Graphic Novel Honors Vietnam Aviation Legend
Graphic Novel Honors Vietnam Aviation Legend
Retired Col. Bruce Crandall, who repeatedly flew his helicopter under intense enemy fire to save dozens of wounded troops, is the subject of the latest graphic novel in the Association of the U.S. Army’s series on recipients of the nation’s highest award for valor.
Medal of Honor: Bruce Crandall tells of the Olympia, Washington, native’s actions on Nov. 14, 1965, when he flew 22 flights into Vietnam’s Ia Drang Valley, ignoring heavy enemy fire to deliver ammunition and evacuate as many as 70 wounded soldiers. The pivotal battle would later be made famous by the book We Were Soldiers Once … and Young: Ia Drang–The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam and a subsequent movie.
In all, Crandall would fly more than 900 combat missions during two deployments in Vietnam.
“Bruce Crandall is a living legend, and I am honored that we can share a portion of his story in this graphic novel,” said Joseph Craig, director of AUSA’s Book Program. “The creative team brings to life his remarkable actions in the Ia Drang Valley.”
Medal of Honor: Bruce Crandall is available here.
AUSA launched its Medal of Honor graphic novel series in October 2018. This is the 19th novel in the series, with one more planned this year and a paperback collection to be released in the fall.
The digital graphic novels are available here.
Born in February 1933, Crandall was a high school All-American baseball player who dreamed of being drafted by the New York Yankees. Instead, he was drafted by the Army in 1953, and he went on to become an Army aviator, according to a DoD news story.
For the first 10 years of his career, Crandall flew fixed-wing aircraft for topographical studies in places such as Alaska and Libya, according to DoD. He also charted remote mountains and jungles in Central and South America and helped develop air assault tactics with the 11th Air Assault Division.
He deployed to Vietnam for the first time in 1965, commanding the 1st Cavalry Division’s Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion. Using the call sign “Ancient Serpent 6,” he led a unit supporting eight battalions on the ground, according to information from the Army.
On Nov. 14, 1965, Crandall, whose call sign earned him the nickname “Old Snake,” and his flight of 16 helicopters began flying troops from Plei Me to Landing Zone X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley for a search-and-destroy mission, according to his Medal of Honor citation.
By the fourth troop lift, the enemy began targeting LZ X-Ray. As then-Maj. Crandall and the first eight helicopters landed to drop off troops on the fifth lift, his unarmed helicopter came under such intense enemy fire that the ground commander ordered the second flight of eight helicopters to abort their mission, according to the citation.
As Crandall flew back to Plei Me, he determined that the troops on the ground desperately needed more ammunition. He moved his base of operations to Artillery Firebase Falcon, which was closer to the fight, so he could more quickly move back and forth. He also sought volunteers to help him conduct medical evacuations, even though that was not his mission, according to the citation.
“Despite the fact that the landing zone was still under relentless enemy fire, Major Crandall landed and proceeded to supervise the loading of seriously wounded soldiers aboard the aircraft,” the citation says.
His actions inspired his fellow aviators and the troops on the ground, according to the citation.
“After his first medical evacuation, Major Crandall continued to fly into and out of the landing zone throughout the day and into the evening. That day he completed a total of 22 flights, most under intense enemy fire, retiring from the battlefield only after all possible service had been rendered to the Infantry battalion,” the citation says.
Crandall, who initially received the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions, was awarded the Medal of Honor on Feb. 26, 2007.
Each AUSA graphic novel is created by a team of professional comic book veterans. The script for the graphic novel on Crandall was written by Chuck Dixon, whose previous work includes Batman, The Punisher and The ’Nam.
Pencils and inks were by Chris Batista, a veteran of G.I. Joe, Robin and Green Lantern; colors were by Peter Pantazis, who previously worked on Justice League, Superman and Black Panther; and the lettering was by Troy Peteri, who has worked on Spider-Man, Iron Man and X-Men.