in the world. " From there he went to fly L-19 Birddogs and L-20 Beavers in Alaska, again for topographic studies.

Crandall's first overseas flying assignment was to Wheelus AFB in Tripoli, Libya, mapping the desert for two years flying YU-1 Otter, L-20 Beaver, L-19 Birddog and H-23 Raven aircraft as an instructor pilot and unit test pilot.

His next overseas tours were flying over thousands of square miles of previously unmapped mountains and jungles in Central and South America. For this mission, he was based out of Howard AFB, Panama, and Costa Rica. While assigned to the 11th Air Assault Division, Crandall helped develop air-assault tactics as a platoon commander. In early 1965, he joined the Dominican Republic Expeditionary Force as a liaison to the 18th Airborne Corps.

Later that year, he would command the 1st Cavalry Division's Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion at An Khe, Vietnam. Using the call sign "Ancient Serpent 6," he led a flying unit supporting eight battalions on the ground.

On Nov. 14, 1965, Crandall led the first major division operation of airmobile troops into Landing Zone X-Ray in Vietnam's Ia Drang Valley and is credited with evacuating some 70 wounded comrades with his wing man and fellow Medal of Honor recipient MAJ Ed Freeman. The two also flew in the ammunition needed for the 1/7th CAV (Custer's old battalion) to survive. The craft he was flying was unarmed.

In January 1966, during the first combined American and South Vietnamese Army operation, "Operation Masher," Crandall, while under intense enemy fire and with only a spot flashlight beam to guide him, twice dropped his Huey helicopter through the dense jungle canopy to rescue 12 wounded Soldiers. For his courage in that incident Crandall received the Aviation & Space Writers Helicopter Heroism Award for 1966.

After an assignment in Colorado, he attended the Armed Forces Staff College. Soon he was back in Vietnam, this time flying Huey gunships - "a big improvement" -- supporting the 1st Bn., 9th Cavalry Squadron, 1st CAV Div.

In January 1968, four months into his second tour, Crandall's helicopter was downed during another rescue attempt - Air Force bombs going off too close to where he was flying. After five months in the hospital, with a broken back and other injuries, he resumed his career as a student earning a bootstrap degree through the University of Nebraska in 1969. In Bangkok, Thailand, he would become a Facility Engineer managing 3,800 people. He subsequently served as deputy chief of staff, deputy installation commander, and commander of the 5th Engineer Combat Bn., all at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

South America was supposed to be his next assignment, and he and Arlene attended the Defense Language Institute, Monterey, CA. as Spanish language students in preparation for an Aviation and Engineering advisor to Argentina - an assignment that never came. A stroke sidelined Crandall, ending his flying career. After his recovery, the Crandalls did find the language training useful when he was sent to Caracas, Venezuela, as the Defense Mapping Agency's director for the Interamerican Geodetic Survey.

In his final Army assignment, he served as senior engineer advisor to the California Army National Guard.

Crandall retired from the Army in 1977 as a lieutenant colonel. Utilizing his master's degree in public administration, Crandall became city manager of Dunsmuir, Calif., for three years.

He and his wife, Arlene, then moved to Mesa, Ariz., where he served in the Public Works Department for 13 years, the last four as the public works manager.

In 1994, Crandall was inducted into the Air Force's "Gathering of Eagles" - an organization set up to recognize pioneers of aviation and heroic flyers.

He and Arlene, married in 1956, have three sons and five grandchildren. The Crandalls live in Manchester, Wash.

Awards: Distinguished Service Cross (to be upgraded to Medal of Honor); Distinguished Flying Cross with one oak leaf cluster; Bronze Star Medal; Meritorious Service Medal; Air Medal (24 awards); Army Commendation Medal; Purple Heart; National Defense Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal; Vietnam Service Medal (four campaigns); Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with 60 device; Presidential Unit Citation; Meritorious Unit Citation; Master Army Aviator Badge; Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Gold Star (three awards) and the Armed Forces Reserve Medal.

Assignments: Infantry Basic; Engineering Amphibious Training; Leadership School; Engineer Officer Candidate School; fixed wing flight training at Gary AFB, TX; 1st graduating class of advanced flight school at Camp Rucker, AL; 30th Topographic Group, Presidio of San Francisco; 30th Topographic Group, Arctic Slope; Helicopter School, Gary AFB, TX; Advanced Helicopter Training, Camp Rucker, AL; 30th Topo Gp at Presidio of San Francisco; Wheelus AFB, Libya; 4th Eng Battalion, 4th Infantry Division at Ft. Lewis, WA; Engineer Advanced Course at Ft. Belvoir; back to 4th Engineer Battalion; Interamerican Geodetic Survey at Howard AFB, Panama; Interamerican Geodetic Survey at Costa Rica; 11th Air Assault Division platoon commander helping develop Army's new "airmobility" concept; 18th ABN Corps liaison for air assault in the Dominican Republic Expeditionary Force; Company Commander of A Company of the 229th as the 11th Air Assault Division (Test) became the 1st CAV (Airmobile), Ft. Benning, GA; 229th at An Khe, Vietnam, in support of eight battalions; Commander of Special Troops at Ft. Carson, CO; Armed Forces Staff College, Norfolk, VA; HQ 1st CAV at An Khe; 1/9 CAV at An Khe; University of Nebraska; Bangkok, Thailand as a Facility Engineer; Deputy Chief of Staff for Ft. Leonard Wood, MO; Commander, 5th Engineer Battalion also at Ft. Leonard Wood; Defense Language Institute, Monterey, CA. for Spanish language training in preparation for an Argentine Aviation and Engineering advisor assignment that wasn't to be (a stroke sidelined him and ended his flying career); after recovery he went to Caracas, Venezuela, as the Defense Mapping Agency's director for the Interamerican Geodetic Survey.


More than 40 years after Lt. Col. Crandall repeatedly risked his life to rescue American soldiers fighting one of the toughest battles of the Vietnam War, the U.S. military officially recognized his heroism Monday, when he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for military valor.

"For the soldiers rescued, for the men who came home, for the children they had and the lives they made, America is in debt to Bruce Crandall," President Bush said during the awards ceremony. "It's a debt our nation can never really fully repay."

Although it took more than four decades for the military to honor Crandall, he considers himself fortunate. (Watch Crandall recount the battle of la Drang Valley )

"Most people get [the Medal of Honor] after they are dead, so I'm one of the lucky ones," said Crandall, 74, who lives in retirement with his wife, Arlene, in Manchester, Washington.

His heroism was almost unrecognized -- when his unit deployed to Vietnam, it was shorthanded in administrative positions so that medal citations weren't handled promptly, Crandall said. As the regulations were then written, citations could not be filed more than two years after the action took place.

Later the regulations were changed so that there was no limit on when citations could be filed.

Crandall's story goes back to the early days of the Vietnam War.

On November 15, 1965, a battalion of soldiers was ordered to attack North Vietnamese troops in the Ia Drang Valley in the central highlands of South Vietnam. It would be the first major battle between the U.S. and North Vietnamese armies and one of the first uses of helicopters to insert troops into battle quickly.

Crandall flew the lead helicopter into the attack at Landing Zone X-Ray. The 450 American soldiers soon were surrounded by a much larger force of experienced North Vietnamese troops. During one landing, three men on Crandall's helicopter were killed and three others were wounded.

"As we came in, across the trees, the enemy was there and in the landing zone. I had my crew chief shot through the throat," Crandall said recently. "I could see the people shooting at me from, just off the left of my rotor blades."

But he couldn't shoot back because his helicopter didn't have the M60 machine guns that later would become standard equipment on the UH-1 "Huey" that Crandall flew.

In spite of the danger, Crandall flew into X-Ray more than 18 times to bring in ammunition and bring out the wounded.

"It was the longest day I ever experienced in any aircraft," Crandall said.

He had to switch helicopters several times because of damage from enemy fire.

"When an aircraft got hit in those times, we would use duct tape to cover the holes, and the purpose of covering the holes was so you knew what was a new hole and what was an old one that had been inspected," he said.

Crandall and his wingman, Ed "Too Tall" Freeman, saved 70 wounded soldiers that day.

The battle and the pilots' deeds were described in the book "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young" by Gen. Harold Moore, commander of the battalion on the ground, and Joseph Galloway, the only war correspondent there for the entire battle.

The citation read at the White House ceremony said in part that Crandall's "bravery and daring courage to land under the most extreme hostile fire instilled in the other pilots the will and spirit to continue."

Monday's ceremony was the second Medal of Honor awarded from that battle. Freeman received the Medal of Honor in 2001.

Crandall said Freeman defines the word "hero."

"Freeman didn't have to volunteer," Crandall said. "I have to go, I am the commander, so Freeman stepped up and went. I really didn't want him to. We'd been friends for 10 years."

Freeman joined Crandall's wife and his three sons at the 2:30 p.m. ET White House ceremony. President Bush presented the honors.


Go to: Medal of Honor Citation page

Go to: Photos from Korea and Japan: 1968 and 1969

Go to: My Return to Korea: October 2003

Go to: My Digital Photo Collection

Go to: Home Page

Go to Death in the Ia Drang Valley by Private First Class Jack P. Smith, a participant in the battle. Published by the Saturday Evening Post on 28 January 1967.

Go Here: to read the Medal of Honor citation for Walter Joseph Marm Jr., for actions during the Ia Drang Valley battle of 1965.

Go Here: to read the Medal of Honor citation for Ed W. Freeman, for actions during the Ia Drang Valley battle of 1965.

Go Here: to access an off site web page about the Ia Drang Valley battle, and a excellent book written about the events; We Were Soldiers Once. . . and Young.

Send comments and questions to: neil@mishalov.com

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