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Griffs Notes 2/27/07

Yesterday, President Bush awarded the prestigious Medal of Honor on Lt Col Bruce Crandall for his valor and heroism in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot. His actions in the Ia Drang Valley four decades ago were depicted in the Mel Gibson movie “We Were Soldiers Once and Young.”

Rarely do I post transcripts here. But FOX News’ Wendell Goler did a package that was so well narrated with a story that was so awe-inspiring, that it would not do justice to simply write about it. Therefore, I have posted the transcript as it ran on Special Report last night.

SPECIAL REPORT / MON 26 FEB 07

WENDELL GOLER, FOX NEWS CORRESP: More than 40 years after flying in to hell, not once but 22 times, Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Crandall received the nation's highest award for it.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For the soldiers rescued, for the men who came home, for the children they had and the lives they made, America is in debt to Bruce Crandall.

GOLER: Fewer than 250 Medals of Honor have been awarded to veterans

of the Vietnam War, most recipients died on the battlefield. Crandall's

heroics came in this country's first encounter with the organized North

Vietnamese army in November of 1965. His commander, Hal Moore, co-authored a book about the battle in 1992, and in 2001, Mel Gibson played Moore in a movie.

GOLER: Colonel Moore, the commander, is alleged -- at least

heard it in the movie, to have made a pledge to the group, which was?

LT COL BRUCE CRANDALL (RET), MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT: He would not leave anybody behind.

HAL MOORE (MEL GIBSON): Dead or alive, we will all come home together.

GOLER: Moore's regiment was the same as that commanded

by General George Custer. It was Crandall who'd make sure they didn't

suffer Custer's fate. Crandall led a group of 16 helicopters ferrying

soldiers to the Ia Drang Valley which they didn't realize was a home

base to the North Vietnamese army.

CRANDALL: And in the fourth lift, the last two helicopters came under

pretty good fire, and then the fifth everything went down.

GOLER: Some 2000 North Vietnamese soldiers surrounded several hundred American troops, so Crandall and one other pilot, Major Ed Freeman, started bringing in ammunition and supplies and taking out wounded soldiers.

CRANDALL: I went in there 22 times, and that was the problem, because

you go over the same piece of ground every time.

GOLER: Every landing was made under fire from the enemy troops as

close as 30 yards away. The helicopter was filled with blood from the

wounded. Two of Crandall crewmembers were killed. Gunfire disabled to

helicopters. The emotional toll was intense, but still, he and Freeman

kept flying.

CRANDALL: And you checked your gauges and see if there are red lights

on, and then you check the controls, and you say what the hell, you're not

a safety officer, you're a commanding officer, so you put it back up and

you fly it.

GOLER: Seventy-nine Americans lost their lives in that battle, and

120 were wounded, but the North Vietnamese forces were overcome. For

years, the grateful soldiers who went home wrote the Pentagon asking that Crandall and Freeman be honored, and when the approval came in 2001, Crandall again showed himself to be a hero.

BUSH: Bruce insisted that his own name be withdrawn. If only one of

them were to receive the Medal of Honor, if he wanted it to be his wingman.

GOLER: Freeman and Crandall had remained friends and get together

every year, but do not ask who's the better pilot.

FREEMAN: I am...

CRANDALL: I know.

FREEMAN: The best helicopter pilot.

CRANDALL: You might have been after I retired.

GOLER: In Washington, Wendell Goler, FOX NEWS.

I can be reached for questions or comments at griffsnotes@foxnews.com.

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