Back To CourseThe Vietnam War: Help and Review
7 chapters | 59 lessons
Jason has taught Political Science courses for college. He has a doctorate in Political Science.
When a package gets delayed or lost in the mail, we don't think of it as a matter of life or death. Okay, if it's an important package, maybe we do for a little while. Most of the time, however, the mail gets through with no problem. But if you're in the middle of a war zone, it's very different. Deliveries don't come in mail trucks. Sometimes they come in helicopters and making the delivery could be a matter of life and death. That brings us to the story of Captain Ed Freeman, a helicopter pilot who risked his life to make vital deliveries to American soldiers in the Vietnam War and received prestigious awards for his actions.
Freeman was born November 20, 1927, in Neely, Mississippi and raised in McLain, Mississippi. From childhood, Freeman had a desire to become a pilot. When he was thirteen years old, Freeman watched thousands of servicemen pass by his Mississippi home on maneuvers. As he watched the soldiers, he decided that he would also become a soldier someday.
Freeman's first service in the military was in the U.S. Navy. He enlisted on September 11, 1945, and served for about two years until he was honorably discharged. Freeman would get his chance to become a soldier in September of 1948 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army. Initially, he served with the Army Engineers during the Korean War. Later, because of his performance as an infantry soldier at the Battle of Pork Chop Hill in 1953, he received a battlefield commission, a promotion from the enlisted ranks to that of an officer.
After the Korean War, Freeman was now ready to pursue a different passion: flying. Because of his battlefield commission, Freeman was now eligible to fly. However, Freeman's height of 6 feet 4 inches high had not only earned him the lifetime nickname 'Too Tall,' but it also made him taller than was allowed for flight school. In 1955, however, the military changed the rules, which then allowed Freeman to finally enter flight school. He would start out as a fixed-wing aviator in Sharpe General Depot, California, lasting from July 1956 to December 1957.
By the mid 1960s, the United States was in the middle of the Vietnam War. Freeman, having now become a captain, was serving as a pilot with the 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion of the 1st Cavalry Division. In August of 1965, Freeman would be deployed along with his unit to South Vietnam.
Later that year, Freeman helped fly a battalion of American soldiers into the Ia Drang Valley as part of a buildup of American forces. However, upon returning to base, Freeman learned the soldiers he had just dropped off had come under heavy fire from North Vietnamese soldiers and the Vietcong. Casualties were heavy, and the soldiers were running low on supplies. The firefight was so intense that Medevac helicopters could not go in to pick up the wounded soldiers.
The commander of the helicopter unit asked for volunteers to fly into the heavily dangerous battle zone. Freeman was the first to step forward. His commander, Lt. Colonel Bruce Crandall, joined him. Freeman would fly an unarmed Huey helicopter into the battle zone with water and ammunition. Freeman and Crandall had to land their helicopters on a small landing zone that was only one hundred yards away from where American forces were fighting to hold off enemy advances, and their helicopters were even hit by gunfire.
On that day, November 14, 1965, undaunted by the danger around him, Freeman made trip after trip, fourteen in total, delivering supplies to the soldiers and evacuating an estimated 30 wounded servicemen on his helicopter. It was acknowledged later that some soldiers would have died without Freeman rescuing them. For his bravery in the skies that helped influence the outcome of the Battle of Ia Drang, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
After the Battle of Ia Drang, Freeman was sent home from Vietnam. His last task for the army was to serve as an instructor pilot at the U.S. Army Primary Helicopter School at Fort Wolters, Texas, but by September of 1967, Freeman had retired from the army. However, he continued to fly helicopters for the Department of the Interior for another 20 years where he herded wild horses, conducted animal censuses, and fought wildfires.
Even though Freeman had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions in Vietnam, Lt. Colonel Crandall felt Freeman deserved a higher honor, but the deadline for such a citation had passed. However, in 1995, Congress changed the law which abolished the deadline. On July 16, 2001, Freeman would be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush. 'He served his country and his comrades to the fullest, rising above and beyond anything the Army or the nation could have ever asked,' Bush said of Freeman. Bush then shook Freeman's hand and said, 'Good job, Too Tall.'
Freeman would be featured in the 2002 movie We Were Soldiers, which depicted the battle of Ia Drang. He was played by actor Mark McCracken. Freeman's commanding officer, Crandall, who himself would receive the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2007 for his actions in flying supplies to the soldiers at Ia Drang, was depicted in the film by Greg Kinnear.
Freeman lived his final years in Idaho. He died on August 20, 2008, from complications of Parkinson's disease and was buried at Idaho State Veterans Cemetery in Boise. However, he was not forgotten. In 2009, Congress designated the post office in McLain, Mississippi, Freeman's childhood hometown, the 'Major Ed W. Freeman Post Office.'
Captain Ed Freeman was a military man who literally served on land, sea, and air. While briefly unable to pursue flying for the military because of his height, 'Too Tall,' as he came to be known, was allowed to become a pilot once the regulations were changed. Later, in the Vietnam War, Freeman distinguished himself by flying multiple trips in the Battle of Ia Drang to restock vital supplies for the American troops and rescue the wounded. In addition to receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroic actions, Freeman would later be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
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Back To CourseThe Vietnam War: Help and Review
7 chapters | 59 lessons
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