Back to Online Newspapers

Grandstaff's legacy

Library part of JBLM history

Grandstaff Memorial Library memorializes Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. 1st Class Bruce Alan Grandstaff. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

Libraries are quiet places where books - those special strings of words between covers - can be checked out, read and contemplated.

The first library at Camp Lewis opened Nov. 28, 1917.  Named the Liberty Library, it was the first military library constructed by the American Library Association. Popular with the soldiers, the library housed 12,000 volumes with a wide selection of books, magazines and newspapers.

That sense of popularity and contemplation has not left as soldiers today at Joint Base Lewis-McChord use the Grandstaff Memorial Library to read for enjoyment or conduct research.

As most things military, the library comes with a history.  On Oct. 7, 1971, it was dedicated to Sgt. 1st Class Bruce Alan Grandstaff.

A bronze plaque on the right side of the entrance to the library reads, "PSG Bruce A. Grandstaff Memorial Library, Medal of Honor, 4th Infantry Division, 18 May 1967, Entered Service From Spokane, Washington."

Leaving Spokane  in August 1954, Grandstaff joined the Army and served at Fort Ord, California, and Fort Lewis.  Separating in 1957, he returned to Spokane, married and had two daughters.

In November 1961, he reenlisted, was assigned to Fort Lewis, served two tours in Korea, returned to Fort Lewis and was assigned to the 4th Infantry Division.

In 1966, as fighting in Vietnam increased, the division trained for deployment. In September, the division deployed to Camp Holloway in the Pleiku Province in the Central Highlands.

Sgt. 1st Class Grandstaff was assigned to Weapons Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.

On May 18, 1967, Grandstaff led his platoon of 30 soldiers on a reconnaissance mission near the Cambodian border. At approximately 10:40 a.m., nearly 700 North Vietnamese soldiers ambushed them.  Grandstaff's platoon was in a fight that would last more than five hours.

He established a defensive perimeter and, while under fire, went to the aid of several wounded soldiers.  Unable to maneuver his unit due to the intensity of enemy fire, Grandstaff called for artillery to fire within 45 meters of his position.

He then crawled to another location to mark his position with smoke grenades to guide helicopter gunships.  The smoke could not penetrate the jungle foliage.

Wounded in the leg, Grandstaff returned to his radio, adjusted artillery fire to within 30 meters and then fired tracer rounds into the air to guide the gunships.

His actions also drew enemy fire, and he sustained a second wound in the other leg.  In great pain, he crawled to within 10 meters of an enemy machine gun and destroyed it with grenades.

Realizing that his position was being overrun, Grandstaff called artillery down on his position.

An enemy rocket killed him.

Survivors recall Grandstaff "communicating ferociously back and forth with the enemy in close range" before being killed.

His actions also let Companies A and C know of the large enemy force, saving many of their lives.

Of Grandstaff's platoon, eight survived.

On July 10, 1969, Sgt. 1st Class Grandstaff was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony.

In the digital library of the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy is a paper entitled the "Importance of Military History," by Shane Vooght. In the writing, he argues for the study of military history.

"By understanding our past, we can provide our soldiers, tomorrow's leaders, with the tools needed to continue to maintain our freedom."

Grandstaff Memorial Library, through the actions of the Fort Lewis soldier it honors, is another symbol of the rich history of JBLM.

Read next close


South Sound Craft Crawl

comments powered by Disqus