I wrote about the eve of the Ia Drang Battle yesterday, and today I’d like to honor, as much as I am able, Army pilots Bruce Crandall, Ed Freeman and Walter Marm. Lieutenant-Colonel “Snake” Crandall led numerous Huey flights into the valley to evacuate more than 75 Americans and to bring supplies to the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry. 12 of these flights were after the Medevac helicopters overhead refused to fly in to the LZ. Crandall received the Distinguished Service Cross, which was upgraded to the Medal of Honor in 2007.
Crandall’s wingman was Ed Freeman, who flew 14 missions to bring out over 30 Americans. His Medal of Honor citation paints his leadership more clearly than I can: “When the infantry commander closed the helicopter landing zone due to intense direct enemy fire, Captain Freeman risked his own 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… 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.” I believe that American must remind each other how lucky to have men like Bruce Crandall and Ed Freeman to fight and sacrifice on our behalf.
Ed Freeman, by the way, fought at Pork Chop Hill in Korea as a company First Sergeant. He earned a battlefield commission and General James Van Fleet pinned on his second lieutenant bars. After the ceremony, he then took command of his company and led them back into the fight.
Last but not least is Walter Joseph Marm, who was a platoon leader in the 1st Battalion who exposed himself repeatedly to enemy fire on November 14, 1965, including charging thirty meters through enemy fire to throw grenades at an emery position, killing the eight North Vietnamese soldiers in the machine gun nest. Badly wounded, he continued the attack and over ran the rest of the enemy and railed his platoon.
Marm received the Medal of Honor on December 19, 165. An Eagle Scout, Marm is one of eleven Eagle Scouts to also receive the Medal of Honor.
Honor and remember these great Americans, who are all with us today, as well as the 237 Americans killed while fighting to protect South Vietnam from communist aggression!