War Stories

Righteous Anger

by Jack Burr


Several months ago I posted one of many stories I had written about growing up on a farm in Oklahoma during the 1950's, www.possumhollar.com. This story was about dad getting angry at a man who was beating dad's cow with a chain. As I reflected on dad's anger when he confronted the offender, I thought of the Scripture, "Be ye angry and sin not".

Certainly dad was angry but this kind of anger was not the sinful kind. It was a righteous kind of anger. I then thought of a time I got really angry in Vietnam when one soldier endangered the life of many, which also might be an appropriate story to tell to my family.

On one occasion, I sent a squad patrol to search a particular area and report the findings and its location each hour. As Battalion Operations Officer, I had worked up a set of artillery targets to interdict and disrupt enemy movement several kilometers from the squad patrol. I planned to fire 155mm howitzer barrages intermittently throughout the day and night . Before firing, it was standard operating practice for the battery to call SGT Dill, Communications NCO, for clearance.

When the Battery called and requested permission to fire, SGT Dill checked for friendly locations in and around the impact zones. He put an immediate hold on all firing and told me something was wrong. The patrol leader, whose name I cannot recall, had reported his position every hour for the past six hours. His last reported position was near the restricted artillery target zone and was outside the area I had instructed him to reconnoiter.

Sgt Dill was a man to be trusted. I brought SGT Dill with me when I was transferred from Company Commander to Operations Officer. He was my eyes and ears in the Operations Center and he was astute in such things as this. He postulated that when the patrol leader reached his search area that morning, he and his squad found a shade tree and spent the day there. An examination of the communications log supported his conclusion. I asked for the phone and made a call. I identified myself and asked to speak to patrol the leader who took the phone about two minutes late

I was angry and he knew it. In a firm and deliberate voice, I asked if he knew why I was calling. He replied, "yes". In my best command voice, I called him to attention and said, " you are under arrest for failing to follow a lawful order, endangering your men, dereliction of duty and filing a false report".

I directed him to give the mike to his assistant. I told his assistant to take the patrol leader's weapon, place him under arrest and deliver him to me ASAP, I asked him if he understood?" He replied in the affirmative.

When they arrived a helicopter was waiting for the arrested Sgt. I had briefed the Brigade Personnel Officer of the situation and ask him to take care of it. He said, he would. I did not say a word, but motioned the Sgt to the helicopter. I directed his assistant and his squad to SGT Dill who threatened to recommend everyone of them for court marshal for following an unlawful order. Of course, he had no intention to do so. But they needed to be a little scared.

Before the day was over, the entire battalion knew what happened. No one had ever heard of any one being called to attention, reprimanded, and arrested over the phone. Now they had.

The above account happened during the fall of 1969 when I was Operations Officer and Sgt Dill was Senior Communications NCO in the 1/35 Infantry Battalion stationed in Plieku, Vietnam.