This week marks the 50th anniversary of the first major Vietnam War battle between regular U.S. and North Vietnam forces, which solidified the role of the helicopter in U.S. military operations. The Battle of Ia Drang began midday on Nov. 14, 1965. Shortly after Bell Helicopter UH-1s delivered elements of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry of the 1st Air Cavalry Division to Landing Zone X-Ray (about 40 mi southwest of Pleiku, Vietnam), troops from three North Vietnam regiments began to attack. The 1st Battalion soldiers held off repeated attacks, inflicting heavy casualties on the North Vietnam forces. The next day, helicopters brought reinforcements from the 7th Cavalry’s 2nd Battalion and the 5th Cavalry. Intense fighting went on until Nov. 17. The next day, 2nd Battalion troops were ambushed on their way to another landing zone from which they were to have been evacuated. In 2001, Army aviator Ed Freeman was awarded the Medal of Honor for his role in supporting and evacuating U.S. troops at the battle; aviator Bruce Crandall received that honor in 2007 for his actions at Ia Drang.