Today – November 14, 2015 – marks the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Ia Drang, November 14-18, 1965. This was the first major action of the Vietnam War which saw American forces fighting the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN), also known as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) rather than the Viet Cong guerillas.
Ia Drang was the first time the United States Army‘s new air assault tactics as implemented in the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) were really put to the test, and tested they were. The fighting during the first three days of the battle ultimately produced three Medal of Honor recipients and three recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross. Two of the Medal of Honor recipients were helicopter pilots who maintained the critical airborne lifeline between the soldiers fighting on the ground and their bases to the rear. Their names were Major Bruce P. Crandall and Captain Ed W. Freeman.
Melvin Mayfield was born in Salem, West Virginia on March 24, 1919. He later moved to Ohio, and was living in Nashport when he was drafted into the United States Army on February 11, 1941. What would have been a single year’s service was extended indefinitely with America’s entry into World War II the following December.
Meagher was an infantryman with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 305th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division. The 77th, known as the “Statue of Liberty Division” for their shoulder patch, was activated just four days after Meagher’s draft date and trained extensively in the United States before heading for war in the Pacific in March, 1944. They fought in the campaigns on Guam and Leyte before joining the forces for the attack on Okinawa.
Andrew Miller was born in Manitowoc, Wisconsin on August 11, 1916. He was employed in dairy farming when, on June 27, 1942, he was drafted into the United States Army for service in World War II. He was a member of the 95th Infantry Division, which spent over two years in training preparing for combat in Europe. Miller went overseas with the division, which joined the fight in France on October 19, 1944.
Over a two week period from November 16-29, 1944 in both France and Germany, then-Staff Sergeant Miller was both a squad leader and a one-man army as part of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 377th Infantry Regiment. He repeatedly led his men in the attack, and when the circumstances of battle required, attacked alone. His incredible courage and leadership inspired his men from victory to victory and was recognized the following fall with the Medal of Honor.
By November 23, 1944, Silk had earned an officer’s commission, and was a First Lieutenant in Company E, 2nd Battalion, 398th Infantry Regiment, 100th Infantry Division, locked in combat against Nazi Germany near St. Pravel, France. Lieutenant Silk, in command of his company’s weapons platoon, single handedly assaulted a house occupied by enemy troops that was blocking his soldiers’ advance. His courage was recognized with the Medal of Honor in November 1945.