Captain Michael A. Crandall- USAF


I vividly remember the day of the crash. The weather was very bad that day. The first sortie was recalled and we were able to refuel only two aircraft before fueling went on weather hold as well.

Capt. Mike Crandall was off station that day , but he and his wingman “snuck in ” under the weather. I was expediting that day and picked him up at the airplane. He asked about our jet (84-1292). I told him that it was in the garage (phase inspection). As I dropped him off at ops he said “Remind me about nose art when I get back.” Those were the last words I heard Mike say.

Back in ops, LtCol. Rick Huss told Mike that Capt. Bob McCormack still needed to be upgraded to flight lead and Mike volunteered to take him up. Bob was to fly 1395 and Mike 1401 the only two aircraft refueled.

On start up Bob had hydraulic indication problems and we fixed them. Mike was in the other flight so I didn’t know he was flying.

The aircraft were configured without external fuel tanks so their flight time was less than a hour. After an hour passed, we figured they “weathered in” at some other bases as it was common. After 90 minutes I was radioed to meet with my supervisor. He asked for me to quietly get the maintenance forms for 395. Fearing the worst I asked him if the aircraft was lost. he said “Just get the forms and don’t discuss anything with anyone.”

The aircraft had collided. Bob was thrown (not ejected) out of the jet. He landed in a farmer’s field with a broken back. A farmer’s daughter (yes this is true) picked him up in the family car as he was walking toward the farm house. He phoned in the base to report the collision.

The squadron was monitoring the SAR net, listening to the search effort. There were two beepers going off. In the other room, Capt. Karl Gruner was listening to German radio hoping for a news report. When Bob phoned, they then began looking for Mike. It was then that German news reported that two F-16’s had in fact collided, resulting one pilot dead and one severely injured. That is how we found out that Mike was dead. The Polizei had found his body, he had had a good chute but he died in the collision.

I went home not knowing that. Knowing two jets were down, I prayed the crew chief prayer that all pilots were safe. The next morning I read in the Stars and Stripes, that Captain Michael A. Crandall had died the night before.

I sat in my stairwell and cried .

Mike was my pilot and my friend. He is buried at the Academy. Every now and then I see cadets serving at Nellis AFB. If I get a chance to talk I tell them that when they are struggling and don’t think they can hack it, to visit Mike. We lost many, many friends during the Cold War. Let no one forget that there was and still is great valor on “routine training missions”.

Mikey is at the Air Force Academy,

Colorado Springs, Colorado.

OTHER HEROES

My Dad Fought in World War Two

Let me tell you about my Dad. He’s 90 years old today, in frail health and living his days out in a hospice.


The girl he married in 1945 visits him every day.

He roots for his Red Sox and Patriots. His room is filled with pictures of his grandchildren and family.

My Dad served in the Third Infantry Division in World War Two. Yes, the same Division that drove into Iraq. He served in the North African Campaign when the Americans got their hat handed to them by the Germans. He invaded Anzio to liberate that country. As the landing craft approached the beach, Dad was concerned. Being all of Five foot Four he hoped they would get to the shallows. The cox wain of the boat said he’d get them so close Dad wouldn’t get his feet wet. When Dad went off the end of the LCI he dropped into six feet of water. Weighted down with his equipment, he started to drown. Shedding his gear,he fought to the surface and SWAM ashore. So much for Naval support he thought.

The Anzio landings were uncontested. There were no horrific scenes that you see in “Saving Private Ryan”. There was nothing. Silence. The day was filled with unseen heroics such as my Dad, fighting for his life.

The Third Division consolidated and strengthened their beach head and waited for the German counter attack. When it came it was ferocious.

Dad was leading a platoon that day. During the fighting, Dad was shot in the leg. A German medic saw him and started to work his way over to Dad. His squad laid down a barrage aimed at the medic. Dad shouted, “Cease Fire! Let the sonuvabitch live! He’s trying to help me.”

The German got to Dad and dressed his wounds. Saving Dad’s life. Dad then took him prisoner. Confiscating the German’s helmet, knife and pistol.

Dad was evacuated to North Africa. In a MASH they put pins in his leg. Pins that still give him hell on a cold day. During the surgery some Rear Area Echelon Mother Fucker stole the stuff he “liberated” from the German medic.

Dad loves to watch “MASH”. He says they are just as crazy (and worse) as they are in the show. He was hit in Korea too and woke up strapped to the skid of one of those helicopters. WHILE IT WAS IN THE AIR!

My Uncle Louis died in Italy. My Uncle Vincent was sleeping in his rack when a Japanese torpedo went through his compartment. He was never right again.

When I was a kid I rifled his underwear drawer looking for porn. What I found was a little black box. In it were two Purple hearts and a Silver Star. I know how he got the Purple Hearts, but he never talks about winning the Silver Star. The only thing he said when I asked was;

“I was too stupid not to fall back when everyone else did.”

I don’t know if he won it that day at Anzio. Maybe he won it in Korea. He’s quiet on that point. I know he cries almost every night and STILL has nightmares.

He’s 90 years old.

He and his fellow Vets are living out their lives in silence. Their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren never knowing of their quiet heroics. I know he was pissed over Vietnam. I knew he was horrified to send his son to Desert Storm. “Keep your head down. Don’t be a hero and come home soon.”, he said to me.

When I did come home the VFW had put a giant yellow ribbon all the way around Dad’s house. He took me to the VFW. Surrounded by the old Vets each one came up offered a beer and said just about the same thing. “Here, now you’re one of us.” I wasn’t regaled with stories of jumping from airplanes. No stories of tanks destroyed or beaches stormed. Just stories of how sweet Life is.

Postscript- My Dad died on August 16, 2006. Five days after his 91st birthday. If you have a relative or a friend who is a WWII vet, go talk to them today. They are America’s Greatest Generation and they are disappearing fast. Thank them before it’s too late.

NEW FOR 2012