Colonel Bruce Crandall flew over 900 combat missions through two tours of duty in Vietnam, earning the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2007 for bravery and heroism during the Battle of Ia Drang Valley. Born in 1933, Crandall grew up in Olympia, Washington. In 1953, while attending the University of Washington, he was drafted into the US Army and commissioned in 1954 after completing the Army’s Engineer Officer Candidate School.
After earning his wings he was assigned to the fly the Cessna L-19 and Havilland Canada DHC-2. In 1957 he returned to Gary AFB, Texas for helicopter training. After completing training he was assigned to the 521st Aviation Company in Tripoli, Libya where he mapped the desert for two years flying YU-1 Otter, L-20 Beaver, L-19 Birddog and H-23 Raven aircraft. While assigned to the 11th Air Assault Division, Crandall helped develop air-assault tactics as a platoon commander.
In 1965, the United States entered the war in Vietnam and Crandall was assigned as the Commander of Company A, 1st Cavalry Division, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion at An Khe, Vietnam flying the UH-1 Huey. Using the call sign “Ancient Serpent 6,” later shortened to “Snake 6,” he soon earned the reputation as an honest, straight-talking, and outstanding helicopter pilot. On 14 November 1965, his helicopter company was supporting the 1/7th Cavalry’s assault into LZ X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley. Crandall took off on his first combat mission, transporting airmobile troops from a base in Vietnam’s Central Highlands to a rugged jungle landing zone in the valley of the Ia Drang River. American troops faced a seasoned force of North Vietnamese regulars in the first major ground battle of the Vietnam War. The enemy fire was so intense that the ground commander ordered the pilots to abort their mission. Sensing that the ground commander and his battalion would need additional ammunition, Crandall relocated his base of operations closer to the fight in order to shorten the flight distance required to deliver ammunition and evacuate wounded soldiers. During the operations at LZ X-Ray, he volunteered and flew medical evacuation missions in an unarmed helicopter under intense enemy fire with complete disregard for his own safety. His courageous acts inspired other pilots to help evacuate the wounded from LZ X-Ray. Crandall and his wingman, fellow Medal of Honor recipient Major Ed W. Freeman, flew a total of 22 missions into LZ X-Ray. Crandall’s helicopters evacuated more than 75 casualties over a course of 16 hours stopping only when he was sure that the infantry battalion received all possible ammunition and medical evacuation services. Crandall retired from the US Army in 1977 as a Lieutenant Colonel after serving in numerous leadership positions. In 2010, in recognition of his accomplishments and his status as a Medal of Honor recipient, Bruce Crandall was promoted to the rank of Colonel, U.S. Army (retired). He currently resides in Manchester, Washington.
Col Crandall was first selected as an Eagle by Air Command and Staff College’s Gathering of Eagles in 1996 and subsequently honored in 2009 and 2015 respectfully.