Ed W. “Too Tall” Freeman was born in Neely, Greene County, Mississippi, on November 20, 1927, the sixth of nine children. When he was 13 years old, he saw thousands of men on maneuvers pass by his home in Mississippi. He knew then that he would become a soldier.
Before graduating from high school, Freeman enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served on the USS Cacapon (AO-52) for two years during World War II. Once the war was over, he returned to his hometown and graduated high school. Immediately afterwards, he joined the Army. On April 30, 1954, he married Barbara Morgan and they later had two sons.
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. However, when he applied for pilot training, he was told that he was “too tall” – 6’4″ – for pilot duty. Freeman was known by the nickname “Too Tall” for the rest of his military 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 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).
On November 14, 1965, Freeman and his unit transported a battalion of American soldiers to the Ia Drang Valley. Later, after arriving back at base, they learned that the soldiers had come under intense fire and had taken heavy casualties. Enemy fire around the landing zones was so heavy that the medical evacuation helicopters refused to fly in to the landing zone. Freeman and his commander, Major Bruce Crandall, volunteered to fly their unarmed, lightly armored UH-1 Huey in support of the embattled troops. 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. By the time they landed their heavily damaged Huey, Captain Freeman had been wounded four times by ground fire.
Freeman was subsequently promoted to the rank of Major, designated as a Master Army Aviator, and was sent home from Vietnam in 1966. He retired from the military the next year, after which he flew helicopters for another 20 years, fighting wildfires, conducting animal censuses, and herding wild horses for the Department of the Interior until his second retirement in 1991. By then, he had 17,000 flight hours in helicopters and 8,000 in fixed-wing aircraft.
Freeman was buried with full military honors at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery in Boise.
- Master Army Aviator Badge
- Medal of Honor
- Distinguished Flying Cross
- Bronze Star with Combat “V”
- Purple Heart
- Air Medal with three silver oak leaf clusters and one bronze oak leaf cluster
- Army Commendation Medal
- Army Good Conduct Medal
- American Area Campaign Medal
- Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal
- World War II Victory Medal
- Army of Occupation Medal
- National Defense Service Medal with one bronze oak leaf cluster
- Korean Service Medal with three bronze service stars
- Vietnam Service Medal with two bronze service stars
- Armed Forces Reserve Medal
- Vietnam Campaign Medal
Credits: various online military sources