Monday, February 26, 2007

Vietnam helicopter pilot awarded Medal of Honor

President Bush will be pinning our countries highest honor on a Vietnam Veterans chest today.

While there are many reasons this is a very special honor, more incredible is that he will be one of the few that were not awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

Vietnam Veteran, Bruce Crandall, will be awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions, as a helicopter pilot, in combat during the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley in November 1965.

The Battle of the Ia Drang Valley was a first in many ways for the Vietnam War and in how our Army operates today. The Army, looking for a way to become faster and more agile on the battlefield started up the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, once again.

This was the same unit being led by George Armstrong Custer at the Little Bighorn, now to be run by Lt. Col. Hal Moore.

Now the horses would be helicopters to transport men, weapons and supplies in and out of the battle field. Crandall and his wingman Ed "Too Tall to Fly" Freeman, would be the workhorses!Freeman was previously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic action in battle.

This was notably the first large engagement between American's and the North Vietnamese.

Being flown in to make contact with the enemy, little did Moore and his men know that they were just dropped in the middle of the operating base for 9th Bn /66th Regiment of the Peoples Army of Vietnam - North Vietnamese Regulars. Run by none other than Uncle Ho's best buddy - Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap.

What ensued, was nothing short of miraculous! Surrounded and cut off, the 7th Cav was outnumbered 450 to about 2000 highly trained and motivated ARVN troops. Shortly after being dropped off, and the helicopters continuing to bring troops and supplies, all hell broke loose.

A three day battle took place in which after the dust-off (medivac) helicopters refused to fly in and get wounded, and the troops running extremely low on ammunition, Crandall and wing man Freeman, refused to leave the wounded or the troops low on ammo.

Crandall and Freeman continued flying their helicopters into harms way showing no fear for their own lives. Crandall is credited with flying in 22 times to LZ X-Ray under heavy enemy fire and no-fly orders to deliver supplies and fly out at least 70 wounded soldiers.

Moore and Joe Galloway, an embedded reporter during the battle, retell their story in the form of a movie and a book - "We Were Soldiers Once... And Young".

The movie, portrays the events at LZ X-Ray at the battle of the Ia Drang Valley. While the book goes into much more detail about the battle, LZ Albany, LZ Victor and the battles fought there.

While the Medal of Honor is well earned, I am sure it will be bittersweet.



  1. What a wonderful story and just for the record this did make the national news scene as well. Our military brass may be slow-but in the end (70 years or so later) they get it right.

  2. Wonderful, in a way yes. A miracle to have two helicopter pilots awarded Medal of Honor and still be alive.

    Bittersweet in the sense, most Vietnam Vets I have met would trade their medals to have their friends back in a minute.

    The bravery shown by many Vietnam Vets will never quite be understood by our country or the media.



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