During his service in Vietnam, Maj. Bruce Crandall flew almost a thousand missions. But valorous actions one day in November 1965 earned the Army pilot the Medal of Honor.
On Nov. 14, 1965, Crandall’s “flight of sixteen helicopters was lifting troops for a search and destroy mission from Plei Me, Vietnam, to Landing Zone X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley,” his citation reads. “On the fourth troop lift, the enemy had Landing Zone X-Ray targeted.”
Now, the Association of the United States Army has chronicled his story in a graphic novel.
Drafted in 1953, Crandall served with the 229th Aviation Battalion of the 1st Cavalry Division — one of the Army’s new air cavalry units.
“During this first major battle of the war, Crandall repeatedly ignored heavy enemy fire on Landing Zone X-Ray to deliver ammunition and evacuate scores of wounded soldiers.”
Though he was flying an unarmed helicopter, he noted on his fifth troop lift that U.S. forces were taking on heavy casualties and that troops on the ground needed ammunition.
Flying with the first half of the squadron, he made the decision to have the following eight helicopters abort to protect their crews. But Crandall continued on, despite the fact that his mission was not casualty evacuation.
“Despite the heavy enemy fire, Crandall and another helicopter piloted by Maj. Ed Freeman, flew back to Landing Zone X-Ray, delivered much-needed ammunition and began loading their choppers with seriously wounded soldiers,” according to Defense Department records.
In all, they made the trek 22 times and saved 70 wounded soldiers.
“His actions provided critical resupply of ammunition and evacuation of the wounded,” his citation says. “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 had another heroic save in January 1966, when he rescued a dozen troops from the jungle.
However, he was injured in the line of duty.
“About four months into that second tour, Crandall’s helicopter went down,” DoD records said. “He suffered a broken back and other injuries that left him hospitalized for five months.”
Afterward, he attended college and stayed in the Army until retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1977.
President George W. Bush awarded Crandall the Medal of Honor on Feb. 26, 2007.To download or read Medal of Honor: Bruce Crandall, please visit www.ausa.org/crandall.
Originally published by Military Times, our sister publication.