Retired U.S. Army officer and Medal of Honor recipient Bruce Crandall will light the tree at Saturday’s Festival of Chimes and Lights.
Crandall, 79, who was traveling to South Korea and was not available for an interview this week, was raised in Olympia, where he became a high-school All-American baseball player. He attended the University of Washington before he was drafted into the Army in 1953.
According to the Army’s Medal of Honor profile on Crandall, he led the first major division operation by landing in Vietnam’s Ia Drang Valley, where he was credited with evacuating about 70 wounded comrades with his wing man and fellow Medal of Honor recipient Maj. Ed Freeman on Nov. 14, 1965. About two months later, during “Operation Masher,” Crandall, while under intense enemy fire, twice dropped his Huey helicopter through the jungle to rescue a dozen wounded soldiers. Crandall received the Aviation & Space Writers Helicopter Heroism Award for 1966 for that.
Crandall later earned his bachelor’s degree in education in 1969 from the University of Nebraska and a master’s in public administration in 1977 from Golden Gate University. After he retired from the Army in ’77, Crandall became the city manager of Dunsmuir, Calif., for three years. He then spent 13 years in the Public Works Department, including the final four as its manager, in Mesa, Ariz.
In 1994, Crandall was inducted into the Air Force’s “Gathering of Eagles,” which is an organization established to recognize pioneers of aviation and heroic fliers. Ten years later, he was inducted into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame.
Crandall also served as an aviation consultant for a movie about the Ia Drang Valley battle. That flick, which is based on the book “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young,” was released in 2002.
Festival of Chimes and Lights chairwoman Cindy Lucarelli said she was introduced to Crandall, who lives in Manchester, at the Cedar Cove Days opening ceremony in August 2009 and “was filled in with his heroic deeds during Vietnam.” When the theme for this year’s festival, “A Hometown Christmas,” was developed, Lucarelli said she immediately thought about Crandall for the lighting, which occurs at 6 p.m.
“It was based on wanting to honor the troops,” she said. “Bruce came to mind then. If he was available, I thought it would be wonderful to honor him.”
Activities run throughout the day, including the Jingle Bell Run/Walk, which begins with a 1-kilometer run at 1 p.m. at Port Orchard City Hall. The 5-kilometer run/walk follows 30 minutes later.