Richard C. Gudat
Memories of Major Edgar Francis “Bear” Burch III
Jack, I have been doing a bunch of thinking since you contacted me about Major “Bear” Burch the G-3 Advisor for the 23rd ARVN Division and his audio interview on the website. I have been trying to remember all the good things about the “Bear” so I have jotted a few things down here.
I arrived in Vietnam in 1971 and was sent to MACV in Pleiku and then further assigned to TEAM 33 as G-4 Advisor for the 23rd ARVN Division, in Ban Me Thuot. That is where I met the “Bear”.
We became friends there. He was always into exercising, he was into skiing and mountain climbing back in Boulder, and was looking forward to getting back to it, along with his family. I spent time cheering him on with his exercising, while I calmly enjoyed a beer.
There was a period before we got involved in Kontum that we got together for a trip to Saigon. He had a problem with a bullet in his butt from an earlier tour. I took trips to Saigon every once in a while. The powers that be in TEAM 33 (LTC Hudachek) would not allow the two of us to travel that distance together. We pulled some antics and arranged the travel. We stayed at a hotel on To-Do Street, which was owned by a nice Vietnamese woman in Ban Me Tuot (she operated a club there). She gifted us a stay of several days in the hotel. In the several days we spent there, “Bear” got his butt worked on and I well…..
Later, we got to Kontum along with most of the 23rd ARVN Division. The place was a wreck, as one might expect when US troops pull out and the locals had access, but we made the place habitable after I spent time in the area looking after logistics operations. I was involved with recovering airdrops that would come in. The “Bear”, who was normally in the Tactical Operations Center (TOC), would holler on the radio that I should move – “you’ve been there too long” – and sure enough, as soon as I moved the enemy artillery would hit the area I had just been working in.
The NVA had our defensive area surrounded for quite a while. Our TEAM was only a few advisors who spend nights there in Kontum – we were assuming that one Huey could get us out if necessary. There were several times we sat in the TOC and discussed heading for Pleiku on foot, if the situation called for that action. Our biggest complaint was that on the 22kl trip, there would be no bars to drink in along the way.
We had built a living area for the TEAM, complete with the capability of eating and drinking. A suitable supply line was in place from Ban Me Thuot. After things had calmed down, and the main threats were over, we relaxed some. One evening, there was a large hunk of pork that appeared, as well as a few lobsters. A good time was had by all, especially Col Rotenberry, our new TEAM leader. He decided that it would be a good time to travel to Pleiku by jeep even though it was after dark. The “Bear” and I had a rough time talking him out of it -- for safety sake.
“Bear” Burch was truly a person I enjoyed being with and knowing. I feel very remiss that I lost track of him. I did have one evening of dinner and relaxation at Fort Leavenworth KS with him and his family. After returning to the States, it really felt good to see him and his family.
I lost track of him again until I found out about his death. He was a great friend, companion and soldier and I think of him often.
Richard C. Gudat <RCGUDAT1@msn.com >
York, PA USA - Monday, April 03, 2017 at 21:12:45 (EDT)