Cacti War Stories


Edited by Wiley "Tiny" Dodd
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Recollections of Jack Burr

by Jack Burr
November1966

RECOLLECTIONS OF FIRST LIEUTENANT JACK BURR, NOV 29,1966

JACK BURR, PLATOON LEADER, 3rd PLATOON, A COMPANY, 1/35 INFANTRY BATTALION, 3RD BRIGADE, 25TH INFANTRY DIVISION, KONTUM PROVINCE, SOUTHVIETNAM, 29 NOVEMBER 1966

I woke up the morning of 29, November, 1966, and knew it was going to be a busy day. As we were rolling up our gear, the CO called me to his hooch (a poncho lean to). He told me Battalion wanted a prisoner. I informed the 3rd herd. Then I asked for volunteers. I choose 6 from the upheld hands.

That made 8 of us including my radio telephone operator, RTO. Every one of the soldiers who held up his hand likely had the same motivation. Their friend had been killed by the North Vietnamese (NVA) the day before and now we were chasing them. It was my job to keep these emotional men in check.

I called the team aside for a quick brief of the plan I had in mind. I cautioned the men that we wanted the prisoner alive. Our pursuit began in column with flank security. After about 500 meters we changed to a line formation with 5 meter gaps. It didn't take long. The RTO, next to me, shouted "here's one." Everyone came running with surging adrenaline.

I saw the enemy soldier under a large rotting log. He extended his hands skyward ready to surrender. I shouted "DON'T SHOOT" several times. After a bit, I got the situation under control. We secured the prisoner, an NVA lieutenant, and walked him back to camp. I took his gun. A Chinese copy of the Russian 7.62x25mm. Tokarev pistol.

The CO was beaming when we got back. He called Battalion and asked for the prisoner to be picked up. In the meantime my soldiers tried to talk to the enemy soldier. Mostly out of curiosity, I think. He was fed C-rats which he devoured and asked for more. Almost every man in the platoon gave him rats, cigarettes, or some trinket. For some it was entertaining. For others it was simply curiosity.

Whatever the rational, I think it was therapeutic. It's amazing what the American soldier will do. A small hole was cut in the triple canopy forest growth. This allowed for the extraction of our prisoner. We didn't have the tools to do much more. A few volunteers skinned up a tree with his machete to cut away limbs. In the meantime the men seemed to enjoy their "conversation" attempts as we awaited for the CH-47 to take our prize to Battalion.

Since the helicopter could not land, a nylon cable with a web seat and chest straps was dropped through the hole we had cut. The prisoner was strapped in and pulled up. Unfortunately, he bumped a few small limbs on the way up. Last we saw he was hanging 50 feet under the CH-47 swaying in the wind as he was pulled up.

Information obtained from the talkative prisoner was used by our unit and others to secure an advantage in our fight against main force NVA units in the Central Highlands, South Vietnam. I have cherished the Tokarev for 50 years.

We continued our search but the enemy seemed to have retreated. We knew they would be back. As we moved slowly on our search, The RTO handed me the phone as he kept track of when situation reports (SITREP )where due. I called the CO and gave a negative SITREP as we moved on.

Our search continued without incident.