Warrior Spotlight: Major Bruce P. Crandall, Medal Of Honor
February 27, 2007
Once again, we are reminded of the high moral character, the dedication, and the selfless sacrifices that the men and women in this Country’s Armed Forces make each and every day. One of these, Heroes, from his heroic acts of bravery during the Vietnam War was recognized for his actions yesterday by President Bush, when he was awarded the Medal Of Honor, 41 years after his heroic actions took place. This Hero, then Major Bruce P. Crandall, an aviator with A Company, 1, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), later retired from the Army as a Lt. Col. in 1977. Each time I read one of these stories, it amazes me all over again, of the calibre of men and women that we have serving in our Nation’s Armed Forces and the debt of gratitude that WE as Americans owe to these brave men and women.
Major Bruce P. Crandall distinguished himself, for his heroic actions in the November 1965 Battle at Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam. On November 14, 1965 Major Crandall braved heavy enemy fire to evacuate severely wounded troops, flying an unarmed helicoptor into the battlefield. The actions of Major Crandall and the crew he led, were depicted in the movie “We Were Soldiers Once… And Young.” Major Crandall along with his wingman and longtime friend, Major Ed Freeman, are credited with saving more than 70 wounded troops, by flying them out of the combat zone to safety. Major Freeman was awarded his Medal Of Honor in 2001.
Crandall was recommended for his heroic service by the infantry commander of the besieged unit of soldiers on the ground, by Lt. Col. Harold Moore. In his recommendation of Crandall for the Medal of Honor, Moore wrote:
“Without Crandall’s actions, the embattled men at Ia Drang would have died in much the same way - cut off, surrounded by numerically superior forces, overrun and butchered to the last man.”
Moore who is now a retired three-star general, later wrote a book about the battle along with Joseph L. Galloway, a former war correspondant now with McClatchy Newspapers.
“This unit, taking some of the heaviest casualties of the war, out of water and fast running out of ammunition, was engaged in one of the fiercest battles of the Vietnam war against a relentlessly attacking, highly motivated, vastly superior force,” said Army documents supporting Crandall’s medal. “The US forces were up against two regiments of North Vietnamese army infantry, determined to overrun and annihilate them,” the documents read.
The fighting had become so intense, that the helicopter landing zone which had been used for delivering and resupplying the troops had been closed and the unit which was assigned to do medical evacuations, had refused to fly. Undaunted and determined to save the troops, not thinking of his own safety, Crandall was determinded to come to the aid of his fellow soldiers. Crandall volunteer for the mission and with his wingman, Maj. Freeman, they made flights over 3 days to deliver water, ammunitiion and medical supplies to the beleagured troops on the ground, i an unarmed helicopter.
Thinking back to the Vietnam battle, Crandall remembers the first day was ‘very long….. We were in the air for 14 1/2 hours.” He also thinks of how impressive and calm the unit on the ground remained, saying Moore and his commanders were ’solid as rocks’ throughout the fight.”
Of his own heroic performance, that day, Crandall say that he’s proud and stated, “I’m so proud that I didn’t screw it up.” Crandall also says of his receiving the nation’s highest military honor after 41 years, “I’m still here. Most of these awards are posthumous, so I can’t complain.”
The citation for Crandall’s Medal of Honor, reads:
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.
Crandall distinguished himself throughout his career, earning numerous awards for his service, including the Distinguished Flying Cross with one oak leaf cluster, Bronze Star Medal, Meitorious Service Medal, Air Medal (24 awards), Army Commendation Medal, Purple Heart, National Defense Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Armed Forces Expeditionary medal, Vietnam Service Medal (4 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 Starr (3 awards) and the Armed Forces Reserve Medal.
The Medal of Honor is well deserved by Major Crandall, who retired from the Army in 1977 as a Lieutenant Colonel. Crandall is a fine example of the heroic men and women who have served and continue to serve in this Nation’s Armed Forces. Thank You Bruce P. Crandall for your sacrifices, your heroics and your service to our Country.