SD Vietnam War Memorial Dedication Please Support the Memorial Soldiers, Heroes, and teachers information



In Memory of U.S. Army Sergeant

John Burdette Ulfers

Chancellor, South Dakota, Turner County

 March 15, 1946 Ė November 27, 1968

Killed in Action, NW of Saigon near the Cambodian border, North Vietnam


John Burdette Ulfers was born near Chancellor, Turner County, South Dakota, on March 15, 1946, to Edward and Tillie (Jurgens) Ulfers. His siblings were Stuart, Jewel, and Marjo. When John was 12, his father passed away. He was primarily raised and educated in Turner County. At age 15, he moved to Sibley, Iowa where he lived with his mother and his step-father, Harry Ernst. He then graduated from Sibley High School in 1965. He attended college at Worthington, Minnesota for a year. His interests included cars, racing, and demolition derby. Johnís sister Jewel has fond memories of him:

John was the youngest in our family. I was a teenager when he was
born. I loved taking care of him, and spoiling him, too. When he was two
years old, we lost him in the oats field behind our house. With his tow-head we werenít able to see him in the ripened field. Our farm dog and John were good buddies so we found him by calling the dog. John always had a good sense of humor, a ready smile, and a love for cars, motorcycles and racing.

On June 26, 1967, John Ulfers was inducted into the U.S. Army and entered active service. He completed basic training at Fort Leonard, Missouri, and advanced infantry training at Fort Polk, Louisiana. On February 12, 1968, Pvt. Ulfers left for Fort Lewis, Washington. From there he was sent to AnKhe, South Vietnam, with the US 1st Cavalry, Company D, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Unit. While in Vietnam the companyís first engagement was at Khe Sanh where the unit relieved the Marines fighting there. In April and May of 1968, his company participated in the fighting in the A. Shau Valley Campaign. In August Sergeant Ulfers took his R & R in Hong Kong. When he returned to Vietnam, his company was stationed in the Quang Tri Province near the Demilitarized Zone. The first part of November the entire 1st Air Cavalry was moved to a location northwest of Saigon near the Cambodian border in the Tay Ninh Province.

The following is taken from one of his last letters to his sister, Jewel:

I have been getting real poor at writing letters, must be that I am getting short- that means that I donít have too many days left. [To end his year in Vietnam]. Feel sorry for the new guys just getting here. They will be in the Spring Offensive which I consider the worst of the year. Donít believe the monsoon will have too much action in it. Itís just as hard for Charley [the enemy] to move in this weather as it is for us. I think he is less alert than we are. Heís got this for a lifetime; we only have it one year. We can afford to stay alert for that time. Mother wrote it was raining there. It really has been here, for about 12 days we never saw the sun. It would rain up to 20 times a day. Love, John

 PS- Have new promotion to sergeant.

Sergeant John Burdette Ulfers was killed in action on November 27, 1968, at Tay Ninh Province during heavy enemy fire when D Company went to help C Company; John was lead man for his platoon when he was hit in the leg by enemy fire. His Lieutenant (Dwight D. Sarjeant) went to help him and they were both killed by North Vietnamese Armyís fire, but Company Dís machine gunner, a friend of Johnís, returned fire, killing the NVA who killed John.

The following is quoted from the Frank R. Vavrek, Commanding officer of the Company D, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, to Mrs. Tillie Ernst: ďI extend my most profound sympathy to you on the recent loss of your son Sergeant John B. Ulfers, Company D, 1st Battalion 8th Cavalry, who died in the service of his country on 27 November 1968.Ē

The body of Sergeant John Burdette Ulfers was returned by plane to the Sioux Falls Airport, accompanied by a family relative, Spec. 4 Elgin Van Anken, who was stationed in Taiwan at that time. Services were held on December 16, 1968, at First Presbyterian Church at Sibley, Iowa and at Germantown Presbyterian Church of rural Chancellor. He was laid to rest with military honors at the Germantown Cemetery.

Sergeant John B. Ulfers was awarded the Combat infantryman badge, Bronze star medal (1st award), Bronze star medal (2nd), Air Medal, Purple Heart Medal, Good conduct medal, National defense service medal, Vietnam service medal, Republic of Vietnam campaign ribbon, and the marksmanship badge with rifle bar.

Current survivors of Sergeant Ulfers include his brother, Stuart (Frances) Ulfers, Annandale, MN; and his sisters, Jewel Sweeter, Worthing , SD; and Marjo (Gary) Dannen, Chancellor, SD; and 15 nieces and nephews and their families.

In closing, Johnís sister, Jewel, wrote: ďJohn was a good soldier and did his duties well. In eight months he rose from private to sergeant and received good conduct, marksmanship, and combat badges.Ē

This entry was respectfully submitted by Lauren Harrington, 8th Grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish South Dakota, October 11, 2005. Information and approval for this entry was provided by Jewel Sweeter, Worthing, South Dakota.


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