Medal of Honor Winner Captain Ed Freeman

Instructor: Jason Waguespack

Jason has taught Political Science courses for college. He has a doctorate in Political Science.

This lesson will cover the life and military career of Captain Ed 'Too Tall' Freeman. You will learn about his actions in the Vietnam War that merited him the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Captain Ed Freeman

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.

Ed Freeman inducted into Hall of Heroes at Pentagon in 2001
Ed Freeman is inducted into the Pentagon Hall of Heroes.

Early Years

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.

Military Service

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.

Battle of Ia Drang

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.

Captain Ed Freeman flies a rescue mission in Vietnam with Bruce Crandall
Bruce Crandall flies a rescue mission in Vietnam with fellow Medal of Honor Recipient Ed Freeman.

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.

Postwar Years and Medal of Honor

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.

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