MAJOR BRUCE CRANDALL: Relentless Vietnam Flight Commander
Exemplifying 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 Vietnam while serving with Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). On November 14, 1965, his flight of 16 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 adjusted 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. Because of this, ground forces realized they would be supplied and the wounded would be promptly evacuated—enhancing 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 22 flights, most under intense enemy fire, retiring from the battlefield only after all possible service had been rendered to the infantry battalion. Major Crandall’s daring acts of bravery are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military and reflect greatly upon himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.