Bruce Crandall is a veteran of over 900 combat missions in Vietnam. Born in 1933, Crandall grew up in Olympia, Washington. He excelled in sports, setting a state batting average record and becoming a high school All American. In 1952, Crandall entered the University of Washington but was drafted in 1955--not by the National league, but by "Uncle Sam." Crandall received fixed-wing training at Gary AFB, Texas. Having earned his wings, he was assigned to the 30th Engineering Topo Group, flying the Hiller H-23 Raven in mapping operations on Alaska's Arctic Slope.
In 1957, he returned to Gary AFB for helicopter training. Next he went to the 521st Aviation Company in Tripoli, Libya, where he mapped the desert for 2 years. Back in the States in 1960, he was given fixed-wing instrument training and then headed south. For 3 years he flew over thousands of square miles of previously unmapped mountains and jungle of Central and South America. Coming home, Crandall completed helicopter instrument training and then became senior representative of the 229th Task Force in support of the XVIII Airborne Corps, Dominican Republic Expeditionary Force.
In 1965, the United States entered the war in Vietnam, and Crandall served as Commander of A Company 229th, which was part of the 11th Air Assault Division at Ft. Benning, Georgia, and later part of the 1st Cavalry Division (airmobile) at An Khe, Vietnam. Using the call sign "Ancient Serpent 6," he soon earned the reputation of being a straight talker, dead honest, and very good at what he did. On 14 November 1965, Crandall took off on his first real combat mission, hauling airmobile troops from a base in Vietnam's Central Highlands to a rugged jungle landing zone in the valley of the Ia Drang River. It was a day that he and many others will never forget. For the first time, Americans came up against a seasoned force of North Vietnamese regulars, in the first major ground battle for America in Southeast Asia.
In January 1966, during Operation Masher, the first of many combined American and South Vietnamese army operations, Crandall flew one of his most harrowing missions. Under enemy fire and using only a flashlight as a guide, Crandall dropped his Bell UH-1 Huey through dense jungle to rescue 12 soldiers. For his courageous efforts, Crandall received the first AVCO Helicopter Heroism Award. Later that year he returned to the States and attended the US Army Command and General Staff College. He then returned immediately to Vietnam for a second combat tour, flying Huey gunships in the 1/9th Cavalry Squadron, 1st Cavalry Division. At the completion of his second tour, Crandall returned to the States and served in numerous positions. He was Deputy Chief of Staff, Deputy Installation Commander, and Commander of the 5th Engineer Combat Battalion, all at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. He also served as Director of the Venezuela Project at the Defense Mapping Agency in St. Louis. For his final assignment in the Army, he served as Senior Engineer Advisor to the California Army National Guard. Crandall retired in 1977 as a lieutenant colonel and then worked as City Manager of Dunsmuir, California, for 3 years.
On 14 November 1965, the day started off pretty routine for Crandall. First he led a 16-ship Huey formation carrying troops of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, to Landing Zone (LZ) X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley. On his fifth "haul" things changed, and the landing zone turned red hot with enemy fire. His door gunmen were unable to return fire for fear of hitting their own troops. Loading the wounded, Crandall hurried back to Plei Mei base camp. He knew the troops badly needed ammo, so he loaded 2 choppers and managed to find a "safe" spot in the LZ to offload and take on more wounded. Crandall's other choppers joined him in a continuous stream from the base camp to the LZ. It was "ammo in--wounded out" for nearly 16 hours. Crandall and his men went beyond the limits to give the troops what they needed!