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The battle of the Ia Drang Valley in the central highlands of the Republic of Vietnam took place between November 8th and 14th, 1967. The worst day was the 11th, a day of incomparable bravery. It would be remembered some 40 years later in the film, "Band of Brothers". November 11,1967 would also be remembered for the actions of an individual helicopter pilot. His story needs to be told and remembered for what it says about the human spirit.
On November 11, elements of the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 7th Cavalry and the 5th Cavalry of the U.S. Army found themselves surrounded by the 66th and 1st Batalion/33rd Regiment of the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) and units of the National Liberation Front's (Viet Cong) H15 Battalion. The Americans were outnumbered eight to one. Automatic weapons fire was fierce and coming from every direction, as close as a hundred feet away. The number of wounded mounted rapidly under the intense enemy attack. The Americans fought with uncommon bravery that day, under the worst possible conditions. The crack, crack, crack of AK-47 rifle and rip of machine gun fire was so intense that the Commanding Officer ordered the Medivac choppers not to try to come in for the wounded.
That message was overheard by Captain Ed Freeman who was flying his Huey Assault Helicopter, giving fire support to the troops on the ground that day. He would not hear of it. His was not a Medivac chopper, but he flew his chopper down and into the extremely focused and intense machine gun fire, landed and took on three of the wounded to take them on the twenty minute trip back to the hospital, doctors and nurses for their immediate care. But that was not it for him. He returned to the Ia Drang another thirteen times that day to pick up more wounded. Many would not have survived if he had not had the courage and commitment to his brothers to put himself into harm’s way so many times that day. It was not known until it was all over that he had been hit four times himself that terrible day. Three wounds to his legs and one to an arm.
For his acts on November 11, 1967 he was awarded the highest honor the nation can give, the Medal of Honor. Another Huey pilot, Bruce Crandall, also won a Medal of Honor that day for his actions in saving wounded warriors.
Captain Ed Freeman died in April of 2010. Though this did not make the national news, we who have fought, who have known the incomprehensible sacrifice of war, will remember Captain Freeman's actions and devotion to duty as long as we take breath. The nation must not forget either. Click today in memory of Captain Ed Freeman.