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Bruce Perry Crandall
Born February 17, 1933(1933-02-17) (age 88)
Place of birth Olympia, Washington
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch United States Army seal United States Army
Years of service 1953-1977
Rank US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel
Battles/wars Vietnam War
*Battle of Ia Drang
Awards Medal of Honor
Distinguished Flying Cross (4)
Bronze Star
Purple Heart
Other work City Manager, Dunsmuir, California
Public Works Manager, Mesa, Arizona

Bruce Perry Crandall (born February 17, 1933)[1] is a retired U.S. Army officer who received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Ia Drang. During the battle he flew 22 missions(in one of the aircraft, then flew 6-8 different aircraft for a true mission total of 70-80 missions) in an unarmed helicopter into enemy fire to bring ammunition and supplies and evacuate the wounded. By the end of the Vietnam War, he had flown over 900 combat missions.

After retiring from the Army he worked several jobs in different states before settling down with his wife in his home state of Washington.

Early life and family[edit | edit source]

Crandall was born in 1933 and raised in Olympia, Washington and during high school became an All-American baseball player. After graduating he attended the University of Washington in Seattle until being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1953.[2][3] He married his wife Arlene on March 31, 1956 and they have three sons and five grandchildren. Arlene died on November 2, 2010, from cancer.[4] As of 2011, Crandall lives in Washington.[2]

Military service[edit | edit source]

After commissioning and graduation from fixed-wing and helicopter training conducted by the United States Air Force and United States Army, he was assigned to an Army Aviation 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 on to fly Cessna L-19 Bird Dogs and de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beavers in Alaska, again for topographic studies. His first overseas flying assignment was to Wheelus Air Base in Tripoli, Libya, mapping the desert for two years flying de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter, Beaver, Birddog and OH-23 Raven aircraft as an instructor pilot and unit test pilot.[2]

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 Air Force Base, Panama, and Costa Rica. While assigned to the 11th Air Assault Division, Crandall helped develop air-assault tactics as a platoon leader. In early 1965, he joined the Dominican Republic Expeditionary Force as a liaison to the 18th Airborne Corps.[2] Later that year, he commanded 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.[2]

Battle of Ia Drang[edit | edit source]

File:Battle of Ia Drang Valley.jpg

Crandall's UH-1 Huey dispatching infantry in the Ia Drang operation

Crandall was assigned to A Co., 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion. On November 14, 1965, he led the first major division operation of the Vietnam War landing elements of the 1st Battalion and 2nd Battalion of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, and the 5th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, into Landing Zone X-Ray in Vietnam's Battle of Ia Drang. During the fierce battle that followed, he was credited with evacuating some 70 wounded soldiers along with wing man Major Ed Freeman. Twelve of these fourteen flights were made after the Med Evac unit refused to land in the intensely hot landing zone. Crandall's helicopters evacuated more than 75 casualties during a flight day that started at 6:00 am and ended at 10:30 pm, more than 16 hours later.[5]

The two also flew in the ammunition needed for the 7th Cavalry to survive. The craft he was flying was unarmed.[2] Crandall was initially awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross[6] and on February 26, 2007, this was upgraded to the Medal of Honor, awarded by President George W. Bush in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.[7]

Operation Masher[edit | edit source]

On January 31, 1966, during the first combined American and South Vietnamese Army operation, "Operation Masher", Crandall had just finished a full day supporting the 1/12th Infantry Battalion. As he returned to refuel and shut down for the night, he learned that "X' Company of the 1/7th was in heavy enemy contact and had 12 wounded soldiers that needed evacuation. The soldiers were pinned down in a tight perimeter. The unit was led by his friend and fellow veteran of the Battle of la Drang, infantry officer Captain Tony Nadal. Crandall refueled and flew to the area. He learned the pick up zone was surrounded by trees on three sides. He also was told that even during daylight, Med Evac had refused to land there. To minimize the chances of hitting the trees, he decided to descend vertically. The night was pitch dark with an overcast sky, making flying extremely difficult.[5]

Crandall also wanted to avoid giving the enemy an illuminated target and risk backlighting the soldiers defending the landing zone and wounded soldiers. Instead of using search or landing lights, he instructed Nadal to point a flashlight up in the center of the touchdown area. Crandall landed twice under intense enemy fire and successfully evacuated all 12 wounded soldiers.[5]

Later service[edit | edit source]

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 Battalion, 9th Cavalry Squadron, 1st Cavalry Division.[2]

In January 1968, four months into his second tour, Crandall's helicopter was downed during another rescue attempt due to 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 3800 people. He subsequently served as deputy chief of staff, deputy installation commander, and commander of the 5th Engineer Combat Battalion, all at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.[2]

South America was supposed to be his next assignment, and he and his wife, Arlene, attended the Defense Language Institute, Monterey, California, as Spanish language students in preparation as aviation and engineering adviser to Argentina, an assignment which 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 Inter-American Geodetic Survey.[2]

In his final Army assignment, he served as senior engineer adviser to the California Army National Guard and then in 1977 he retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel.[2]

Later life[edit | edit source]

Crandall (right) and Medal of Honor recipient Leroy Petry (left) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, June 24, 2013

After retiring from the Army he received a master's degree in Public Administration from Golden Gate University in 1977. Since retiring he has held several different jobs including spending three years as the city manager of Dunsmuir, California. After leaving California, he and his wife, Arlene Louise Crandall, moved to Mesa, Arizona, where he spent 17 years working in the Public Works Department, the last four as the public works manager.[2] His wife died on November 2, 2010, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

On April 15, 2010, over 30 years after retiring from the U.S. Army, in recognition of his accomplishments and receiving the Medal of Honor, Bruce Crandall was promoted to colonel, U.S. Army (retired). The ceremony was held at the Army Aviation Association Convention, in Fort Worth, Texas.[8]

Crandall attended the June 25, 2013, unveiling of Medal of Honor recipient Leroy Petry's statue in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Awards and decorations[edit | edit source]

Crandall has received the following military decorations.[2]

US Army Master Aviator Badge.png Master Army Aviator Badge

Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters
Bronze Star
Purple Heart
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters
Air Medal (23 awards)
Army Commendation Medal
Presidential Unit Citation
Valorous Unit Award
Meritorious Unit Commendation
Army Good Conduct Medal
Bronze star
National Defense Service Medal with one bronze service star
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Vietnam Service Medal with four bronze service stars
Armed Forces Reserve Medal
Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm and Gold Star (three awards)
Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with Palm (Awarded per Army General Order 8) (not worn)
Vietnam Campaign Medal

Medal of Honor citation[edit | edit source]

A color picture if Bruce Campbell in his dress military uniform and cavalry hat. He is smiling and President Bush can be seen putting the Medal of Honor around his neck.

Bruce Crandall receiving the Medal of Honor

On February 26, 2007, Crandall was awarded the Medal of Honor by President George Bush for his actions at the Battle of la Drang.

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 Ia 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 battalion 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.[9]

Other honors[edit | edit source]

He was inducted into the United States Air Force's "Gathering of Eagles" in 1994, one of only seven Army aviators so honored,[5] and the Army Aviation Hall of Fame in 2004.[10]

For his courage during Operation Masher Crandall received the Aviation & Space Writers Helicopter Heroism Award for 1966.[2] At the 20th annual award ceremony, his rescue flights were ranked highest over the first 20 years of the award.[5]

The Olympia High School Baseball Field was named after Lt. Col. Crandall in a ceremony during the 2003 season. Crandall was a High School All-American baseball player for Olympia High School.

Crandall served as the honorary starter for the 2011 Indianapolis 500.[11]

On April 15, 2011, Col. Bruce Crandall (retired), was inducted as an honorary member of 1st Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment. Col. Crandall signed the Squadron rolls during a Squadron Ball where he helped induct officers and NCO's into the Order of St. Michael and received a 1st Sqdn., 6th Cav. Regt. belt buckle. 1-6 CAV recently returned from a successful deployment to support Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.[12]

Crandall's exploits (along with those of many others) at the Battle of Ia Drang, are depicted in the 1992 book We Were Soldiers Once...And Young (by Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway), and in the related 2002 movie, We Were Soldiers, where he is portrayed by Greg Kinnear. Crandall served as an aviation consultant during filming in 2001.

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. "Medal Of Honor 2011". http://www.armedforcesentertainment.com/moh2011-2.htm. Retrieved September 22, 1011. 
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 "Medal of Honor, Vietnam War — Major Bruce P. Crandall". Biography. United States Army Center of Military History. July 20, 2009. http://www.army.mil/medalofhonor/crandall/. Retrieved February 15, 2010. 
  3. "Medal of Honor Memorial Tops Goal". University of Washington. http://www.washington.edu/alumni/columns/june07/content/view/63/38/. Retrieved November 20, 2009. 
  4. "Obituary: Arlene Louise Crandall". Seattle Times. November 28, 2010. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/seattletimes/obituary.aspx?n=arlene-louise-crandall&pid=146838224. Retrieved September 22, 2011. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 "Biography of Bruce P. Crandall". http://www.xav8er.com/acebio.html. Retrieved September 23, 2011. 
  6. "Mjr. Bruce Crandall Wins DFC for Vietnamese Action". http://www.xav8er.com/heropic1.html. Retrieved September 23, 2011. 
  7. "President Bush Presents the Medal of Honor to Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Crandall". Office of the Press Secretary, The White House. February 26, 2007. http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2007/02/20070226-6.html. Retrieved February 27, 2007. 
  8. Pate, Kelly (April 15, 2010). "Medal of Honor recipient receives promotion to colonel -- 30 years after retirement". http://www.army.mil/article/37461/Medal_of_Honor_recipient_receives_promotion_to_colonel____30_years_after_retirement/. Retrieved September 22, 2011. 
  9. "Medal of Honor recipients — Vietnam (A-L)". United States Army Center of Military History. August 3, 2009. http://www.history.army.mil/html/moh/vietnam-a-l.html. Retrieved September 21, 2009. 
  10. "The Army Aviation Hall of Fame". Army Aviation Association of America. Archived from the original on January 21, 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080121093731/http://www.quad-a.org/hall_of_fame.htm. Retrieved February 10, 2008. 
  11. Surber, Tom (2011-05-19). "Medal Of Honor Winner Crandall To Serve As Honorary Starter". Indianapolis Motor Speedway. IMS Group. http://www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com/indy500/news/show/42925-medal-of-honor-winner-crandall-to-serve-as-honorary-starter/. Retrieved 2011-05-19. 
  12. Troth, SFC, US Army, Jeff (June 5, 2011). "Medal of Honor recipient visits cavalry during ball". CAB PUBLIC AFFAIRS. 1st Infantry Division & Fort Riley, U.S. Army. http://www.riley.army.mil/NewsViewer.aspx?id=4936. Retrieved June 5, 2011. 

References[edit | edit source]

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