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Interview with Ed Freeman [No date]

Unidentified interviewer:

Okay, for the editor, just state your name, spell your last name and tell me where you're from.

Ed Freeman:

Ed Freeman. F-R-E-E-M-A-N. Boise, Idaho.

Unidentified interviewer:

Okay. And what was the rank you retired at?

Ed Freeman:

Major.

Unidentified interviewer:

Major.

Ed Freeman:

Mm-hm.

Unidentified interviewer:

Okay. Let's start at the beginning. Where'd you grow up and what were your interests?

Ed Freeman:

I grew up in-- South Mississippi on a farm - 9 kids. My interest was getting out of there. Didn't graduate from high school. I joined the Navy instead and spent 2 years. And--

Unidentified interviewer:

What, what year was it when you enlisted?

Ed Freeman:

'45. And at the end of that-- 2 years I came back - went back to school -- I finished school - and-- joined the Army as an enlisted man of course and they shipped me to Germany -for 4 years -- waited on the Russians to come across the line for 4 years and never got around - they never got around to it. The Korean War broke out, and I volunteered to go, and the Army gladly accepted my offer. Went to Korea as a Sergeant First Class; was promoted to a Master Sergeant very shortly after that. Was assigned to various infantry units, but I was basically a combat engineer -but they didn't care about that - everybody was fighting as-- we had clerks and whatever. Just about 120 days before the war was over they decided they needed to take the place called Pork Chop Hill. And there was about 257 of us went up that hill, and [they either] wounded or killed all but 14 of us. And General Van Fleet promoted me to -- he gave me a battlefield commission to a Second Lieutenant in Korea - 1953. I certainly wanted to fly. I had ridden in that helicopter and this guy was - had a whi--leather jacket on and he looked clean and well fed, and I thought -- maybe I should be one of them. But anyway I applied for flight school as soon as I got back to the States-- and they-- kept me for 2 years -- they wouldn't let me go because of the regulations. I was too tall. I was 6' 4". And that's where the "Too Tall" came in for the movie and the book and all of that. But eventually they changed their mind and they needed-- needed more pilots! So they lowered their regulations and I jumped on the bandwagon and went to flight school. Basically after the Korean War I-- I went to Iran for a year and did mapping, that was a topographical maps - flew helicopters for survey parties-- come back and did a tour of duty in Fort Rucker as an instructor. Of course had been in the meantime, while in the States, go to advanced course, career course in engineering and this type of thing. Another 4 year tour in the s-- Panama area with headquarters in Panama. Lived in Managua, Nicaragua for 2 years. Mapped about 16 Latin American countries -- again, making topographical maps. I thought my retirement assignment was coming up and so I -- they sent me to Boise as an advisor - engineering aviation. But the Army decided different when the Kore--when-- the Vietnam thing popped up, and they called all pilots and sent us to Fort Benning. Everybody that seemed to be rated or as a helicopter pilot, they wanted you to go to the First Cav Division. I was assigned to First Cav [A ?] of 229th and-- put my year in there-- back to Texas as an instructor and flight evaluation [type] and at the end of that one I says I'm retiring --and they want to send me back to Vietnam - I said no way. Two is enough. [AHEMS] And I determined early on they wasn't going to w-- didn't want to win, so I didn't want nothing else to do with it. I'd made two of them like that. So I had to go to the Pentagon to get-- anudg-- put-- a-- General Canard [sp?] had told me one time - he says "If I can ever help you, let me know." Cause they told me I wasn't --couldn't get out because I had signed a - an indefinite category. I said no, I got over 20 and I can get out. But anyway, I had to get permission, and he, he-- pulled some strings and got me out. And-- the guy that I - the serv-- personnel guy was not happy with me but-- I retired and-- I was 39 years old and 23 years in-- couple of young boys - a wife, of course - and-- went on about my business back to Idaho. And started flying for the U.S. Department of the Interior then for another 20 years.

Unidentified interviewer:

Wow. Tell me about what led up to your citation.

Ed Freeman:

[AHEMS] In-- the 14th of November, 1965, we--inserted a-- a-- just short of a battalion of infantry - First of the Seventh - into a little landing zone called LZ-Xray. About half the size of a football field. Surrounded by 250 foot trees - hardwood trees - and there's a river called Ia Drang right near the Cambodian border - just the other side of it. And we made four lifts into there without receiving a round of fire -- just I thought another cakewalk here. On the fifth lift they cut us in two. Just -it was-- they - three regiments come off the side of that hill - they were dug in. And the-- odds became to - about 10 to 1 then. And-- of course they was eating helicopters live; I took 50 soo--50-something rounds in my helicopter.

Unidentified interviewer:

Wow.

Ed Freeman:

All four of us is wounded. We got back to the staging area, and the colonel says "Shut down ath-- all helicopter operations." He says "You can't s-- you know, they can survive coming in here." That lasted for about a m-- 45 minutes to an hour. He called and says "I need a volunteer to come back in and bring-- ammunition, water, medicine and haul out my wounded." And I volunteered. And I was the only one. And I went back in-- that was somewhere-- late morning-- or maybe 10:30, somewhere along the that, and I flew until 10:30 that night - I put in 14 and a half hours that day - in and out of that LZ - doing that - and at 10:30 I made the last-- landing with some guy holding a flashlight and hauling those people out. And the colonel came out and says "I can last till daylight. Shut it down." Which I was very happy to do. We had refueled - hot-refueling they call it -so we hadn't even shut the helicopter down -and we'd eat maybe a can of C's on the way--it was 13 - 13 minute flight each direction from where we picked up the supplies to drop them off into his landing area or battle zone. And then they - it con-- the battle continued for the next 2 days, but eventually they moved out and got a better hold on the situation, and-- began to-- eliminate a few of the little of the resistance and-- at the end of the third day they took off and-- disappeared in the jungle and we policed the battlefield, and hauled our dead out and-- moved on to a, another battle.

Unidentified interviewer:

What made you decide when-- you know they were looking for a volunteer [...?...] step forward?

Ed Freeman:

I-- I don't think it was a - never an option -I-- I put 'em in there. And it's a soldier's trust. The Army had assigned me a helicopter - that was a wonderful tool. And--I could make it talk. It was capable of doing what I - was doing with it, and I wasn't about to -- it'd be like refusing to fire your artillery piece -- if you were an artilleryman, right? And this machine was built for that - the c--the concept of that war was moving by helicopter - everybody moved by helicopter -that, that was the way we got to battle. You couldn't get there any other way. And-- I've had that question asked a lot of times, but I wouldn't have-- the only thing I could have done was join 'em - that would have been the most-- or the very least I could do. And I certainly wouldn't - was going to join them if that's what was necessary, but I would be trying to bring ammunition and get those wounded people out of there in the meantime! And I was successful!

Unidentified interviewer:

But after taking as many rounds as you did in the previous flight--?

Ed Freeman:

You g-- you gotta expect that! It's-- People are shooting at you! It's war! And-- it's a lot of luck. I-- if it wasn't your day, you, you know - you're gonna hang in there I believe but-- and it wasn't a lot of people's day. But it just happened to be mine. And you, you know - the - as the war continued-- I ran into a lot more battle--battles. This one just happened to be [TAPS NEAR MICROPHONE ?] one big one. The first one that-- we run into-- uniformed soldiers from the north-- and we went from there on up into what they call [Bonx ??] on the p-- the China Coast, and my God there were some fierce battles up there, and-- I got hit there on the 31st of January -- all 4 of us on board was wounded. And-- you know they knocked [out] like 30-something helicopters out of that formation. On the ground - sitting on the ground!

Unidentified interviewer:

Wow.

Ed Freeman:

Three machines guns was working me over --corec--correction. Two -- one from the right quarter - one from almost dead center. 11 rounds right straight through the windshield. And I managed to get the helicopter off the ground -- and move it about 5 miles before it quit. And-- it was right near a-- portable aid station; if you're familiar with the flying crane - it had a box like a - looked like a -a bus - under-- city bus - underneath the bottom of it? -- that's a aid station. And when you fill that full of wounded - another one takes it - and flies away to the main aid station - and they have another empty one and they start putting the casualty-- wounded in that. Very efficient method of moving people and quick response. So--

Unidentified interviewer:

A lot of medal recipients tell me that they feel they should have gotten a medal for something else than - rather than the battle that they actually won it in - do you feel that way?

Ed Freeman:

Well-- I, I didn't really feel they [I should have] maybe gotten the medal - I, I, I was doing what I was supposed to do. And I was certainly grateful to get it! I did a-- Now there's a guy here called Bernie Fisher; Bernie landed his airplane at an airst-strip picked up his buddy and flew away. And he took 17 rounds I think. That's - that's a wonderful thing to do. The day I left Vietnam -- Frank Marino [sp?], my co-pilot was shot down the night before that. And I was supposed to fly out of - out of the country. I was the first one to rotate in the battalion. The general liked me. And-- I went to the old man and told him - I said I'm not leaving until I go get Marino and-- Angel Coumba [sp?] - he was the gunner. And they were in l-- the name of the m-- LZ--like LZ-X-ray - this was Muckie [sp?] - LZ-Muckie - up on the side of a hill, and they'd been there all night, and-- the-- we-- held off the enemy with gunships and artillery! So I got two gunships and this helicopter and myself and my company commander and we went in and I hovered over the top of that helicopter -- it was-- it was-- destroyed --and they climbed over the top of the skids and the-- w-- the prop and crawled up and I lifted 12 of 'em out of there. It was clean sweep. Took 'em back down in the valley and set 'em down. Told Frank Marino - I said "You dumb Mexican, you're on your own. I'm not coming back any more." But I wasn't going to leave till I brought him out. And-- Frank and I spend time together -we talk to each other still today. He's come up to spend the weekend with me last fall.

Unidentified interviewer:

Tell me about the bond between you and your fellow servicemen.

Ed Freeman:

It's-- it's much tighter than-- than you would - your blood brother I think. Because-- when you get in a situation like this, it isn't motherhood and the flag and Old Glory. It's you and your buddy. You try to keep him alive and he tries to keep you alive. You don't really have time to think about -you know - geez, I'm-- doing something for my country! You really are, but you're really right then and there you're trying to live. And the bond comes--becomes very tight. You would -- in most cases, I think - you wouldn't hesitate to-- lay your life on the line for them, because they do-- they'd do the same thing for you. And it, it-- without that --bond and, and honor-- a soldier'd be just a paid assassin. You know. But, but this-- keeps you together. The honor of, of, of another human being. We don't go around assassinating people or shooting 'em in the back like they did in-- LX-X-ray. They shot 'em in the head - the wounded. We don't do that. You know, we-- we're - honorable men, I believe.

Unidentified interviewer:

What does the medal mean to you?

Ed Freeman:

Well-- it-- I wish that m-- there's more deserving people probably or more people that deserve it-- not more deserving but-- it is tr-- tremendous thing - I, I - it - probably it's only been a year and 2 months or 3 -hasn't probably soaked in too well. But I was-- felt awful insignificant when President Bush hung it on my neck and backed up and saluted me. Again, I was a soldier doing my job. And if you start looking for one, you ought to bring a body bag maybe because -- I don't-- know anybody goes and looks for it. You just do your job and hope for the best. And-- if you get killed in the process, that's just the way it-- cookie crumbles.

Unidentified interviewer:

With the country one year from September 11th what are your thoughts on that?

Ed Freeman:

I regret that I'm not-- 18 again. And they changed the rules of-- rules of engagement a little bit - I could go over and-- assist in wiping those jokers out. Cause-- it's a -it's a-- when you kill soldiers you - that's one I - one thing. When you kill innocent civilians, you've just burn-- you crossed the line! You know - again - no honor! Two armies meeting-- you expect people to die and, and that's the way the system works. But when you're a coward and, and, and-- and do that type of a thing to civilians-- I-- I really don't like that. And that's [still my] oh, but I would really like to get revenge and--

Unidentified interviewer:

Do you feel America is as strong as it once was? [...?...] [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]

Ed Freeman:

Oh, I think it's stronger. I believe the youth of tomorrow is equally as the youth of yesterday. I -- I didn't come from the greatest generation. But I was the greatest of the-- of a generation - we were. And I don't care who the-- what they say -- I've watched young men battle to death and-- you know - fight right to death - for an ungrateful nation -- twice. But that didn't bother me. The nation lost. We didn't. They lost the ability to celebrate-- a, a-- something that they sent young men and women-- over to do - into a battle. And-- they should have enjoyed that and--appreciated what we did, but they didn't. But that's up to them - I d-- I didn't have a problem with that.

Unidentified interviewer:

Do you think the nation has since-- since that time come to realize the value and the sacrifice that you - the military and, and all those recipients-- have made?

Ed Freeman:

Say that again?

Unidentified interviewer:

Do you think the country as a whole, since the 1960s and '70s have changed their opinion about the military and about - about the fighting men and women of this country?

Ed Freeman:

Yes! Yes! I do! And I think for the good -for the better! We reached a low f-- low point there you know - I'm sorry but after a while the-- people may not jump up and go fight for you so-- quickly if-- if this is your attitude. But-- once you arrive at the scene and once you're involved-- then you forget about politics and-- who runs the show and what their ideas are back here-- or wherever and you - a whole new mind set takes over because of the survival thing and-- the, the-- the--the battle to stay alive!-- and to keep your friend alive!

Unidentified interviewer:

When you talk to-- groups of kids - you, you know or, or schools - what are the things you'd like to leave them as lessons - what would you like to teach them about service to one's country?

Ed Freeman:

I-- [AHEMS] I fully believe you owe-- to your country because of - they have a-- the country has given to you - this freedom and this opportunity to earn a living in a s-- free society. You owe something in return for that. And if they need you-- then I think you should respond and pay your debt to, to this society for allowing you this privilege - to live in a freedom-- in a free society! It doesn't -- it's - it isn't cheap! And for those that don't have that-- a lot of 'em have not paid it! They haven't paid the price! I don't see how-- the people in Cuba, for instance, I don't see how they could sit there for the last 30 plus years and accept what they've been through. I don't believe this country would do it. So-- I'll go down swinging, looking for that--little - tad of freedom that I must have! But I still think they owe it. If I was in charge-- every person turns 18 and graduates from high school would serve a minimum of 2 years in the military - it could be one active - one reserve -- and then we'd have a little different idea I think about protecting this country and the values of this country.

Unidentified interviewer:

It's funny I've been thinking the same thing. [LAUGHS] When I began these interviews--it's, it's an interesting concept I think you're right about it. The-- is there-- we've covered - is there something that I haven't asked you that I should have asked you about the medal or about your actions?

Ed Freeman:

Well I can't think of anything-- about the medal that I haven't already said -- you know it's-- you know I waited 35 years to receive it-- and I'm really not bitter about that. On one hand. Because my grandchildren [got to ?] grow up and went to Washington and, and they were now-- now they're lar--talk--old enough to understand and appreciate-- what happened. On the other hand it would have changed my military career. You see Joe Moore [sp?] --Joe was a second lieutenant - I was a captain - guess who I would have been - I would have been Colonel Freeman instead of Major Freeman and I retired - I would have got - I got out because once you get a - the Medal of Honor you - you just be a nice boy - not that I was-- a deadbeat - I - but you - you're - tend to get plush assignments and--promotions and on down the line. So-- I lost a little something there possibly. Maybe. But I'm really grateful that it happened when it did because of my family. And-- all - there's 3 of my grandchildren has written articles about me for college - and they did real well! Matter of fact one of 'em says Grandpa I didn't know that you were wounded. I said you didn't ask me, and it's none of your business to begin with! You know, I-- no-- nobody knew - they didn't know that I w-- they hadn't - they knew I had been in the Army but that's about it. But that's the way I made a living - until I - tr-- put my time in -- and then I continued to fly for another 20 years for the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Unidentified interviewer:

How would you rank the - receiving the medal--compared to other things?

Ed Freeman:

Top of the line. The very maximum. I can't hardly describe the feeling that I had when--he hung that medal and took two paces back and saluted - it's-- the President of the United States-- and-- it's just a - it's a-- you -aw--awful - kind of insignificant in that setting [TAPS NEAR MICROPHONE ?] there. And then there were 50 of these guys with it already around their necks, sitting in the audience, watching me and the humbling effect - it just-- and, and proud on one hand, you know - you - you [sort of took]--

Unidentified interviewer:

Are you proud when you walk around here to be part of this--?

Ed Freeman:

Absolutely. I've - this is my first one and I feel great - being part of this group. I, I feel comfortable with this group. We have a lot in common I think. My neighbor of 20-something years knew I had been in the Army but that was all he knew --and when this broke, he was about to-- he, he come running over and he had the book-- the -We Were Soldiers Once, and Young -- and he said my God - I didn't know you was in the Arm-- I knew you were in the Army and this--hey we're neighbors - we, we, we live a life -we don't go around, you know, hey, I'm a-- I flew a helicopter and I went to war and I did this -- no, that's not-- But-- word got out pretty quick after-- the--announcement came and-- they flew me to Washington with all my grandchildren, all my family - my sisters - and-- some nieces, nephews - had a 30 minute-- sit-to with the president in a-- office and just-- really impressive!

Unidentified interviewer:

Glad to hear it. Thank you very much for your time.

Ed Freeman:

You bet!

Unidentified interviewer:

It's been a, a really good [...?...] - thank you. [End of Interview]

 
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