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First Name: Ed

Last Name: Freeman

Birthplace: Neely, MS, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: W.

Date of Birth: 20 November 1927

Date of Death: 20 August 2008

Rank: Major

Years Served: 1944-1946 (Navy), 1946-1967 (Army)
Ed W. Freeman
'Too Tall'

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)
•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)
•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


Ed W. 'Too Tall' Freeman
Major, U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Recipient
Vietnam War

Major Ed W. 'Too Tall' Freeman) was a U.S. Army helicopter pilot who received the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his actions in the Battle of Ia Drang during the Vietnam War. During the battle, he flew through gunfire numerous times, bringing supplies to a trapped American battalion and flying dozens of wounded soldiers to safety. Freeman was a wing-man for Major Bruce Crandall [Honoree Record ID 916] who also received the Medal of Honor for the same missions.

Ed W. Freeman was born on 20 November 1927, in Neely, Greene County, MS, the sixth of nine children of William Ed and Caroline Freeman. When he was 13 years old, he saw thousands of men on maneuvers pass by his home in Mississippi. He knew then that he would become a soldier.

He grew up in nearby McLain and graduated from Washington High School. At age 17, before graduating from high school, Ed enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served, during World War II, on the USS Cacapon (AO-52) for two years. Once the war was over, he returned to his hometown and graduated from high school. Immediately afterwards, he joined the U.S. Army.


On 30 April 1954, he married Barbara Morgan. They had two sons, Mike, born in 1956 and Doug, born in 1962.

Military Career

Beyond his service in the Navy in World War II, he reached the Army rank of First Sergeant by the time of the Korean War. Although he was in the Corps of Engineers, he fought as an infantry soldier in Korea. He participated in the Battle of Pork Chop Hill and earned a battlefield commission as one of only 14 survivors out of 257 men who made it through the opening stages of the battle. The gold bars of a Second Lieutenant were personally pinned on his uniform by General James Van Fleet [Honoree Record ID 347]. He then assumed command of B Company and led them back up Pork Chop Hill.

The commission made him eligible to become a pilot, a childhood dream of his. However, when he applied for pilot training he was told that, at six feet four inches, he was "too tall" for pilot duty. The phrase stuck, and he was known by the nickname of "Too Tall" for the rest of his career.

In 1955, the height limit for pilots was raised and Freeman was accepted into flying school. He first flew fixed-wing Army airplanes before switching to helicopters. After the Korean War, he flew the world on mapping missions. By the time he was sent to Vietnam in 1965, he was an experienced helicopter pilot and was placed second-in-command of his sixteen-craft unit. He served as a Captain in Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).

Vietnam Service

On 14 November 1965, Freeman and his unit transported a battalion of American soldiers to the Ia Drang Valley. Later, after arriving back at base, they learned that the soldiers had come under intense fire and had taken heavy casualties. Enemy fire around the landing zones was so heavy that the medical evacuation helicopters refused to fly into the landing zone. Freeman and his commander, Major Bruce Crandall, volunteered to fly their unarmed, lightly armored UH-1 Huey in support of the embattled troops. Freeman made a total of fourteen trips to the battlefield, bringing in water and ammunition and taking out wounded soldiers under heavy enemy fire in what was later named the Battle of Ia Drang. By the time they landed their heavily damaged Huey, Captain Freeman had been wounded four times by ground fire.


Freeman was subsequently promoted to the rank of Major, designated as a Master Army Aviator, and was sent home from Vietnam in 1966. He retired from the military the next year.

Freeman and his family settled in the Treasure Valley area of Idaho, his wife Barbara's home state, and continued to work as a pilot. He flew helicopters for another 20 years, fighting wildfires, conducting animal censuses, and herding wild horses for the Department of the Interior until his second retirement in 1991. By then, he had 17,000 flight hours in helicopters and 5,000 in fixed-wing aircraft; 22,000 hours total.

Medal of Honor Nomination

Freeman's commanding officer nominated him for the Medal of Honor for his actions at Ia Drang, but not in time to meet a two-year deadline then in place. He was instead awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. The Medal of Honor nomination was disregarded until 1995, when the two-year deadline was removed. He was formally presented with the medal on 16 July 2001, in the East Room of the White House by President George W. Bush.

Medal of Honor


By direction of the President, under the Joint Resolution of Congress approved 12 July 1862 (amended by act of 3 March 1863, act of 9 July 1918, and act of 25 July 1963), the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, is awarded by the Department of the Army in the name of Congress to:


Captain Ed W. Freeman, United States Army, of Boise, Idaho, who distinguished himself by numerous acts of conspicuous gallantry and extraordinary intrepidity on 14 November 1965 while serving with Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). As a flight leader and second in command of a 16-helicopter lift unit, he supported a heavily engaged American infantry battalion at Landing Zone X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley, Republic of Vietnam. The unit was almost out of ammunition after taking some of the heaviest casualties of the war, fighting off a relentless attack from a highly motivated, heavily armed enemy force. When the infantry commander closed the helicopter landing zone because of intense direct enemy fire, Captain Freeman risked his life by flying his unarmed helicopter through a gauntlet of enemy fire time after time, delivering critically needed ammunition, water, and medical supplies to the besieged battalion. His flights, by providing the engaged units with supplies of ammunition critical to their survival, directly affected the battle's outcome. Without them the units would almost surely have gone down, with much greater loss of life. After medical evacuation helicopters refused to fly into the area because of intense enemy fire, Captain Freeman flew 14 separate rescue missions, providing lifesaving evacuation of an estimated 30 seriously wounded soldiers-some of whom would not have survived had he not acted. All flights were made into a small emergency landing zone within 100 to 200 meters of the defensive perimeter, where heavily committed units were perilously holding off the attacking elements. Captain Freeman's selfless acts of great valor and extraordinary perseverance were far above and beyond the call of duty or mission and set a superb example of leadership and courage for all of his peers. Captain Freeman's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army

Medals, Awards & Badges

Medal of Honor
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star Medal with Combat Valor Device
Purple Heart
Air Medal with Award Numeral 17
Army Commendation Medal
Army Good Conduct Medal
American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal
National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Service Star
Korean Service Medal with 3 Bronze Service Stars
Vietnam Service Medal with 2 Bronze Service Stars
Armed Forces Reserve Medal
Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Bronze Star
United Nations Service Medal
Vietnam Campaign Medal
Republic of Korea War Service Medal
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation
Master Army Aviator Badge


In the 2002 film, We Were Soldiers, which depicted the Battle of Ia Drang, Ed Freeman was portrayed by actor Mark McCracken.

The post office in Freeman's hometown of McLain, MS, was renamed the "Major Ed W. Freeman Post Office" in March 2009.

Death and Burial

Ed W. Freeman died from complications of Parkinson's Disease on 20 August 2008, at age 80. He was buried, with full military honors, at Idaho State Veterans Cemetery in Boise, Ada County, ID, in Site #12-J-155.

Origin of Nickname/Handle:
When he applied for pilot training he was told that, at six feet four inches, he was "too tall" for pilot duty. In 1955, the height limit for pilots was raised and Freeman was accepted into flying school. However, the phrase stuck, and he was known by the nickname of "Too Tall" for the rest of his career.

Honoree ID: 954   Created by: MHOH




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