Bruce P. Crandall

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Bruce Perry Crandall
A monochrome image of a man in a military dress uniform. He is facing the camera and turned slightly to the left.
Crandall in the mid-1960s
Nickname(s)"Snake", "Snakeshit"
Born (1933-02-17) February 17, 1933 (age 85)
Olympia, Washington, U.S.
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1953–1977
RankUS Army O6 shoulderboard rotated.svg Colonel[1]
Battles/warsCold War
AwardsMedal of Honor
Distinguished Flying Cross (4)
Bronze Star
Purple Heart
Meritorious Service Medal (3)
Air Medal (23)
Other workCity Manager of Dunsmuir, Public Works Manager of Mesa

Bruce Perry Crandall (born February 17, 1933)[2] is a retired U.S. Army officer who received the Medal of Honor for his actions as a pilot during the Battle of Ia Drang on November 14, 1965 in South Vietnam. During the battle, he flew 22 missions in an unarmed helicopter into enemy fire to evacuate more than 70 wounded and bring ammunition and supplies to US forces. By the end of the Vietnam War, he had flown more than 900 combat missions.

After retiring from the Army as a lieutenant colonel, Crandall worked several jobs in different states before settling down with his wife in his home state of Washington.

Early life and education[edit]

Crandall was born in 1933 and raised in Olympia, Washington, the capital of the state. He attended public schools, and during high school became an All-American baseball player. After graduating from William Winlock Miller High School, he attended the University of Washington in Seattle until being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1953 during the Korean War.[3][4]

Personal life[edit]

He married his wife Arlene on March 31, 1956 and they had three sons together. They have five grandchildren. Arlene died on November 2, 2010, from cancer.[5] As of 2011, Crandall lives in Washington.[3]


Crandall was selected for and graduated from Engineer Officer Candidate School, Fort Belvoir, Virginia in 1954. He was sent to fixed-wing and helicopter training conducted by the United States Air Force and United States Army; after graduating, he was assigned to a U.S. Army Aviation mapping group based at the Presidio of San Francisco. It was then "the largest flying military aviation unit in the world".[3]

He began to pilot Cessna L-19 Bird Dogs and de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beavers in Alaska for military topographic studies. His first overseas flying assignment was to Wheelus Air Base in Tripoli, Libya. There he mapped the desert for two years, flying de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter, Beaver, Birddog and OH-23 Raven aircraft as an instructor pilot and unit test pilot.[3]

His next overseas tours were flying over thousands of square miles of previously unmapped mountains and jungles in Central and South America. For this mission, Crandall was based at Howard Air Force Base, Panama, and Costa Rica. While assigned to the 11th Air Assault Division, Crandall helped develop air-assault tactics as a platoon leader.

In early 1965, he joined the Dominican Republic Expeditionary Force as a liaison to the XVIII Airborne Corps.[3]

Later that year he was assigned to Vietnam, where the United States had entered the civil war defending South Vietnam against the communist North Vietnamese. He commanded the 1st Cavalry Division's Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion at An Khe, Vietnam. Using the call sign "Ancient Serpent 6," he led a flying unit supporting eight battalions on the ground.[3]

Battle of Ia Drang[edit]

A black and white image of a man crawling across the ground with a helicopter flying in the background
Crandall's UH-1 Huey dispatching infantry in the Ia Drang operation

Crandall was assigned to A Co., 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion. On November 14, 1965, he led the first major division operation of the Vietnam War, landing elements of the 1st Battalion and 2nd Battalion of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, and the 5th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, into Landing Zone X-Ray in Vietnam's Battle of Ia Drang.[6]

During the fierce battle that followed, he was credited, along with wing man Major Ed Freeman, with evacuating some 70 wounded soldiers. Twelve of these fourteen flights (another source reports 18[6]) were made after the Med Evac unit refused to land in the intensely hot landing zone, which was under fire. Crandall evacuated more than 75 casualties in his helicopters, during a flight day that started at 6:00 am and ended at 10:30 pm, more than 16 hours later. "It was the longest day I ever experienced in any aircraft," Crandall said. Crandall had to use several helicopters throughout the day because each aircraft became badly damaged.[6]

Crandall and Freeman were also credited with flying in the ammunition needed for the 7th Cavalry to survive. The craft he was flying was unarmed.[3] Crandall was initially awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.[7] On February 26, 2007, this was upgraded to the Medal of Honor, awarded to Crandall by President George W. Bush in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.[8]

Operation Masher[edit]

On January 31, 1966, during the first combined American and South Vietnamese Army operation, "Operation Masher", Crandall had just finished a full day supporting the 1/12th Infantry Battalion. As he returned to refuel and shut down for the night, he learned that "X' Company of the 1/7th was in heavy enemy contact and had 12 wounded soldiers who needed evacuation. The soldiers were pinned down in a tight perimeter. The unit was led by his friend and fellow veteran of the Battle of la Drang, infantry officer Captain Tony Nadal.[9]

Crandall refueled and flew to the area. He learned the pick up zone was surrounded by trees on three sides. He also was told that even during daylight, Med Evac had refused to land there. To minimize the chances of hitting the trees, he decided to descend vertically. The night was pitch dark with an overcast sky, making flying extremely difficult.[9]

Crandall wanted to avoid giving the enemy an illuminated target and risk backlighting the soldiers defending the landing zone and wounded soldiers. Instead of using search or landing lights, he instructed Nadal to point a flashlight up in the center of the touchdown area. Crandall landed twice under intense enemy fire and successfully evacuated all 12 wounded soldiers.[9]

Later service[edit]

After an assignment in Colorado, Crandall attended the Armed Forces Staff College. Soon he was back in Vietnam, this time flying Huey gunships—"a big improvement"—supporting the 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Squadron, 1st Cavalry Division.[3]

In January 1968, four months into his second tour, Crandall's helicopter was downed during another rescue attempt due to Air Force bombs going off too close to where he was flying. After five months in the hospital recovering from a broken back and other injuries, he resumed his career as a student, earning a bootstrap degree through the University of Nebraska in 1969. Assigned to Bangkok, Thailand, he became a facility engineer managing 3800 people. He subsequently served as deputy chief of staff, deputy installation commander, and commander of the 5th Engineer Combat Battalion, all at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.[3]

South America was supposed to be his next assignment, and he and his wife, Arlene, attended the Defense Language Institute, Monterey, California, as Spanish language students in preparation. He was supposed to be aviation and engineering adviser to Argentina, but the assignment did not take place. Crandall suffered a stroke, which ended his flying career. After his recovery, the Crandalls found the language training useful when he was sent to Caracas, Venezuela, as the Defense Mapping Agency's director for the Inter-American Geodetic Survey.[3]

In his final Army assignment, Crandall served as senior engineer adviser to the California Army National Guard. In 1977 he retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel.[3]

Later life[edit]

Crandall (right) and Medal of Honor recipient Leroy Petry (left) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, June 24, 2013

After retiring from the Army, Crandall earned a Master's Degree in Public Administration from Golden Gate University in 1977. He has worked in public service jobs, including three years as the city manager of Dunsmuir, California. After leaving California, he and his wife, Arlene Louise Crandall, moved to Mesa, Arizona, where he worked for 17 years in the Public Works Department, the last four as the public works manager.[3] His wife died on November 2, 2010, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

On April 15, 2010, more than 30 years after retiring from the U.S. Army, in recognition of his accomplishments and receiving the Medal of Honor, Bruce Crandall was promoted to colonel, U.S. Army (retired). The ceremony was held at the Army Aviation Association Convention, in Fort Worth, Texas.[1]

Crandall attended the June 24, 2013, unveiling of Medal of Honor recipient Leroy Petry's statue in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Crandall returned to live in Washington state. He raised the "12th Man" flag for the Seattle Seahawks – Minnesota Vikings football game on November 17, 2013 as part of the Seahawks "Salute to Service".[10]

Awards and decorations[edit]

Crandall has received the following military decorations:[3]

US Army Master Aviator Badge.png
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Award numeral 2.pngAward numeral 3.png
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Master Army Aviator Badge
Medal of Honor Distinguished Flying Cross
w/ 3 bronze oak leaf clusters
Bronze Star Purple Heart Meritorious Service Medal
w/ 2 bronze oak leaf clusters
Air Medal
w/ award numeral 23
Army Commendation Medal Army Good Conduct Medal
National Defense Service Medal
w/ 1 bronze service star
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal Vietnam Service Medal
w/ 4 bronze campaign stars
Armed Forces Reserve Medal Vietnam Cross of Gallantry
w/ Palm and 3 Gold Stars
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
Army Presidential Unit Citation Valorous Unit Award
Meritorious Unit Commendation Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation Vietnam Civil Actions Unit Citation
Army Expert Marksmanship Badge Army Sharpshooter Badge

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

A color picture if Bruce Campbell in his dress military uniform and cavalry hat. He is smiling and President Bush can be seen putting the Medal of Honor around his neck.
Bruce Crandall receiving the Medal of Honor

On February 26, 2007, Crandall was awarded the Medal of Honor by President George Bush for his actions at the Battle of la Drang.

For 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 the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). On 14 November 1965, his flight of sixteen 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 decided to adjust 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, and in the ground forces the realization that they would be resupplied and that friendly wounded would be promptly evacuated. This greatly enhanced 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 a total of 22 flights, most under intense enemy fire, retiring from the battlefield only after all possible service had been rendered to the Infantry battalion. His actions provided critical resupply of ammunition and evacuation of the wounded. Major Crandall's daring acts of bravery and courage in the face of an overwhelming and determined enemy are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.[11]

Other honors[edit]

He was inducted into the United States Air Force's "Gathering of Eagles" in 1994, one of only seven Army aviators so honored,[9] and the Army Aviation Hall of Fame in 2004.[12]

For his courage during Operation Masher, Crandall received the Aviation & Space Writers Helicopter Heroism Award for 1966.[3] At the 20th annual award ceremony, his rescue flights were ranked highest over the first 20 years of the award.[9]

The Olympia High School Baseball Field was named after Lt. Col. Crandall in a ceremony during the 2003 season. Crandall was a High School All-American baseball player for Olympia High School.

Crandall served as the honorary starter for the 2011 Indianapolis 500.[13]

On April 15, 2011, Crandall was inducted as an honorary member of 1st Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment. Col. Crandall signed the Squadron rolls during a Squadron Ball where he helped induct officers and NCO's into the Order of St. Michael and received a 1st Sqdn., 6th Cav. Regt. belt buckle. 1–6 CAV recently returned from a successful deployment to support Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.[14]

Crandall's exploits (along with those of many others) at the Battle of Ia Drang, are depicted in the 1992 book We Were Soldiers Once...And Young (by Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway), and in the related 2002 movie, We Were Soldiers, where he is portrayed by Greg Kinnear. Crandall served as an aviation consultant during filming in 2001.

University of Washington Medal of Honor Memorial[edit]

At the University of Washington in February 2006, a resolution recommending a memorial be erected to honor fighter ace and alumnus Pappy Boyington for his service during World War II was raised and defeated[15] during a meeting of the student senate.[16] Some people did not believe the resolution's sponsor had fully addressed the financial and logistical problems of installing a memorial, and some were questioning the widely held assumption that all warriors and acts of war are automatically worthy of memorialization. The story was picked up by some blogs and conservative news outlets, focusing on two statements made by student senators during the meeting.[17] One student senator, Ashley Miller, said that the UW already had many monuments to "rich, white men" (Boyington claimed partial Sioux ancestry[18] and was not rich);[19] another, Jill Edwards, questioned whether the UW should memorialize a person who killed others, summarized in the minutes as saying "she didn't believe a member of the Marine Corps was an example of the sort of person UW wanted to produce."[20]

After its defeat, a new version of the original resolution was submitted that called for a memorial to all eight UW alumni who received the Medal of Honor after attending the UW.[21][22] On April 4, 2006, the resolution passed by a vote of 64 to 14 with several abstentions, on a roll call vote. The University of Washington Medal of Honor memorial was constructed at the south end of Memorial Way (17th Ave NE), north of Red Square, in the interior of a traffic circle between Parrington and Kane Halls (47°39′26″N 122°18′35″W / 47.6573°N 122.3097°W / 47.6573; -122.3097). Privately funded, it was completed in time for a Veterans Day dedication in November 2009.[23] In addition to Greg Boyington, it honors Deming Bronson, Bruce Crandall, Robert Galer, John Hawk, Robert Leisy, William Nakamura, and Archie Van Winkle.[24][25][26]

Ordinary individuals
facing extraordinary circumstances
with courage and selflessness
answer the call
and change the course of destiny.
                               Medal of Honor

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Pate, Kelly (April 15, 2010). "Medal of Honor recipient receives promotion to colonel – 30 years after retirement". Retrieved September 22, 2011.
  2. ^ "Medal Of Honor 2011". Archived from the original on October 2, 2011. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Medal of Honor, Vietnam War — Major Bruce P. Crandall". Biography. United States Army Center of Military History. July 20, 2009. Retrieved February 15, 2010.
  4. ^ "Medal of Honor Memorial Tops Goal". Columns: The University of Washington Alumni Magazine. University of Washington (June 2007). Retrieved November 20, 2009.
  5. ^ "Obituary: Arlene Louise Crandall". Seattle Times. November 28, 2010. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
  6. ^ a b c "Vietnam hero on film gets highest honor for valor". February 27, 2007. Retrieved August 30, 2015.
  7. ^ "Mjr. Bruce Crandall Wins DFC for Vietnamese Action". Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  8. ^ "President Bush Presents the Medal of Honor to Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Crandall" (Press release). Office of the Press Secretary, The White House. February 26, 2007. Retrieved February 27, 2007.
  9. ^ a b c d e "Biography of Bruce P. Crandall". Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  10. ^ "12th MAN Flag Raiser – Major Bruce Crandall". November 17, 2013. Archived from the original on January 19, 2015. Retrieved April 28, 2014.
  11. ^ "Medal of Honor recipients — Vietnam (A-L)". United States Army Center of Military History. August 3, 2009. Retrieved September 21, 2009.
  12. ^ "The Army Aviation Hall of Fame". Army Aviation Association of America. Archived from the original on January 21, 2008. Retrieved February 10, 2008.
  13. ^ Surber, Tom (May 19, 2011). "Medal Of Honor Winner Crandall To Serve As Honorary Starter". Indianapolis Motor Speedway. IMS Group. Retrieved May 19, 2011.
  14. ^ Troth, Jeff (June 5, 2011). "Medal of Honor recipient visits cavalry during ball". CAB Public Affairs. 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley, U.S. Army. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved June 5, 2011.
  15. ^ "A Resolution to Calling for a Tribute for Col. Gregory 'Pappy' Boyington, USMC", Resolution R-12-18 Archived January 7, 2009, at the Wayback Machine., Associated Students of the University of Washington Student Senate, submitted November 1, 2006. (retrieved February 24, 2006)
  16. ^ Boyington memorial — A word from the Senate[permanent dead link], The Daily, February 17, 2006. (retrieved February 24, 2006)
  17. ^ Flickinger, Christopher. "Marines Not Welcome at University of Washington" Archived February 17, 2012, at the Wayback Machine., Human Events ", February 20, 2006.
  18. ^ "Great Sioux Nation Medal of Honor Recipients". Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. Archived from the original on September 25, 2015. Retrieved October 9, 2015.
  19. ^ Muir, Florabel (July 16, 1967). "Pappy Boiyngton is ill, destitute". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. (New York News). p. 12.
  20. ^ UW Senate minutes Archived March 26, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ Frey, Christine (February 21, 2006). "Boyington memorial for UW revisited". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved October 9, 2015.
  22. ^ "A Resolution Calling a Memorial for UW Alumni awarded the Medal of Honor" Archived May 11, 2008, at the Wayback Machine., Resolution R-12-16, Associated Students of the University of Washington Student Senate, submitted February 17, 2006.
  23. ^ "Honoring the men behind the Medals of Honor with ceremony, exhibit ", University of Washington News, November 10, 2009.
  24. ^ O'Donnell, Catherine (October 21, 2009). "New UW memorial honors alumni who hold the Congressional Medal of Honor". University of Washington. UW News. Retrieved October 9, 2015.
  25. ^ Broom, Jack (November 10, 2009). "UW to honor war heroes with Medal of Honor memorial". Seattle Times. Retrieved October 9, 2015.
  26. ^ "University of Washington Medal of Honor Memorial Dedication". U.S. Militaria Forum. Retrieved October 9, 2015.


This article incorporates text in the public domain from the United States Army.

External links[edit]