Award of the Medal of Honor

President George W. Bush presented the Medal of Honor to Bruce Crandall on February 26th, 2007 in recognition of his actions at Landing Zone X-Ray during the Battle of Ia Drang, Vietnam, in November 1965.

President George W. Bush places the Medal of Honor around the neck of Army pilot Lt. Col. Bruce P. Crandall while Arlene, his life-long love, looks on.

Battle of the Ia Drang

The Battle of Ia Drang (Vietnamese: Trận Ia Đrăng, [iə̯ ɗrăŋ]; in English /ˈə dræŋ/) was the first major battle between the United States Army and the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN), as part of the Pleiku Campaign conducted early in the Vietnam War, at the eastern foot of the Chu Pong Massif in the central highlands of Vietnam, in 1965. It is notable for being the first large scale helicopter air assault and also the first use of Boeing B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers in a tactical support role. Ia Drang set the blueprint for the Vietnam War with the Americans relying on air mobility, artillery fire and close air support, while the PAVN neutralized that firepower by quickly engaging American forces at very close range.

Ia Drang comprised two main engagements, centered on two helicopter landing zones (LZs), the first known as LZ X-Ray, followed by LZ Albany, farther north in the Ia Drang Valley.

LZ X-Ray involved the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment and supporting units under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore, and took place November 14–16, at LZ X-Ray. Surrounded and under heavy fire from a numerically superior force, the American forces were able to drive back the North Vietnamese forces over three days, largely through the support of air power and heavy artillery bombardment, which the North Vietnamese lacked. The Americans claimed LZ X-Ray as a tactical victory, citing a 10:1 kill ratio.

The second engagement involved the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment plus supporting units under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Robert McDade, and took place on November 17 at LZ Albany. When an American battalion was ambushed in close quarters, who were unable to use air and artillery support due to the close engagement of the North Vietnamese, the Americans suffered an over-50% casualty rate before being extricated. Both sides claimed victory.

The battle at LZ X-Ray was documented in the CBS special report Battle of Ia Drang Valley by Morley Safer and the critically acclaimed book We Were Soldiers Once… And Young by Hal Moore and Joseph L. Galloway. In 1994, Moore, Galloway and men who fought on both the American and North Vietnamese sides, traveled back to the remote jungle clearings where the battle took place. At the time the U.S. did not have diplomatic relations with Vietnam. The risky trip which took a year to arrange was part of an award-winning ABC News documentary, They Were Young and Brave produced by Terence Wrong. Randall Wallace depicted the battle at LZ X-Ray in the 2002 movie We Were Soldiers starring Mel Gibson and Barry Pepper as Moore and Galloway, respectively.

Galloway later described Ia Drang as “the battle that convinced Ho Chi Minh he could win”.


AVCO AWA Helicopter Heroism Award

MAJ Bruce Crandall was awarded the first AVCO/AWA Helicopter Heroism Award in 1967 for his actions on the Bong Son Plain during Operation Masher (White Wing).  This rescue was selected from an international field of nominees, both military and civilian as the outstanding act of heroism involving the use of a helicopter.  At the twentieth anniversary of this award, the organization ranked MAJ Crandall’s rescue as the most outstanding in the 20 years of the award.  This award was sponsored by the Aviation/Space Writers Association and AVCC Corporation and was presented annually through 1978.  

Operation Masher