Bruce Crandall oral history interview
Vietnam War veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Bruce Perry Crandall is interviewed about his service as a pilot and engineer with the United States Army. He discusses his experiences conducting topographic studies during the 1950s and 1960s and his service as a helicopter pilot with the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam. Topics discussed include his training and service history, his mapping assignments in the Middle East and Central and South America, his participation in the battles of Ia Drang and Bong Son, and the circumstances surrounding the receipt of his Medal of Honor.
Table Of Contents
Bruce Perry Crandall was born on February 7, 1933 in Olympia, Washington. His father was a United States Navy serviceman, and his mother worked as a welder at Todd Shipyards (Washington). After his parents divorced, his maternal grandmother helped to raise him and his siblings. Crandall attended Garfield Grade School, where he lettered in baseball, football, basketball and track. In high school, he was an All-American baseball player. At age 15, Crandall joined the Army National Guard in Olympia.
After graduating high school in 1951, Crandall attended the University of Washington in the hopes of playing baseball as a sophomore. In 1953, he was drafted into the United States Army. He completed his basic training at Fort Lewis (Washington) and his advanced individual training in engineering at Fort Worden (Washington). During this time, Crandall signed up for joint Army/Air Force flight training in fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. After completing his flight training at Gary Air Force Base (Texas) and Fort Rucker (Alabama), he was assigned to the 30th Engineer Topographic Battalion. He piloted Cessna L-19s, De Havilland DHC-2 Beavers, and De Havilland DHC-3 Otters while conducting topographic studies in Alaska and the Arctic.
In 1957, Crandall received a two-year assignment at Wheelus Air Base (Libya) to conduct mapping expeditions of the desert. Subsequent assignments took him to Howard Air Force Base (Panama) and several Central and South American countries, where he assisted the Inter-American Geodetic Survey with mapping projects. He also served with the 11th Air Assault Division and with the Dominican Republic Expeditionary Force as liaison to the XVIII Airborne Corps.
In 1965, Crandall was deployed to Vietnam. He served with the 1st Cavalry Division as commander of the 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion’s “A” Company, providing aerial support for the infantry. His duties included delivering troops and supplies to specified landing zones and evacuating wounded soldiers. During the Battle of Ia Drang (November 1965), Crandall and his wingman, Ed W. Freeman, evacuated approximately 70 wounded soldiers from Landing Zone X-Ray while under enemy fire. For these actions, Crandall and Freeman received the Distinguished Service Cross and Distinguished Flying Cross, respectively, which were both later upgraded to Medals of Honor. Crandall also received the 1966 Aviation & Space Writers Helicopter Heroism Award for his actions during Operation Masher, when he successfully landed his helicopter using a flashlight beam as a guide and evacuated 12 wounded soldiers from a combat zone.
After completing his first combat tour, Crandall attended the Armed Forces Staff College in Virginia, then returned to Vietnam for a second tour. In January 1968, he was shot down in a friendly fire incident and returned to the United States to recover from his injuries. His next assignments included serving as executive officer of the 339th Construction Battalion at Fort Lewis (Washington), as a facility engineer director in Bangkok, Thailand, as a deputy chief of staff at Fort Leonard Wood (Missouri), as commander of the 5th Engineer Combat Battalion, and as the Defense Mapping Agency’s director in Venezuela.
In the early 1970s, Crandall suffered a stroke, which ended his flying career. He retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1977. He subsequently served as city manager for Dunsmuir, California and as a public works employee in Mesa, Arizona.
Crandall married his wife, Arlene, in 1956. They have three sons. Crandall’s educational credentials includes a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska (1969) and a master’s degree in public administration from Golden Gate University (1977).
Biographical information derived from interview, from a biography prepared by the U.S. Army, and from additional information provided by interviewee.
United States Army. “Biography for Medal of Honor – Lt. Col. Bruce P. Crandall.” Army.mil.