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Medal of Honor citation
Platoon Sergeant Grandstaff's official Medal of Honor citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. P/Sgt. Grandstaff distinguished himself while leading the Weapons Platoon, Company B, on a reconnaissance mission near the Cambodian border. His platoon was advancing through intermittent enemy contact when it was struck by heavy small arms and automatic weapons fire from 3 sides. As he established a defensive perimeter, P/Sgt. Grandstaff noted that several of his men had been struck down. He raced 30 meters through the intense fire to aid them but could only save 1. Denied freedom to maneuver his unit by the intensity of the enemy onslaught, he adjusted artillery to within 45 meters of his position. When helicopter gunships arrived, he crawled outside the defensive position to mark the location with smoke grenades. Realizing his first marker was probably ineffective, he crawled to another location and threw his last smoke grenade but the smoke did not penetrate the jungle foliage. Seriously wounded in the leg during this effort he returned to his radio and, refusing medical aid, adjusted the artillery even closer as the enemy advanced on his position. Recognizing the need for additional firepower, he again braved the enemy fusillade, crawled to the edge of his position and fired several magazines of tracer ammunition through the jungle canopy. He succeeded in designating the location to the gunships but this action again drew the enemy fire and he was wounded in the other leg. Now enduring intense pain and bleeding profusely, he crawled to within 10 meters of an enemy machine gun which had caused many casualties among his men. He destroyed the position with hand grenades but received additional wounds. Rallying his remaining men to withstand the enemy assaults, he realized his position was being overrun and asked for artillery directly on his location. He fought until mortally wounded by an enemy rocket. Although every man in the platoon was a casualty, survivors attest to the indomitable spirit and exceptional courage of this outstanding combat leader who inspired his men to fight courageously against overwhelming odds and cost the enemy heavy casualties. P/Sgt. Grandstaff's selfless gallantry, above and beyond the call of duty, are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.
His heroism should never be forgotten
November 10, 2004
Bruce Grand- staff of Spokane died May 18, 1967, in Vietnam. He was 32. The last hours of Grandstaff's life were filled with such heroism that he was awarded a Medal of Honor. This is a big deal. Only 3,459 have been awarded in our nation's history. And just a handful of the recipients hailed from the Inland Northwest. Grandstaff was one of them.
For the past two weeks, in anticipation of Veterans Day, I've been researching Grandstaff's story. I first heard about him after my column on Joe E. Mann, a World War II Medal of Honor recipient from Reardan.
Al True, a Spokane Valley resident, called and asked me if I knew anything about Spokane's posthumous recipient, Bruce Grandstaff. True worked with him here in the 1960s. He had once called all the Grandstaffs in the phone book, looking for relatives still in town, but didn't locate any. True worried that time had forgotten Grandstaff.
Through the VirtualWall.org Web site, I located Alan Kaul, Grandstaff's first cousin who lives in California. He is 62, a television news producer for NBC. Kaul is writing a book about the soldiers Grandstaff trained at Fort Lewis in the 1960s. Many were killed in Vietnam.
"I think it's important to tell his story, because it is so unknown," Kaul said.
Grandstaff graduated from North Central High School in 1952. Kaul idolized his older cousin. He tagged along with him to movies at the Garland Theater. "He taught me how to drive in his 1951 Buick," Kaul remembered. "We'd take these long drives. Every Sunday, we'd go to Lewiston and get a milkshake and hamburger."
Grandstaff enlisted in the Army in 1954, served his time, got out, worked here, married, had two daughters and then went through a wrenching divorce. Afterward, he re-enlisted. By the time he was sent to Vietnam, he was happily remarried and raising his two daughters from that first marriage.
Kaul gave me the e-mail addresses of soldiers who knew him in Vietnam. John Barclay, a retired judge from Phoenix, remembered getting off a helicopter in a battle area. "The first person who greeted me was Bruce Grandstaff. He was a physical specimen. It was like a freshman football player walking up to a legendary coach. He said, 'Young man, welcome to B Company. I'm the platoon sergeant.' "
The day Grandstaff was killed in Vietnam, Kaul was working at KREM. A story came over the wires reporting that a platoon sergeant had called artillery down on his own position, a sacrifice to save others. Kaul thought, "That sounds like something Bruce would do." It was.
Grandstaff and two dozen of his men were on a reconnaissance mission near the Cambodian border. They were being fired upon from three sides. Several of his men were struck down. Bruce crawled through intense fire to try to save them. He was wounded several times while signaling, with smoke grenades, his location to U.S. helicopters. He destroyed one enemy position with hand grenades. When he realized his position was being overrun, he asked for artillery directly on top of them.
Grandstaff died, but his actions stopped the enemy's advance. Trees blown down by the U.S. helicopters camouflaged some of the men. Others played dead. Eight survived and credit Grandstaff with their lives. His third daughter was born the same week he was killed.
His grown daughters all live elsewhere now. Grandstaff's parents are both dead. This newspaper's library file on Grandstaff is thinner than the file on Joe E. Mann, a reflection, perhaps, of the ambivalence about Vietnam.
Grandstaff's grave marker blends in with all the other markers in the "Honor" section at Greenwood Memorial Terrace in north Spokane. The day I visited his grave, it seemed sad that this was all that remained of him, a cold stone in a cold cemetery.
But finally my reporting led me to North Central High School. Grandstaff's Medal of Honor, along with his other medals, including a Silver Star and Purple Heart, are displayed there.
He is remembered, after all. This is good.
22 in Lewis Unit Found Dead
Searchers for a platoon of American infantrymen who called in United States artillery fire on their own position in close-quarter fighting found 22 of the men dead and eight wounded today.
The rescued men said they survived by fooling the Communist troops by playing dead.
The platoon, from the Fort Lewis trained 4th Infantry Division, was cut off from other units yesterday in heavy fighting in the Central Highlands near the Cambodian border.
Other units were unable to fight through to the 30man platoon until early today.
A heavy tool was wrought on the enemy by jet planes, artillery and helicopters. Of the estimated 500 men in the force that attacked the platoon, 97 were found dead. The spokesman said the count would rise.
Planes and artillery pounded what was thought to be the escape route of the Communist force. The platoon was cut off when it attempted to capture a Communist soldier about 36 miles southwest of Pleiku. As the Americans chased the soldier, North Vietnamese regulars struck. The last radioed words from the platoon, from a sergeant later killed (Sgt. Grandstaff) , were "I've got only four people left. Bring the artillery in on top of me."
Watching the North Vietnamese approach, one survivor, Pfc. Clifford A. Roundtree, 20, Anderson CA, whispered to another, Melvin W. Schultz, 22, Culver City CA; "Pray, Pray. Only a miracle can save us now."
"Then I went limp all over," Roundtree said. "They thought I was dead. Someone sat on my shoulders and went through my pockets. I could see his boots out of the corner of my eye as I lay with my face in the mud." Also playing dead, Schultz, a medic, was rolled over on his back, then kicked in the stomach. He said someone jumped on him and sat on his head and that his pockets were emptied. Specialist 4th Class Kenneth N. Barker, 20, Brownstown IL, faked death by lying face down with his arms stretched in front of him. He said the North Vietnamese foulded his arms across his back, tied his writs, then kicked and rolled him across the ground. His watch was taken and his pockets picked. The five others rescued were seriously wounded. Seattle Times 19 May 67
(Ironically, on 22 Mar 67, SSG Grandstaff earned the Silver Star in the Battle at Polei Duc - that battle also cost 22 lives from 1/8 IN.)