Newest Medal of Honor Recipient Inducted Into Pentagon Hall of Heroes

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2007 - Retired Army Lt. Col. Bruce Crandall was admitted into the Pentagon Hall of Heroes today, one day after President Bush presented him the Medal of Honor for heroism in Vietnam.

Army Chief of Staff Peter J. Schoomaker praised Crandall, a helicopter pilot during the Battle of Ia Drang Valley on Nov. 14, 1965, who repeatedly volunteered to fly into heavy enemy fire to replenish besieged ground forces and evacuate wounded troops.

Crandall, then a major commanding Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), was transporting troops into Landing Zone X-ray when the ground troops came under a massive attack from the North Vietnamese Army. He and his wingman, Capt. Ed Freeman, spent more than 14 hours in the air, flying 70 wounded men to safety and providing a lifeline for ground troops, President Bush said yesterday at the White House.

During today's induction ceremony, Schoomaker called 74-year-old Crandall a "profoundly brave man" who along with other military heroes, "help to make us better by their example."

"His actions also remind us that, despite advances in doctrine and technology, war is still waged in the human dimension," he said.

Pausing to recognize Crandall's sacrifice in the face of near-certain death serves as a reminder of "our Army's core values and the fact that those who lead must also be willing to serve," Schoomaker said.

"The words of the warrior ethos that we have today - I will always place the mission first; I will never accept defeat; I will never quit; and I will never leave a fallen comrade - were made real that day on in the Ia Drang Valley," he said.

Although the battle cost the United States 305 lives, the death toll would have been significantly higher if not for Crandall's actions, Schoomaker said.

Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey praised Crandall as "the latest in a very select group of exceptional soldiers" who have earned the nation's highest award for valor.

This award, "reserved for the bravest of the brave," honors extraordinary personal bravery, self-sacrifice and courage, he said. "Based on Bruce's actions that have earned him this award, it is clear that it was courage, along with love of soldiers and of country, that compelled Bruce to go above and beyond the call of duty to act without regard for his own personal safety, even in the face of mortal danger," he said.

"The degree of courage to be awarded the Medal of Honor is so exceptionally high that in the last 100 years, only 1,239 Medals of Honor have been awarded," he said.

After receiving his Medal of Honor yesterday, Crandall joined 111 other living American Medal of Honor recipients, 61 of them for service during the Vietnam War. Five attended today's induction ceremony: retired Army Lt. Gen. Robert F. Foley, retired Army Col. Walter Marm Jr., Army Lt. Col. Gordon Roberts, former 1st Lt. Brian Thacker, and retired Marine Corps Col. Harvey Barnum Jr.

"The courage and fortitude of America's soldiers in combat exemplified by these individuals is, without question, the highest level of human behavior," Harvey said. "It demonstrates the basic goodness of mankind as well as the inherent kindness and patriotism of American soldiers."

Harvey said this foundation of courage and fortitude, along with concern and care for their fellow soldiers, drives soldiers during the most difficult situations imaginable. "Fellow soldiers come first," he said.

Crandall's actions demonstrated the extent of that conviction, he said. "He truly answered the call to duty -- for his nation, his unit and most of all, for his fellow soldiers." In doing so, Harvey said Crandall "truly demonstrated what it means to be Army strong."

After unveiling his Medal of Honor photo and citation, along with a plaque inscribed with his name along with other Vietnam Medal of Honor recipients, Crandall downplayed his "hero" status.

Admitting that he had hoped to be drafted by a major league baseball team, not the Army, the former high school All-American said that if he had to do it all over again, he'd hope the Army would accept him.

Crandall praised the highly motivated, highly trained soldiers he served with in Vietnam. "We were motivated by brotherhood, by a belief in what we were doing and by having the skill levels and the training" the mission demanded, he said.

Crandall said he's been asked how he could return again and again to Ia Drang Valley during that fateful day in November 1965. "That wasn't a question that ever entered my mind," he said. "The question would have been, 'How could I not go in?'"

Medal of Honor recipient Roberts, who still serves on active duty and is stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., welcomed the opportunity to see Crandall join him and other members of the elite Medal of Honor society. "It's tremendous to see this," he said.

Former Spc. 4 Henry Llewellyn, who served under Crandall's command after the battle of Ia Drang Valley, traveled from Pottstown, Pa., to see his former commander honored today. "He was an outstanding leader who led by example and with a sense of humor," he said. "Whether they're 8 or 80, everyone noticed him when they were around him. That's the kind of personality he has. He's a great American hero."

Joe Galloway, a war correspondent during the Battle of Ia Drang who cowrote the story about it in "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young," called today's ceremony a long-overdue tribute to Crandall.

"He's a great American," Galloway said, and part of a team that pulled together in the face of overwhelming odds. He noted that he and the others could easily have become "a footnote in history" had it not been for the tremendous unity they demonstrated.

"We couldn't have made it would each other," he said. "And we're here today to see honor done to one of our number because of all that teamwork."
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