Thursday, April 16, 2009

HIGH FIVE THURSDAY


ED W. FREEMAN

Captain, U.S. Army Company A, 229th Assault 
Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry 
Division (Airmobile)


By the time the Korean War broke out, Ed Freeman 
was a master sergeant in the Army Engineers, but he 
fought in Korea as an infantryman.

He took part in the bloody battle of Pork Chop Hill and 
was given a battlefield commission, which had the added 
advantage of making him eligible to fly, a dream of his since 
childhood. But flight school turned him down because of 
his height: At six foot four, he was “too tall” (a nickname 
that followed him throughout his military career). In 1955, 
however, the height limit was raised, and Freeman was 
able to enroll.

He began flying fixed-wing aircraft, then switched to 
helicopters. By 1965, when he was sent to Vietnam, he had 
thousands of hours’ flying time in choppers. He was assigned
 to the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), second in command 
of a sixteen-helicopter unit responsible for carrying infantrymen
 into battle. On November 14, 1965, Freeman’s helicopters 
carried a battalion into the Ia Drang Valley for what became 
the first major confrontation between large forces of the 
American and North Vietnamese armies.

Back at base, Freeman and the other pilots received word 
that the GIs they had dropped off were taking heavy casualties 
and running low on supplies. In fact, the fighting was so fierce 
that medevac helicopters refused to pick up the wounded. 
When the commander of the helicopter unit asked for 
volunteers to fly into the battle zone, Freeman alone stepped 
forward. He was joined by his commander, and the two of them 
began several hours of flights into the contested area. Because 
their small emergency-landing zone was just one hundred 
yards away from the heaviest fighting, their unarmed and 
lightly armored helicopters took several hits.

In all, Freeman carried out fourteen separate rescue missions,
 bringing in water and ammunition to the besieged soldiers and 
taking back dozens of wounded, some of whom wouldn’t have 
survived if they hadn’t been evacuated.

Freeman left Vietnam in 1966 and retired from the Army the 
following year. He flew helicopters another twenty years for 
the Department of the Interior, herding wild horses, fighting
fires, and performing animal censuses. Then he retired altogether.

In the aftermath of the Ia Drang battle, his commanding 
officer, wanting to recognize Freeman’s valor, proposed him 
for the Medal of Honor. But the two-year statute of limitations
on these kinds of recommendations had passed, and no action
 was taken. Congress did away with that statute in 1995, and 
Freeman was finally awarded the medal by President George 
W. Bush on July 16, 2001.

Freeman was back at the White House a few months later for
 the premiere of We Were Soldiers, a 2002 feature film that 
depicted his role in the Ia Drang battle. As he was filing out of 
the small White House theater, the president approached him, 
saluted, and shook his hand. “Good job, Too Tall,” he said.

Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Ed Freeman of 
Boise died Wednesday morning 20 Aug 2008, according 
to a friend of the Freeman family. He was 80 years old.



2 comments:

Becky said...

A true patriotic hero. They are so rare these days. Thank you for sharing about his amazing life.

mary said...

I love your Thursday stories! How's the kitchen coming? My painting has stopped for awhile - I have three flower girl dresses to make before next Friday. Yikes! I better get busy :)