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Colonel George Burrow

B Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment

Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 4th Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment

Hueys fly over the humid Vietnamese jungle, supporting troops on the ground. The First of the Ninth, the 'true cavalry' of the Vietnam War, flew support for elements of the 12th Cavalry Regiment as they fought on the Bong Son Plain. Colonel (then Major) Burrow, commander of B Troop, 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment, piloted his gunship at the head of the infamously named 'Burrow's Bastards,' duel miniguns and 2.75" rocket launchers ready for combat. Suddenly, sirens go off in the cockpit as hidden Vietnamese AA guns open up on them, forcing helicopters down left and right. Major Burrow holds his craft together, crashing with another pilot in a rice paddy. Throughout the day and night, he made sure his men were safe, traversing through the rice paddy with his .38 pistol until help arrived. A beloved leader, he always made sure his men came first, regardless of the risks.

Colonel George D. Burrow was born on May 6th, 1934 in Port Arthur, Texas. Port Arthur is located on the northern portion of Texas's east coast and is home to a maritime port as well as a major oil refinery plant. From a young age, Burrow had his eyes set on a career in the military, beginning in 1950 when he enlisted into the Texas National Guard at the age of 17. He spent three years with the 36th Infantry Division, Texas’s National Guard unit, before attending Officer Candidate School, graduating and accepting a regular army commission as an aviation officer.

Shortly after graduation, he earned his aviator and airborne wings, demonstrating his determination to be a first-class soldier. His first assignment was to the 416th Signal Aviation Company based out of Fort Huachuca, Arizona as a flight wing advisor. Fort Huachuca, a former 1800s cavalry outpost, was the home to a major electronic warfare center, preparing troops for duties overseas in Korea, Germany, and Vietnam. He left this post in 1961 and joined HQ Company, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division in Korea as the company’s executive officer. The 1st Cavalry Division in the early 1960s was tasked with patrolling the Demilitarized Zone which separates North and South Korea. The mission for the First Team on the DMZ was to act as the first line of defense and hold out against a North Korean incursion until reinforcements from Okinawa and America could arrive. 

Rotating back to the United States in 1962, Burrow was then stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia as a member of the evaluation group studying the air assault tactics being developed by the 11th Air Assault Division. Tactical doctrine, formation flying, combined arms operations, and more were tested in Operation Air Assault I and II. In 1965, the 11th Air Assault was reflagged the 1st Cavalry Division (Air Mobile), with then Secretary of Defense McNamara telling the nation the 1st Cavalry Division would be combat-ready in eight weeks after its reflagging. This new notion of cavalry, with troopers riding into battle on helicopters instead of horses and M16s instead of six-shooters was the cutting edge of combat tactics and would pave the way for the fighting in Vietnam. The First Team was authorized 15,000 men, 355 helicopters, and 1,500 ground vehicles.

Click on a photo in this slideshow for a closer look or click on the arrows at the edges of the slideshow to look through the photos.

Burrow's Bastards: Welcome to Vietnam


Burrow, now a major, was deployed to the Republic of South Vietnam and assigned to B Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division 9AM) as their new executive officer (XO) in 1967. He eventually took command of the troop which adopted a name fitting for its commander and his sheer grit: 'Burrow's Bastards.' The troop commander, Major Lew Beasley, was a no-nonsense kind of soldier, a detail-oriented man who focused on the mission and typically steered clear of making any close attachments. Burrow on the other hand saw the benefit in bonding with his men. His wit was sharp enough to split hairs and he was always ready with a joke. B Troop was based out of LZ Poazzo, an airbase located in central Vietnam. Chu Lai housed elements of the United States Army, Marine Corps, and South Vietnamese Army. Beginning in October 1967, Operation Wheeler/Wallowa began as two separate operations before being combined for logistical simplicity. The objective of the mission was to blunt the 2nd North Vietnamese Army (NVA) Division and to drive them out of the Bong Son area while also allowing elements of the 1st Marine Division to be redeployed from the area to Da Nang.

Burrow's Bastards: "Six is Down"


A Huey flies over the Bong Son plain in search of prisoners, a squad of men inside. Talk of dead NVA and smoke of cigarettes from the Blues (the infantry component of B Troop) was interrupted when one of the door gunners breaks the marital tranquility. "Six is down! We'll rendezvous with the other bids and secure him! They have a prisoner!" What was initially met with smirks and a hopeful thought of doubting the new commanding officer had gotten himself shot down was quickly dashed as they flew above the downed gunship, NVA anti-aircraft guns and small arms fire rip through the air; American M-60s returning fire as the helicopter comes in hot and fast.


On November 13th, 1967, during Operation Wallowa, the First of the Ninth took severe losses, with 27 Hueys shot down by six Soviet-produced 12.7mm heavy machine guns and small arms fire. Major Burrow, flying with the Blues, oversaw a 'snatch' operation to capture NVA soldiers for interrogation. Before noon, Burrow's operation produced 12 prisoners of war, including a Vietcong company commander, two Vietcong platoon commanders, and an NVA assassination team commander. The afternoon section began at 3 PM, and by 3:20 it had gone from a simple 'spot-and-grab' to a massive firefight. At 3:20, the NVA heavy machine guns opened up on two helicopters, one piloted by Major Burrow. Due to the sheer ferocity of the guns, Burrow's helicopter was severely damaged, and was forced to crash land in a rice paddy. With the belly of the bird sporting "Fuck Communism" in paint, it was likely a juicy target for the NVA. All of the helicopters carrying the Blues then converged on the crash site, hovering 10 feet above the paddy to begin securing a perimeter around Burrow's Huey and secure him, his crew, and a prisoner (a supposedly heavily drugged NVA solider whom Burrow attempted to capture). When the inserted Blues notified Burrow of dug-in in the treeline but were not visible on the ground. Burrow, taking a radio set, remarked "We'll have the gunships hit it." Then, two Huey gunships roared overhead, lighting the treeline up with rocket fire.

Then, he made another radio call: "Saber Relay, this is Saber Six. I just had my bird totaled by a recoilless rifle. Over."

After a brief pause, a voice answers from the other side of the radio. "Rodger that. Out."

Hearing that Burrow had been shot down, all of the troop's pilots rushed to their helicopters, 'jumping' off of LZ Poazzo to support the Blues and Major Burrow. By 5 PM, due to the unrelenting NVA AA fire, not only was the troop commander shot down but a platoon leader and multiple other helicopters. Only one gunship, two 'Lift' Hueys, and two scout helicopters were left flyable, the rest of them lodged in mud in a rice paddy. Until the Bastards were rescued in the morning, Burrow ran around the perimeter with his .38 revolver and his captured AK-47,  checking on the crews and keeping morale up. When they finally were recovered, Burrow checked his sidearm, only to find out it had jammed prior to the crash and was inoperable. He pulled the trigger a few times at the firing range to no avail.


One of the Bastards, Bert Chole, left a note on the company bulletin board reading 'the thirteenth of November, a day to remember.' Years later in 1994, Chole called Burrow to reminisce on that day, which he recorded in his book Flashing Sabers writing: 

"George asked me why I was calling. I replied, 'It’s the thirteenth of November, a day to remember.' There was a pause, and he said, 'What the hell does that mean?' I responded, 'Don’t you remember this day in 1967 when we all got shot down, and you spent the night on the ground in a rice paddy?' 'Bert,' he said, 'you son of a bitch! You’re calling me from Germany to remind me of the worst day and night in my life?' I started laughing; and before I knew it, the intervening years vanished, and it was as if we were sitting in the operations tent again, and that old familiar banter started."

Around November 21st, Burrow's Bastards returned the favor of being shot down so many times while fighting at Bong Son. Two of Burrow's pilots had located a massive NVA weapons cache belonging to elements of the 2nd NVA Division. 60mm mortars, recoilless rifles, machine guns, and other crew-serviced weapons and munitions were stashed in trenches hidden with banana leaves. What gave this position away was where the leaves were harvested. The NVA had recently come off the Ho Chi Minh trail and while in the mountains had harvested the leaves used for camouflage, resulting in an off coloring of the foliage. The pilots began tossing grenades into the trenches to disable some of the weapons before returning to base, reporting the location of the find. When they returned to base, Burrow marches up to them and asked them "what a recoilless rifle or a mortar looks like."

Begrudgingly, the pilots took Burrow back to the weapons and one tossed a grenade in a hole and uncovered a recoilless rifle, now with a nasty dent in the side. The pilot sarcastically said over the radio "I don't know for sure, but the last time I was told, this was called a fifty-seven reckless rifle." An airstrike and artillery was called in on the position, destroying the stockpiles of munitions and arms as well as a tunnel network extending to a nearby village. While most of the NVA in the area escaped, their equipment most certainly did not.

Click on a photo in this slideshow for a closer look or click on the arrows at the edges of the slideshow to look through the photos.

Burrow's Bastards: Season's Greetings

On December 5th, B Troop supported multiple units in the vicinity of Hon Nui Tau. Until 6 PM that day, it was a quiet day for the troop. At 6:15 PM, Major Burrow, a captain and a warrant officer flew into the area of operations in search of a fight. The two, piloting Huey Gunships, met up with a scout helicopter and began to fly west across the Que Son Valley, conducting reconnaissance around LZ Colt and LZ Ross. As the two helicopters flying with Burrow passed a mountain, they were targeted by four North Vietnamese soldiers engaged with small arms. As the helicopters began to return fire, a dozen more Vietnamese emerged, adding to the small arms fire. However, as the Vietnamese exposed themselves, Major Burrow made a gun run, cutting many down like a scythe to wheat. He continued these gun runs until the Blues could arrive. When they arrived, they realized that they hadn't killed a regular NVA unit, rather it was a group of staff officers attached to the 2nd NVA Division, including the 3rd NVA Regimental Commander (the regimental commander was KIA during the battle). Amongst the documents captured were some detailing the upcoming Tet Offensive of 1968. The next day, General Westmoreland and his staff arrived to review the documents and take them back to headquarters, providing the United States and its allies an early warning of the impending North Vietnamese offensive along with other intelligence windfalls from Operations Junction City and Cedar Falls.

Burrow had proven himself as a competent leader before, but on December 9th, his valor and bravery would go unquestioned. During the insertion of troops from 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, Burrow overheard an urgent request for air support. The infantry who had landed were coming under heavy fire and despite already sustaining damage from a previous mission, Burrow flew into battle. Two scout helicopters were on scene and when they came off station, Burrow and another helicopter replaced them immediately. Repeatedly, he did strafing and rocket runs against a sizeable enemy force, expending over 7,000 rounds of ammunition from his miniguns while taking intense small-arms fire. Despite this, instead of landing at a landing zone or other American base, he landed in a nearby rice paddy to rearm and refuel his helicopter before getting back in the fight. On one specific run during the battle, he spotted 10 NVA hiding in a creek bed, setting up an ambush. With one well placed rocket, he killed all ten and destroyed the attempted attack. Then, as he was about to leave the area of operation, he spotted a heavy weapon emplacement in front of the infantry. Again, he landed in a rice paddy and rearmed his miniguns before attacking the hidden position. Despite heavy retaliatory fire, he destroyed the emplacement. Ultimately, he accounted for 41 confirmed kills during this battle and for his valor, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross; America's second-highest award for valor. 

Colonel Burrow was a fearless leader and upheld the very spirit of the 1st Cavalry Division. He was shot down 13 times and had at least 51 confirmed kills, and besides earning the Distinguished Service Cross, he was also awarded the Silver Star Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Bronze Star Medals for valor, and three Purple Hearts. Not only this, but Hanoi Hannah herself mentioned him by name over the radio and placed a bounty on his head. Under his leadership, B Company had a 200:1 kill/death ratio.

On one specific occasion, Colonel Burrow was shot down and presumably wounded. One of his Bastards, WO Charles Inman, piloting a scout helicopter saved his life. With NVA forces attacking the downed gunship and moving ever closer, Inman hovered 750 feet above the crash and called for assistance for Burrow while his gunner began firing on the NVA. As he said in an interview with the Princeton Personality, "we radioed for assistance, and I went to 750 feet, where my gunner could bring fire on the North Vietnamese Army. In a few minutes (which felt like an hour), there was an airstrike, and then another helicopter came to pick up Major Burrow and his crew."

Major Burrow later fought in the Tet Offensive, supporting 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment as they fought near the village of Thon Ha Chu northwest of Hue. 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment blocked the western escape route from Hue and engaged NVA forces from their base camp at Camp Evans north of Hue. Major Burrow said of the fighting there "the moment we reached this area, we started receiving heavy small-arms fire. AK-47 and .30 machine guns from every bush, every tree. I'd say a minimum of 1,000 rounds were fired at my chopper alone." During the fighting, he was shot down again and due to a wound that blinded one of his eyes, he was evacuated and transferred out of B Company, ending Burrow's reign of Burrow's Barbarians.


Following his service in Vietnam, Colonel Burrow took command of 4th Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood, Texas. He led the battalion as it became a part of the 6th Air Cavalry Brigade, deemed the 'True Cavalry' as the 1st Cavalry Division was reflagged from an airmobile division to an armored one. In 1979, he was inducted into the Infantry Hall of Fame. Following this command, he did a tour of duty at the National Military Command Center, which serves the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He ended his career as the Inspector General of VII Corps in Germany, completing an honorable 39 years of service. For his long and faithful service, Col. Burrow earned, amongst other awards, the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, two Bronze Stars, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, 34 Air Medals, and three Purple Hearts.

Colonel Burrow now resides peacefully in his native Texas with his family.



  • Brennan, Matthew. Hunter-Killer Squadron: Aero-Weapons, Aero-Scouts, Aero-Rifles, Vietnam 1965-1972. Pocket Books, 1992. 

  • Burrow, George. “From Buffalo SOliders to 'Air-Cav'.” Army Aviation Digest, May 1975. 

  • Chole, Bert. Flashing Sabers. Xlibris, 2005. 

  • Flanagan, John E. Born in Brooklyn-- Raised in the CAV! Xlibris Corp., 2001. 

  • “George Burrow - Recipient.” The Hall of Valor Project, 

  • “George D. Burrow.” OCS Alumni, 

  • Larson, Mike. Heroes: A Year in Vietnam with the First Air Cavalry Division. IUniverse, 2008. 

  • “Scout Copter Crew Joins Battle, Gives Good Account.” Stars & Stripes, 10 Feb. 1968. 

Author's Note:

  • I would like to thank Jim Kurtz of the 1st Cavalry Association for his help in locating men who served with Colonel George Burrow and assisting me in locating more sources. He has been extremely helpful and resourceful and this article would not be anywhere near as complete without him.

  • I also want to thank Walter Gradzik for providing documents that have proved invaluable to writing about Col. Burrow. A former platoon commander in B-1/9, Major Gradzik provided after-action reports, maps, and more to allow for a more detailed revised article in the near future.

  • Finally, I wish to thank the following men who served with Col. Burrow in B-1/9 Cav and who took the time to help me learn about their former CO and the history of Burrow's Bastards.

    • Dean Eikenberry, who was the Blue Platoon leader that rescued Col. Burrow on November 13th, 1967.

    • Terry Young, who was a door gunner and radio operator in B Troop.

    • Douglas Nelms, who was door gunner in B Troop and was wounded on a mission with Col. Burrow.

    • Bill Beversluis, who was also a helicopter pilot in B Troop and flew multiple missions with Col. Burrow.

    • Colonel George Burrow himself, who graciously spoke with me regarding his service.

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