Medal of Honor recipient Crandall to serve as Indy 500 starter Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Bruce P. Crandall has been named honorary starter for the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on Sunday, May 29, waving the green flag to begin racing for the field of 33 drivers at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Retired Col. Crandall, who flew more than 900 missions as a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War, received the Congressional Medal of Honor - the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government - in 2007.
"I'm thrilled and honored to be selected as the honorary starter for the Indianapolis 500 in its 100th anniversary year," Crandall said. "The race is an American tradition, and I'm very grateful for the continued tributes to the U.S. Armed Forces during the pre-race ceremonies every year. I can't wait to get into the starter's stand."
Crandall was honored for his leadership, heroism and courage during the Battle of Ia Drang on Nov. 14, 1965. He led the first major division operation of airmobile troops into Landing Zone X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley and is credited with evacuating some 70 wounded comrades with his wing man and fellow Medal of Honor recipient Major Ed Freeman. The two also flew in the ammunition needed for the 1/7th Cavalry to survive. The craft Crandall was flying was unarmed.
During his military career, Crandall also received a Bronze Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, a Presidential Unit Citation and a Purple Heart among numerous other citations.
"It's a great honor to welcome Bruce Crandall to serve as the honorary starter of the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500," said Jeff Belskus, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation president and CEO. "The Indianapolis 500 has paid tribute to the service and sacrifice of our Armed Forces since its inception on Memorial Day weekend in 1911, and it's a privilege for a true American hero to send the field of 33 on its way toward Victory Lane at such a historic race."
The 2002 movie "We Were Soldiers" was based on the operation for which Crandall was awarded the Medal of Honor, with 1997 Academy Award Best Supporting Actor nominee Greg Kinnear appearing as Crandall.