During World War II, Freeman served for two years in the Navy aboard a fleet oiler. During the Korean War, Freeman was a First Sergeant in the Army’s Corps of Engineers, but his company fought as infantry soldiers. 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.
The commission made him eligible to become a pilot, but when he applied for pilot training he was told that at six feet four inches he was too tall. Hence his nickname, Too Tall. In 1955, the height limit for pilots was raised and he was accepted into flying school. He first flew fixed-wing Army airplanes before switching to helicopters.
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-aircraft unit. He served as a captain in Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).
On November 14, 1965, Freeman and his unit transported a battalion of soldiers to the Ia Drang Valley. After arriving back at base, they learned that the soldiers,who were outnumbered 8 to 1, had come under intense fire and had taken heavy casualties. Enemy fire around the landing zones was so heavy that the landing zone was closed to medical evacuation helicopters.
Though not Medevac pilots, Freeman and his commander, Major Bruce Crandall, volunteered to fly their unarmed, lightly armored UH-1 Huey in support of the embattled troops.
|Had a ride in many of these|
Freeman made a total of fourteen trips to the battlefield, bringing in water and ammunition and taking out wounded soldiers under heavy enemy fire in what was later named the Battle of Ia Drang. He was subsequently promoted to the rank of major, designated as a Master Army Aviator, and was sent home from Vietnam in 1966.
Freeman received the distinguished Flying Cross for his act of bravery but for decades those who survived this battle felt he should have received the Medal of Honor. Finally, on July 16, 2001, Congress awarded the Medal of Honor to Freeman with the persuasion of Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Crandall, other survivors whom he had rescued and Senator John McCain.
President George W. Bush presented him the MOH before witnesses Vice President Cheney, the secretary of defense, secretary of veterans affairs, the joint chiefs as well as members of the Joint Chiefs, Senator John McCain, Senator Craig, Congressman Otter, and Congressman Simpson from the delegation of Idaho.
Freeman passed away from complications of Parkinson’s disease at the age of 80 on August 20, 2008 and was buried in the Veterans Cemetery in Idaho where he lived.
In March of 2009, the United States Congress designated the US Post Office in his place of birth, McLain, Mississippi, the Major Ed W. Freeman Post Office.