War Stories

Recollections of Jack Burr

by Jack burr

Recollections of Captain Jack Burr, B Company commander 1/35 Infantry, 02-07/1969, Pleiku Vietnam

I had been in country for almost a month and when the company assignment came I was ready. I took command in February and for the next several months B Company was involved in a number of small skirmishes.

It seemed the enemy did not want to fight a fixed battle, but favored hit and run, stand-off attacks using mortars or rockets, ambushes and such tactics. So we changed as well, using night ambushes to disrupt their movement, reconnaissance patrols to fix their location.

B Company suffered one soldier killed by friendly fire on June 21st, 1969 in Pleiku Province. Sergeant First Class Robert Edwin Freitas was a fine soldier and an accomplished fighter. He particularly enjoyed calling in indirect fire.

On Saturday, June the 21st I called a halt to our search mission. We had been on the go for several days and I decided to give the men a rest for a day. I had chosen the area because it required minimum security and could be easily defended. We were near a stream where men could bathe or just relax.

SFC Freitas and I were sitting in the shade and talking about something that I cannot remember. As infantrymen do, our talk turned to our profession. We were sitting near my command post and overheard the battalion operations center announcing planned artillery fire in an area about 4 kilometers from our location.

SFC Freitas asked if they needed a forward observer for the planned fires. The company RTO passed the question to Battalion Operations and the reply was affirmative. I decided to go with him.

I told my RTO to inform the platoon leaders what we were going to do and we left. We found an elevated area about 600 meters west of our base and SFC Freitas made contact with the firing battery and started his fire commands. With our binoculars, we could clearly see what the Sergeant was doing as he walked the fires along a ridge line and into a ravine.

Suddenly, a radio voice barked 'SHORT ROUND, SHORT ROUND'. We didn't have time to react. A loud explosion shook the ground as I could hear shrapnel whizzing all around. SFC Freitas was hit by a large piece that took off his right arm at the shoulder.

I was kneeling no more than three feet to his right but was unharmed. I tried to stop the bleeding as I tended to SFC Freitas. I believe he was immediately knocked unconscious. I called for help and continued my efforts to stop the bleeding to no avail.

I cried and cried as I tried to stop the bleeding. But I could not. I lost a friend. After 50 years I am now able to reconcile his loss.

The decorations earned by SFC Robert Edwin Freitas include: the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Bronze Star with V, the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm Unit Citation.