Ed W. “Too Tall” Freeman
You’re a 19 year old kid. You’re critically wounded and dying in the jungle somewhere in the Central Highlands of Viet Nam. It’s November 11, 1967. LZ (landing zone) X-ray.
Your unit is outnumbered 8 to1 and the enemy fire is so intense from 100 yards away, that your CO (commanding officer) has ordered the helicopters to stop coming in.
You’re lying there, listening to the enemy machine guns and you know you’re not getting out. Your family is halfway around the world, 12,000 miles away, and you’ll never see them again. As the world starts to fade in and out, you know this is the day.
Then – over the machine gun noise – you faintly hear that sound of a helicopter. You look up to see a Huey coming in. But… It doesn’t seem real because no MedEvac markings are on it. Captain Ed Freeman is coming in for you.
He’s not MedEvac so it’s not his job, but he heard the radio call and decided he’s flying his Huey down into the machine gun fire anyway. Even after the MedEvacs were ordered not to come. He’s coming anyway.
And he drops it in and sits there in the machine gun fire, as they load three of you at a time on board. Then he flies you up and out through the gunfire to the doctors and nurses and safety. And, he kept coming back!! Thirteen more times!! Until all the wounded were out. No one knew until the mission was over that the Captain had been hit four times in the legs and left arm.
He took 29 of you and your buddies out that day. Some would not have made it without the Captain and his Huey.
That is the story of Ed “Too Tall” Freeman, a hero to remember.
Beyond his service in the Navy in World War II, he reached the Army rank of first sergeant by the time of the Korean War. Although he was in the Corps of Engineers, he fought as an infantry soldier in Korea. He participated in the Battle of Pork Chop Hill and earned a battlefield commission as one of only 14 survivors out of 257 men who made it through the opening stages of the battle. His second lieutenant bars were pinned on by General James Van Fleet personally. He then assumed command of B Company and led them back up Pork Chop Hill.
The commission made him eligible to become a pilot, a childhood dream of his. However, when he applied for pilot training he was told that, at six feet four inches, he was “too tall” for pilot duty. The phrase stuck, and he was known by the nickname of “Too Tall” for the rest of his career.
In 1955, the height limit for pilots was raised and Freeman was accepted into flying school. He first flew fixed-wing Army airplanes before switching to helicopters. After the Korean War, he flew the world on mapping missions. By the time he was sent to Vietnam in 1965, he was an experienced helicopter pilot and was placed second-in-command of his sixteen-craft unit. He served as a captain in Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).
Freeman’s commanding officer nominated him for the Medal of Honor for his actions at Ia Drang, but not in time to meet a two-year deadline then in place. He was instead awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. The Medal of Honor nomination was disregarded until 1995, when the two-year deadline was removed. He was formally presented with the medal on July 16, 2001, in the East Room of the White House by President George W. Bush.
Major Freeman passed away in August 2008 in Boise, Idaho.
Remember this great hero that fought so bravely to rescue fellow soldiers. Honor him….honor all that fought so bravely for our country:
- Sgt. Dennis P. Weichel Jr.
- William T. Ryder
- Captain Slade Deville Cutter
- Commander Howard Walter Gilmore
- Albert Brown
- Richard O’Kane