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First Name: Bruce

Last Name: Crandall

Birthplace: Olympia, WA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Perry

Date of Birth: 17 February 1933

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Years Served: 1953-1977
Bruce Perry Crandall

•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


Bruce Perry Crandall
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Recipient
Vietnam War

Bruce Perry Crandall is a retired U.S. Army officer who received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during the Battle of Ia Drang during the Vietnam War. During the battle he flew 22 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.

The Early Years

Bruce Perry Crandall was born on 17 February 1933 in Olympia, WA; he was also raised there. During high school, Crandall 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. He married his wife Arlene on 31 March 1956.

Military Service

After commissioning and graduation from fixed-wing and helicopter training conducted by the Air Force and U.S. 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.

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 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 14 November 1965, he led the first major Division operation of air mobile troops into Landing Zone X-Ray in Vietnam's Battle of Ia Drang and is credited with evacuating some 70 wounded comrades with his wing man and fellow Medal of Honor recipient Major Ed Freeman. The two also flew in the ammunition needed for the 7th Cavalry 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 Battalion, 9th Cavalry Squadron, 1st Cavalry Division.

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, MO.

South America was supposed to be his next assignment, and he and his wife, Arlene, attended the Defense Language Institute, Monterey, CA, 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.

In his final Army assignment, he served as Senior Engineer Adviser to the California Army National Guard. Lieutenant Colonel Bruce P. Crandall retired from the Army in 1977.

The Post-Retirement Years

After retiring from the Army, Crandall 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, CA. After leaving California he and his wife moved to Mesa, AZ, where he spent 17 years working in the Public Works Department, the last four as the Public Works Manager.

Bruce and Arlene have three sons and five grandchildren. They currently reside in Manchester, WA.

Finally . . . 41 Years Later

In February of 2007, Bruce and Arlene Crandall were driving their Winnebago along a West Coast highway, the first leg of a cross-country trip to visit their kids, when the couple got a call from the White House.

The official asked to talk to Bruce Crandall - to tell Crandall that he was going to receive the Medal of Honor - the highest military award in the country. With Crandall driving, his wife asked the official to call back so they could pull over. Arlene said she didn't want him to get excited and drive off the road.

In the 1990s, Congress allowed for reconsideration of requests for medals, but the Army did not act on Crandall until 2007. (His friend and wingman, Ed Freeman, received his in 2001.) When it finally did, according to Army spokeswoman Major Cheryl Phillips, it found Crandall's actions on 14 November 1965, "above and beyond the call of duty."

More than 41 years after Crandall played a hero's role in one of the bloodiest battles of Vietnam, justice was finally done. On 26 February 2007, Crandall received the Medal of Honor from President George W. Bush in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House for his heroic actions on 14 November 1965.

Medal of Honor

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.

Postscript to the MOH Citation

When asked why he took such a risk, Crandall said: "Any person who has children would understand what we were thinking. If you were standing on a shore of a lake, and you saw your kids go through the ice, you would go out and try to get them even if you didn't know how to swim."

Though the mission was a success, Crandall broke down when he saw crewmembers washing the blood out of his copter. "I went around back of a building and vomited," he said. "You don't let your personal fears get into it. You can't. If you start thinking along that line, you become a reluctant warrior. And if you're a leader, you can't do that."

The ground commander of the besieged infantry battalion that desperately needed more ammunition was Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore. The battle at Landing Zone X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley was perhaps the first major U.S. battle in Vietnam. It was depicted in a book and in the Mel Gibson film We Were Soldiers ("Snake" Crandall was played by actor Greg Kinnear).

Medals and Awards

Master Army Aviator Badge

Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross
Distinguished Flying Cross with 3 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart
Meritorious Service Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters
Air Medal (23 Awards)
Army Commendation Medal
Presidential Unit Citation
Valorous Unit Award
Meritorious Unit Commendation
Army Good Conduct Medal
National Defense Service Medal with 1 Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Vietnam Service Medal with 4 Bronze Service Stars
Armed Forces Reserve Medal
Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm and Gold Star (3 Awards)
Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with Palm (Awarded per Army General Order 8) (not worn)
Vietnam Campaign Medal


Bruce Crandall was inducted into the U.S. Air Force's "Gathering of Eagles" in 1994 and into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame in 2004.

In 2001, Crandall was an aviation consultant on the 2002 movie We Were Soldiers about the Battle of Ia Drang. Crandall was portrayed in the film by actor Greg Kinnear.

The Olympia High School Baseball Field was named after Lt. Col. Crandall in a ceremony prior to the 2007 season. Crandall was a High School All-American baseball player for Olympia High School.

Honoree ID: 916   Created by: MHOH




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