Possum Hollar

Stories about my family

BAD LANDS

No story.  Just pictures.  Phyllis and I visited the Badlands in June 2016.

Badlands National Park is located in southwestern South Dakota.  it protects 242,756 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires blended with the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie grass in the United States.  Movies such as Dances with Wolves (1990) and Thunderheart (1992) were shot in Badlands National Park.

 

 

 

WISCONSIN

No story.  Just pictures of the Wisconsin Dells.  I’ve tried not to include pictures I used in my first story about our visit to the Wisconsin Dells.  Our year + travels took us from Florida to Montana, New Mexico and a lot of places in between.  We’re  back in Broken Arrow enjoying our retirement.  God has blessed us and continues to do so.

Enjoy the pictures.

Phyllis and our faithful companion Honey, waiting for our motorhome to get last minute things checked out before we head off to Wisconsin.  

 

Getting ready to hook up and go.

We stayed here during our tour of the Wisconsin Dell’s

 

According to Wikipedia, the unique beauty of the Dells is due  to the sandstone rock formations and tributary canyons which were formed by a flood which cut deep gorges in the Dells in a matter of days or weeks as the swift water eroded away the soft sandstone.  This explanation must be true because it coincides with the Biblical record.

Pictures of the Badlands next.

MY LAST COMBAT ASSIGNMENT

MY LAST COMBAT ASSIGNMENT

I found a document in my personal files describing a combat assault conducted in the Central Highlands, South Vietnam in 1969.  I thought it might be interesting to my readers.

I’m in the middle, Artillery FO on left and I don’t remember the Major on t he right.  Picture taken in fall of 1969 at LZ Oasis.

 

As I recall, the area of operation was in the vicinity of LZ Oasis, Plieku, South Vietnam.  I was assigned to the  1/35,  Infantry Battalion as the operations officer responsible for planning and executing the combat assault and subsequent operations.

 

AFTER ACTION REPORT:

OASIS — In the largest combat assault of the year, the Famous Fighting Fourth’s 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry flew 500 men and support equipment 12 miles south of The Oasis for an operation that has led to the discovery of enemy caches and huts.

Four companies and a command element were lifted by 15 Hueys.  Five Chinooks from the fixed-wing air field at the Oasis were used to transport heavy equipment.

Companies were picked up from various locations and inserted in designated areas and assigned an area of operation to search for enemy caches as they worked their way back to LZ Oasis.   The command element was situated at Plei Mei.  The airlift was completed within an hour.

During the first day of operations Bravo Company found and destroyed two well camouflaged huts, each capable of sleeping nine men. “The only consistently effective method of finding well hidden hootches,” stated 1st Lieutenant John Kelly, the 3rd Platoon leader, “is to search the thickest vegetation and keep away from used trails.”

On the second day of the operation, Bravo Company found two rice caches. Over 6,700 pounds of rice were in holes that had been concealed by two feet of overhead camouflage.

During the entire operation, companies reported a large number of the enemy’s anti-personnel devices (booby traps) which had decayed or were no longer functioning. One such booby trap consisted of a whip like piece of bamboo which, when functioning, projected an arrow along a well worn path.

In order to find hidden enemy supplies, the fighting Gypsies probed swamps with bamboo poles and searched stream banks for tunnels and caves.

Once the operation was complete, the enemy was minus a food source and supplies.  More importantly, we were certain the enemy was no longer using the area from which to launch attacks on LZ Oasis.

This is the last story I intend to write about my time in Vietnam.

A Letter From Pace Caldwell

This story is addressed to every Veteran that reads my posts.  It is meant to encourage you as it did me when I read it.  First I want to give a little background on Pace Caldwell, a brave soldier.

Jack, Pace and Dot. Phyllis is taking picture.

This morning I received the following letter from Pace Caldwell.  Phyllis and I met Pace and his wife Dot for the first time in January of last year.  Pace was seriously wounded on January 20, 1967 in a battle with NVA units who outnumbered our small patrol on a surveillance mission, Central Highlands, South Vietnam.  He recovered from his wounds and had been trying to find me for several years.

Fifty years later, we met and on the 20th of January, 2017 exactly 50 years later we traced the names of our comrades who were killed that day and whose names were recorded on the Traveling Vietnam Wall located at Ft Benning, Ga.

I hope Pace’s letter encourages you to be persistent and expect the level of service you deserve from the Veterans Administration.

 

“Hello My Brother, I was discharged from the Army in Oct. 1973 and processed trough the VA and received disability for 4 gun shots and a frag. wound. I Visited the VA in Jacksonville when I got back to Jacksonville and registered for health care but never received a call. I just forgot about it, and went to work for I had a family to care for. I had trouble through the years with infections of wound and disorders from Agent Orange, prostrate cancer in 1999 but I had Health Insurance and didn’t think about the VA. A couple years later someone ask if I had been to the VA and filed a Agent Orange claim I had not, spent the last 28 years devoted to my family and work. In 2001 I visited the VA clinic and the people there bent over backward to assist me, the staff and Doctors assured me that they were not giving me anything that I and all the veterans have earned, pay in full for the care. within the next month I was checked from head to toe and My Primary Care Doctor, Schenker whom I seen every 4 months took care of me until he retired in 2015. We have walk in service every day from 7 to 11 am for non emergency treatment.

My VA experience sense 2001 has been great I’ve never had a bad experience along the way. I’m registered on Myhealthevet where I can access my health records make appointments, view health records, lab results and order all my meds from pharmacy. Also have access to Secure Massaging I can ask my doctors at any clinic questing and obtain information. They always follow up by sending me an email to check my Messaging.
I always thanks the staff and Doctors and let them know I apricate the care they give me. I think that everyone should do that if there getting good health care.
I even do that for My Doctors outside the VA.”

P.S.  You can read two stories about the small reconnaissance unit that fought the NVA that day.  First click on the margin and use the search box at the top right of this page and enter “Jan 20”.

COMPANY COMMANDER ON CALL: RECOLLECTIONS OF JACK BURR

PREFACE:  After this story, I have one more story to post about this time in my life, which I will post next week.  

 COMPANY COMMANDER ON CALL

On the 3rd of May, 1967, C Company CO, Captain Joseph Caudillo was killed by a sniper bullet fired by VC hiding behind a haystack.  AT 2311 hours the Battalion Commander was notified that Captain Caudillo passed away atQui Nhon Hospital.

Captain Caudillo was a respected leader, well liked by his contemporaries and especially by the men in Company C.  Therefore, morale would likely be an issue.

Jack Burr South Vietnam 1967, LTC Moore on left

I was told to take command until a replacement could be found..  LTC Moore directed that I implement a training program for the company until a new commander could be located.

 

We both knew that inactivity would be the worse thing for morale.

As I remember,  the new commander took command a few days later and I returned to my job as S-2.

Next, A Company Commander left on a two week leave to tend to an emergency back home.  Again, LTC Moore directed that I take over the company for the two week period.  Any thought that the Battalion Commander would take it easy on the company was fool hardy.

That was alright with me since I knew many of the soldiers in A Company because I was 3rd Platoon Leader for about 7 months.  I had learned that the best way to minimize casualties was insisting on alertness and good security.  Two weeks ended with only a few enemy sightings and frequent use of indirect fires.

When the commander returned,  I went back to my full time  job of S-2 for the remainder of my first tour.  I spent much of my time in the Battalion’s Light Observation Helicopter gathering intelligence about the enemy and passing it directly to friendly forces on the ground.

NOTE:  I returned to Vietnam a year later and was assigned to the same Battalion, in the same AO and commanded B Company.  This time I was with with B Company for several months.

 

 

 

 

TULSA VA CLINIC

A VISIT TO THE TULSA VA CLINIC

My purpose here is to encourage veterans who, like me, to use VA Medical service and to be vocal about the caliber of service you receive.  The opinions expressed in this post are based on services provided by Muskogee Veterans Hospital and most recently the Tulsa Clinic on 41st Street.

The Veterans Administration has suffered from bad leadership and poor administrative policies over the past several years.  Certain VA hospitals and clinics have been deservedly criticized for not properly serving the needs of veterans.

A few days ago I visited the Tulsa VA clinic to establish a personal medical record in the event I needed VA Services in the future. I had not been in a VA medical facility since the scandal of poor treatment of veterans which was prevalent during the last presidential administration and is still unresolved in many instances.  Accordingly I was skeptical as I approached the clinic.

First, I must say, I was filled with admiration and a sense of patriotism as I saw several veterans of the Vietnam era  with visible disabilities.  A few younger veterans were also in the waiting area.

I spoke to each one I met as I made my way to the information desk, they looked me in the eye and said they were fine.  Anyone could see that they were not fine in the physical sense, but it was also obvious they were talking about their mental and emotional state of being and that they were proud to have served their country.

Clinic named for LTC Ernest Childers

As I sat in the waiting room awaiting my turn, I noticed three vets who appeared to be indigent with emotional issues probably caused by PTSD or illegal drugs or maybe both. The nursing and administrative staff appeared caring and professional as they attempted to understand and care for the needs of each.  None-the-less, my heart went out to these men who needed more than medical assistance.  Another example that the cost of war cannot be measured in dollars and cents.

Promptly at the scheduled time my name was called to see the doctor.  She was attentive as I described the purpose of my visit.  She was friendly and easy to understand as she used non technical terms to ask the kinds of questions doctors ask patients. She gave me advice and information about my health that was more informative and helpful than the civilian doctor I have been seeing for the past several years.  I was impressed.

Post visit care was also impressive.  I was contacted by the Physician to check on me and a day or so later  a nurse called and gave me useful information on test results.  She also made an appointment for a follow-up visit.  The service provided was superior to the civilian facilities I have been using for the past several years.

Information I’ve provided here is one person’s opinion about a particular VA Clinic.  If your experience has been different, I encourage to speak to people who can do something about the issue concerning you.  Be persistent.

As a veteran you deserve respectful and timely treatment from people working  in institutions specifically designed for and whose sole purpose is to serve you.  Most do, but If you do not receive proper treatment, then do something about it.

In every governmental entity there are written policies on steps a veteran may take  to have the issue(s) resolved.  Ask the person who is not responding to your requests, to talk to his (her) boss.  If he (she) is not available, make an appointment or ask to see a higher level supervisor.  Persistency may be the only way to get answers.   Many times, change only occurs when someone is made uncomfortable.

If, on the other hand, you receive good service, be kind, and thank the person who served you.

There is a saying– that Kindness makes you feel good whether you are  giving it or receiving it.

 

 

Phyllis talks about her Grandma

My name is Phyllis Burr.

I am going to tell a story about my Grandma, Rachael Ninetta Prater,

My grandma. Nina Prater

 

 

 

and how much I miss her.  She was a very sweet religious person and taught me a lot about life and the Bible.  Most of all, she loved me and showed me that in every way that she she did.

 little girl named Phyllis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My earliest recollection of her was about the time my mother started working to help my dad make enough money for our family of seven.  That would have been about 1947 and I was 5 or 6 years old.

At that age, I don’t remember a lot about my grandma, but I remember over the next few years I  looked forward to spending time with her and grandpa.

I remember the time when grandma was working on a quilt with other women from her church.  I sat under the the quilt which was stretch out on the quilting frame permitting several quilters to work at the same time.  I recall watching the needles going up and down.

I’m sure these early experiences explains my interest in sewing.  In particular,

another pieced and hand appliquéd quilt

my love of making quilts.  I’ve included pictures of my handiwork which I trace back to my love of things which interested my grandma.

Grandma was a believer in prayer.  Whenever I was visiting and told her I was sick, or sometimes she just intuitively knew something was wrong and she would kneel and start praying.  When she did so I knew she loved me.

Hand Pieced and Hand Applique stitched.

Since there was no church building, the small congregation of my grandparents church met in their living room .  On occasion, I played with my brother Billy and Ronnie, my cousin.   Both of the boys were just a bit younger than me.

One time we played church.  Ronnie liked to preach but, he was too small to see over the pulpit in the living room; therefore,  he stood on a kitchen chair and preached away.   During the exhortation, he paused and asked me to get him a glass of water.  He took a gulp and suddenly sprayed Billy and I.

At the same time, grandma walked into the room.  She was not pleased with our behavior, disrespecting God’s Church as we did.  She gave us a light spat on the rump and banned us from the living room except when it was used for real church.

I was a quiet child and I had been told  I was an emotional child.  I suppose I was, which explains why I have fond memories of my grandma.  She was my best friend.  Especially, when someone said things to me that hurt my feelings and I would cry.  Grandma understood and and gave me sweet hugs.

It was a sad day when she passed away in 1989.   She was 89 years old.  I know I will see her again because she led me to my Lord and Savior,  when I was 12 years old, and taught me that when I trusted Jesus as my Savior that I was saved and would go to heaven because Jesus loves me.

Phyllis loved her Grandma

 

 

 

Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak, but He is strong.                                                                        
Yes, Jesus loves me!

 

 

 

I know that Jesus Loves me and  she taught this song so that I would never  forget “Jesus Loves Me This I know, for the Bible tells me so”.  This song and the knowledge of God’s Grace is a great comfort to me now that I am 76 years old.  I owe much to my Grandma.

 

GUADALUPE RIVER, CANYON DAM, TX

No story.  Just pictures taken November, 2016 on Guadalupe River near San Marcos, TX.  Phyllis and I were vacationing with our daughter, Cynthia and her family.

 

On our way

Our grandson, Evan fishing on the Guadalupe River.

 

Canyon Lake. Guadalupe River flows Southeast out of dam.

 

Guadalupe River

Our Son-in-Law, Ben Ferrell climbing the stairs from the banks of the Guadalupe River

Ben fishing near Base of Canyon Lake Dam

 

Getting ready to go to Tulsa

OPERATION THAYER II, JANUARY 1967

 

Operation THAYER II, JANUARY 1967.

I don’t remember the names of any of these men. I’m talking to the soldier with the m-16.

I had been platoon leader, 3rdplatoon, A Company, 1/35th  Infantry Battalion for about three months and was as comfortable as one could be fighting NVA in the central highlands, Plieku, South Vietnam.  My platoon remained with A Company until the 19th of January.

The following account was extracted from the Combat Operations After Action Report for Operation THAYER II, January 3- February 12, 1967.  Commander of 1st Cavalry Division was Task Force Commander.

1stCavalry Division (airmobile) employed the 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division task force in offensive operations in Suoi Ca Valley. First priority mission was to search for and destroy the 18th North Vietnamese Army (NVA) Regiment. Second priority mission was to search the eastern portion of the Couoi Ca Valley for enemy activity.

Between 4-9 Jan- Immediately upon the introduction of the combat forces of the 3rd BDE TF into the Suoi Ca Valley-Vinh Thanh Mountain range AO, several small contacts occurred.  Friendly forces repeatedly engaged small numbers of enemy in sharp, short contacts.

Indicaions were that a very large force had recent]tly vacated the area.  However the enemy, principally VC, began a terror and harassing campaign against the civilian populace along Highway One and against the main routes of communications.

On 9 January, 1967,…A Company, 1/35thInfantry Battalion made contact with a squad size unit capturing a great deal of equipment, maps and propaganda literaure. The enemy left the items behind and fled…

On 10 January, 1967 in the vicinity of BR739645, 3rdPlatoon, A Company, 1/35thmade contat with five VC wearing US steel helmets, OD shirts, VC caps (under their helmets) and ponchos. Apparently attempting to infiltrate the area.

Previously, C Company found several ladders which were probably used as early warning observation posts which seemed to fit the notion of infiltration.

A company made contact with one NVA and recovered a large medical bag in a hut. Later an individual dressed in khakis ran into another hut and from there into a cave.

At this time a large number of contacts with other NVA and VC were made in the same area.  In addition, the pressure exerted by the 3rd Brigade task forces caused the enemy to start exfiltrating at a faster pace and in small groups, aided by local VC.

Two hundred sixty-five enemy were killed and seventy three captured attempting to exfiltrate out of the area during the operation.

This confirmed that the VC infrastrcture and NVA forces (believed to be the 18thNVA Regiment) were coordinating operations.

Information gained from a captured high level officer revealed a weapons and ammunitions procurement and storage  location, a blacksmith shop which made grenades and booby traps and a manufacturing shop for making small tools . A limited weapons repair capaility was also maintained.

A Company was given the mission of destroying the blackshop facility and B Company destroyed the ammunitions and remaining items.

A Company was then airlifted to provide security for 1/35th Infantry Battlion for a week and then the battalion was given a surveillance mission in the southern portion of Suoi Ca Valley in accordance with the TET truce.

Itelligence indicted that the 18th NVA regimental HQ had relocated to the Northwest to Nghia Diem Valley …between 5-10 January as a direct result of the insertion of the 3rd Brigade Task Force into the THAYER II AO.

In an effort to obtain more information about the enemy,  I was ordered to take two squads of my platoon and conduct a reconniance to gather information about the enemy’s locations and strength in an enemy stronghold.  The only information I was given about where we were going was it would be rugged mountainous terrain near the Combodian/ South Vietnam border.

Huey’s (slicks) like this one was the primary tactical troop mover used in Vietnam.On 

19 January, 1967, my recon team climbed aboard two Huey’s and were inserted into the designated location. The following day the enemy found us.  My recollection of that day and night was published earlier.   To find two stories about this battle go to www.possumhollar.com and use search term “Jan 20, 1967” in the search box.  A third story can be found by using search term “50 years”.  This story is about extraordinary circumstances 50 years later which led me to Pace Caldwell who was wounded on 20 January, 1967.

THE BATTLE CONTINUED, April, 25-30, 1967

THE BATTLE 25-30 APRIL

 

I had been flown in to replace the wounded Commander of B Company.  This is a continuation of the story posted last week which covered The Battle, April, 23-24, 1967.

1/35th Infantry Battalion Staff, 1967.   My name is Jack not James

Viet Cong had taken over several villages in the coastal ares of the 1/35th Infantry Battlion area of operation and snipers had wounded and several of our men. Village fighting was difficult for obvious reasons.  

The official After Action Report recorded the following action.  (Only portions of the Report that pertains to 1/35the Infantry Battalion were included in this story.)

 


…On 25 April, At 1415 hrs the Bn CDR directed B Company to move to the Northwe,st of C Company’s contact area. A second air strike for C Company was approved at 1445 hrs….

….As the command and control (C & C) aircraft flew to drop smoke grenades to the unit on the ground to mark (friendly positions).  The Bn CDR and S-3 (aircraft) receivod 40 rounds of AW fire and began losing altitude and power rapidly….

….The aircraft made its way to LZ Montezuma air strip on a final glide and crash landed. No one was hit by gunfire or hurt in the landing. The ship caught fire during the glide into the air strip. A replacement C&C was immediate and the CDR and S-3 were not injured and returned to the contact area….

….On 28 April the Battalion Recon Platoon took under fire a woman with a pack and weapon. She was wounded and died later.  Her pack contained medical supplies, documents, propaganda leaflets, schematic drawings of fortified villages and a schematic drawing’ of the District Hq in Duc Pho…. Also she was carrying a photo of herself and in the picture sbe was holding a Thompson SMG. The 30 year old female was definitely a hard core communist.

…..B Co discovered a tunnel at BS812306 and when men entered into the tunnel they heard voices. Backing out rapidly, B Company notified Bn they wanted tear gas. An interpreter and tear gas were sent to the cave location….  (See note below for effects of tear gas).

The occupants of the tunnel were treated to a liberal dosage of CS after they failed to respond to the interpreters instructions to come out. After several minutes of gas inhalation, a VC came gasping,  stumbling out of the cave…. He was taken to a nearby creek and revived. He was persuaded to re-enter the cave and talk ‘the others out’.

The second man to exit the cave was a NVA, (North Vietnam Army) and he threw a grenade when he came out and was immediately cut down by a host of riflemen. A second VC came out of the cave and was taken to the creek to wash away the CS gas.

….Also captured were several bicycles. 2d plat, B Company at BS802306 found a circular position with a forked stick, believed to have been an anti-aircraft aiming device and recently cooked rice and a deer that had been recently killed.  

….The operations continued until 30 April with sporadic fire and airstrikes and indirect fires targeting a well entrenched enemy unwilling to surrender.  Engineer units were called in to destroy dozens of well prepared enemy bunkers, tunnels and underground storage areas as well as hundreds of bombs and explosive devices…. 

I don’t remember exactly when my replacement arrived but I think it was 29 or 30 April when I  returned to Battalion Headquarters to resumed my duties as S-2.  

Four days , later C Company CO, Captain Joseph Caudillo was killed by sniper fire and I was instructed to take command of his company.  

NOTE:  CS gas [2-chlorobenzylidene malonitrile] is the most commonly used ‘tear gas‘ in the world. … Exposure to the spray causes distressing symptoms including lacrimation, eye pain, blepharospasm, a burning sensation in the throat and nose, increased nasal secretions, chest tightness, sneezing, coughing and retching. (Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.)

NOTE: The After Action Report quoted above is part of the Vietnam Historical Collection which was created and is maintained by the Texas Tech Univesity. Gateway to this extensive collection can be accessed by using this link. Http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/. On the first page select “Browse the Collections” as a starting point and then use dates and units cited above to find the information you desire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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