SFC James Albert Bunn

SFC James Albert Bunn

by john harrison

On February 2, 1968 Sergeant First Class James Albert Bunn was killed while serving in the Republic of South Viet Nam. He was my platoon sergeant, 2nd Platoon, Company A, 3rd Battalion, 506th (Airborne) Infantry Regiment (aka the “Band of Brothers”), 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. This is a rather long way of saying that he was also my friend.

I gave him the order that resulted in his death. It was Tet ’68.

We knew that we were moving to contact with the enemy that day. It was a question of where and when we hit the enemy, not if. Even as we moved there were already very loud pitched battles going on all over the place, all around us. We expected to hit a well entrenched, well prepared enemy, and we did.

We were looking for the 482nd Viet Cong Mainforce Battalion, near Phan Thiet on the coast of the South China Sea. As the lead platoon we made contact with the enemy first. Early that morning we moved up to a small house. After searching the small house I sent a fire team into the larger blue house next door to the right to clear it too.

They ran into the VC inside the house almost immediately. The last man in the fire team was shot as they ran out of the front door of that blue house. He fell on the front porch and laid there bleeding. He was hurt bad, but alive. Although not that far away, I could see that the porch would be a bitch to get to and then to get away from. I can’t tell you how frustrating that day was or of how many different ideas we tried to get our man off of that porch.

At one point I ordered Sergeant Bunn to take a squad and to see if he could get into the back of the blue house since the front of the blue house was swept by constant rifle and machine-gun fire from several directions. We were literally being shot at from 360°, rifle fire, machine-gun fire, mortars, rockets. You name it; they shot it at us, and we returned the compliment. The level of enemy fire that day was absolutely incredible.

While Bunn tried to get in the back of the house I set about using air strikes, gun ships and artillery to clear out the enemy from our front and left flanks so that I could turn the platoon right and get our man off that damn porch.

Jerry Berry in his excellent book, My Gift to You, (available on Amazon) tells Jim Bunn’s story:

PSG Bunn and Sergeant Stacy Raynor’s squad made their way around the three barbed wire fences that separated the two houses and carefully approached the back of the house. Just before reaching the back of the house PSG Bunn set up the squad in a supporting position and then moved on to the corner of the blue house on his own.

The enemy fire was intense, with heavy fire coming from all directions. With bullets striking all around him, PSG Bunn ran to the back door, threw a hand grenade inside the house and followed it up with several bursts from his M-16 rifle. While standing in that doorway PSG Bunn was shot several times. He was killed instantly.

It took a while, but we finally got our man off that porch and we brought Jim Bunn back as well. The Airborne recovers its dead.

Jim Bunn left his wife Rachel and three young daughters. His name appears on Panel 36E at the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial. He is interred in Riverside Cemetery in Oklahoma.

I think about Jim Bunn just about every day. This and Memorial Day are his days. He earned them both, full and complete on February 2, 1968.

Tet ‘68 was a long time ago. It was yesterday. I remembered him today, and everyday. Platoon Sergeant James Albert Bunn. My friend, a brave and good man. Airborne!

bunn

Advertisements

13 thoughts on “SFC James Albert Bunn

  1. althompson101

    Trust that you don’t blame yourself. They knew we didn’t leave our men behind. The enemy made us pay for our loyalty. I personally expected to get rolled for a wounded Currahee… it just didn’t happen.

    We lost some great ones. We fondly remember them…they would have done the same for us.

    Proud of you Sir.
    Salute

    Reply
  2. nadiawilder

    SFC James Bunn was my grandfather. I was born 8 years after he died, but he is our family’s hero & I am proud to have his blood in my veins. Thank you for sharing & for your service.

    Reply
  3. Letha Bunn Przyklek

    John, Do you know where SFC James Bunn was from? Or his parents name? My maiden name was Bunn and I have been doing a family tree. My grandfather had 8 brothers. I also had an Uncle Lloyd Bunn in Vietnam then.

    Reply
    1. JohnEHarrison Post author

      According to our Battalion’s researcher, Jane Fulkerson, mccolt@nemontel.net, Currahee Researcher, POB 364, Plentywood, Montana 59254 USA

      James Albert Bunn was born in Sylacaugn, Alabama on March 17, 1935 and joined the United States Army on his 17th birthday. He was a career soldier and was on his second tour in Vietnam when he was killed on February 2, 1968. James served with the 3rd Battalion, 506th Infantry (Currahees) 101st Infantry Division (Screaming Eagles)

      From “The Stand Alone Battalion” by Jerald Berry and Joe Alexander: “The Currahees made contact with the enemy soon after arriving at their designated LZs in the center portion of the Disneyland area. Company A engaged a reinforced VC/NVA company that was guarding the 482nd Viet Cong Battalion Headquarters at Xuan Phong Hamlet, and an intense battle ensured, lasting throughout the afternoon and into the evening. The battle claimed the lives of four Currahees – Guy Franklin Brooks, 19, of Pasco, Washington, who was the RTO for Lt. James Schlax, 1st Platoon Leader Pfc Andrew James Daniel, 20, from Nyack, New York, who was a fire team member of 2nd Platoon SFC James Bunn, 32, of Miami, Florida, the Platoon Sergeant for 2nd Platoon and Company A First Sergeant Rhilip Ronald Chassion, 34, of Fitchburg, Massachusetts.”

      It was a very bad day. James was survived by his wife Rachel and their three girls: Desiree, Cindy and Carol. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery, Mangum, Oklahoma. Godspeed Currahee!
      Saturday, February 07, 2004

      He listed Miami, Florida as his home of record when he died. I hope this helps.

      Reply
  4. anotherwarriorpoet

    You’ve had a few more years than I have had to think about things like this. I myself have wrestled with what it means to have led men to their deaths – despite what they taught us in OCS or the Academy or in ROTC or Green to Gold, any other commissioning source. Other folks who served have said “… It’s the burden of leadership, Mat” and I suppose they’re right.

    It’s the burden of leadership…

    I find it more difficult to try and cope with those feeling in light of Bing around others who have no damn clue what any of that means whatsoever – who can’t even comprehend or whose service (if they served) wasn’t the same [Iraq & Afghanistan: individual experiences may vary…]

    So though I look to you in a way to tell me how I should feel, I say to you know that the simple act of thought, the fact that you have never forgotten is in and of itself a testament to your commitment.

    Well done in honoring his memory. Yesterday I thought about him – about all of them. But I did so because of you – and that’s all that has mattered.

    Reply
    1. JohnEHarrison Post author

      I agree, it is very difficult to explain to people who have not been there what you are talking about. When I got back people assumed that I did not talk about my experience because I was ashamed of what I had done in Vietnam. So, I made a conscious effort to talk about Vietnam, because I was not ashamed at all. In fact, I was proud of what my men and I had done there for America.

      The truth is though that a lot of people do not talk about their war because they did not really do anything in their war worth talking about. 90% in any war are REMFs and never hear a shot fired in anger. I am not putting them down because they are essential to the battle, but it would be harder to answer the question “What did you do in the war daddy?” if you were in Graves Registration or toilet paper resupply. However, somebody had to be and most often it was not their choice.

      I mostly told Infantry humor stories at first, and then I noticed that civilians laughed at the wrong time in the story and that they did not laugh at all at the parts that I thought were funny. At first this disturbed me. Now it does not. I don’t know why it doesn’t anymore. However, it is the same thing with lawyer, and teacher, stories.

      Lots of men died. In my war it was almost 60,000. Some died bravely, like Platoon Sergeant Bunn, some foolishly, some inexplicably like the guy that just died in the chow hall line one day at Phan Thiet. One minute he was there, the next he was laying on the ground, dead. I never did learn how or why.

      It is the order part that makes for hard memories. People are dead because of what you told them to do. The reality is that this is most often a “there but for fortune” experience. I was lucky. Platoon Sergeant Bunn was not. You could say that luck had nothing to do with being shot while you are standing up, in a door way, firing an automatic weapon into a house, in the middle of an epic firefight, but you can’t say that luck had nothing to do with still being alive after being in the beaten zone of a machine-gun. However, they are really two sides of the same coin.

      For me, the fact that the most I ever lost in one battle was two men killed was very important because to me it meant that I did my job. The rest is war, and war really does suck. However, you do meet people there like Jim Bunn, a lovely man to know and a warrior to learn from. A true professional soldier who taught me enough to keep me and many others alive.

      Would-a, could-a, should-a, will drive anyone that lets them in their mind crazy. Having said that I refight the battle on 2/2/1968 just about everyday, usually in the shower in the morning. It never changes. On the other hand on January 31,1968 we fought the battle I called the “Turkey Shoot” and the way my platoon fought and reacted to the enemy that day was simply a beautiful, almost sublime experience. We fought many more battles, but those are the two I think about most.

      Each time I think of these two battles I think of Robert E. Lee’s statement at Fredericksburg: “It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we would come to love it too much.” War is not worth the price, but it is something. . .

      Reply
  5. Georgia

    To Another Warrior Poet: “Should” and “feel” don’t belong in the same sentence, once said a teacher of mine. In other words, we need to feel our emotions, and not concern ourselves with how we think we should feel.

    Reply
  6. nordrof

    LT brings back so many memories what a f—ked up day and a long one I can’t remember a day since 2/2/68 I haven’t thought about it.Sometimes I can still smell it.Although we had casualties without your knowledge and leadership it would have been much worse if you would had went the way they wanted us to go No one would have survived for that I thank you my children thank you and my grandchildren and my great grandchildren just one fork in the road.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s