More than 40 years after demonstrating the heroism immortalized in the bestselling book and movie, “We Were Soldiers Once…and Young,” retired Army Lt. Col. Bruce P. Crandall received the Medal of Honor on February 26, 2007 at a White House ceremony. Crandall received the nation’s highest military award for actions during the Battle of Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam in November 1965. The battle, at Landing Zone X-Ray near the Ia Drang River, was the first major ground battle of the war.
During the incident, Crandall, then a major and commander of Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), weaved through intense enemy fire as he repeatedly flew to a landing zone to rescue and resupply 1st Cavalry Division ground troops. The citation for Crandall’s Medal of Honor credits him with displaying leadership by example and fearless courage as he “voluntarily flew his unarmed helicopter through a gauntlet of enemy fire on flight after flight, delivering desperately needed ammunition, water and medical supplies into one of the most hotly contested landing zones of the war.”
Crandall was inducted into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame at Fort Rucker, Alabama, in 2004. He also was the seventh Army inductee into the “Gathering of Eagles,” a U.S. Air Force organization that honors contributors to aviation. After receiving the Medal of Honor, Crandall will join 111 other living recipients of the award, 60 of them awarded for actions in Vietnam, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.