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Thursday, March 1, 2007

Rotorcraft Report: Pilot Wins Medal of Honor for Ia Drang Rescues

President Bush planned last month to present the Medal of Honor to Bruce Crandall in recognition of his actions at Landing Zone X-Ray during the Battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam in November 1965.

Crandall was to receive the medal during a Feb. 26 White House ceremony for repeatedly flying into a landing zone under intense enemy fire to rescue and resupply 1st Cavalry ground troops, even after the landing zone had been closed.

"Due to policy at the time, medevac pilots weren’t allowed to land on a landing zone until it was ‘green’ for a period of 5 min, meaning it wasn’t being relentlessly attacked," Crandall said.

Then a major, Crandall decided to fly the medevac missions, and was joined by his friend of 10 years, then-Capt. Ed Freeman.

Witnesses said the actions taken by Crandall and Freeman on the first day of the battle, Nov. 14, kept the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, resupplied and reinforced, and gave wounded soldiers a chance at life.

The two aviators flew 14 missions, risking intense enemy fire to bring much-needed aid and carry more than 70 casualties to safety. For his actions that day, Freeman was awarded the Medal of Honor in July 2001.

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