|1939 Graduate, F. W. Burkman had a 28 year Military Career and much of it was with the Criminal Investigative Units of the U. S. Army. Mr. Burkman was recently honored in the Quarterly Newsletter of the Criminal Investigation Division Agents Association, CIDAA.|
| Class of 39 Graduate,
F. W. Burkman and wife Vera
FW Burkman, one of our old timers in the CIDAA, was born on 27 July 1920, on a farm about five miles north of Lueders, Texas. Most of you address FW Burkman as "Frank" so I will let you in on a little secret; actually he only has the initials FW and "Frank" was an invention many years ago. His dad rented the farm and FW attended the Hastings County schools. He would cut across the field and meet his cousins on a farm road, then walk to school for about three miles, and walk back home after school.
Around 1930, his dad purchased about 160 acres of good farmland and built a home on it. This was also when FW entered Lueders High School. Actually the two-story brick building housed both the grade school and high school. It was a small school in a rural setting; even so, it did have a football team. Depending on the situation, the coach used FW as fullback, punter and center. He also played guard on the basketball team, which had only eight boys. In May 1939 FW graduated from high school and went to work on his father's farm.
In high school FW had met the love of his life and the woman he would eventually marry. She was a young lady from Albany, Texas, by the name of Vera Myers. On 14 February 1940 he and Vera were married at Cisco, Texas, by one of his uncles who just happened to be a Baptist minister and who FW called, "Preacher." Having a newly acquired wife, FW had to think of earning more money than farm work allowed so he got a job as the Assistant Manager of Perry Brothers 5 and 10 Cent store at Stephenville, Texas.
It was June 1941, and all 21-year old males were required to register with the Draft Board. Since FW had not attained the age of 21 the requirement did not apply to him. War was in full swing in Europe but the United States was not directly involved. In February 1942, the situation was different. We were at war with Japan and all 21-year old males were informed that they would have to be registered for the draft. This was the moment when FW decided he would not register. Instead, he volunteered for military service. Most of us who ended up in CID had joined the U.S. Army. FW was different; he joined the U.S. Coast Guard. First came boot training in New Orleans, Louisiana. Next came three months at a lifeboat station in Sabine Pass, Texas; three months of duty patrolling the Sabine River; and six weeks at the Port Security and Police School at Baltimore, Maryland. For the next two years FW performed duties as a police investigator and port security officer at Port Neches, Texas. Was the seed sown that would move FW towards becoming an investigator with the CID?
By now FW was a Boatswain Mate 2nd Class and was on his way to Boston, Massachusetts, for a six-months course at the Electrician Mates School where all of the instructors were from MIT. He returned to New Orleans, Louisiana, stayed there one month, and then moved to Orange, Texas, to work on an LST that was dry-docked while being prepared for action in the South Pacific. FW received training on how to operate the LST's bow doors and direct traffic. Before the LST was ready, Japan surrendered and WWII came to an end. FW was released from active duty, returned home and went back to work with Perry Brothers, but this time at the store in Midland, Texas. The manager was a lady with whom FW did not see eye-to-eye. Before long he departed for Alpine, Texas, and found employment as a manager with CG Morrison, a variety store chain. This employment also required that FW manage the warehouse that the other stores ordered from. He remained at this job until 1948, when he attended Cisco Junior College. He attended college during the day and at night worked as a city street sweeper with the City of Cisco, Texas, which he now called home.
FW did not know it at the time, but when he joined the Army Reserve at Cisco he was getting one step closer to CID. He received the associate degree in May 1950, and on 1 October 1950, as a result of the Korean "Police Action," was called to active duty and ordered to report to Camp Chaffee, Arkansas. By this time he had attained the rank of sergeant and in October 1950 was promoted to SFC (E-6).One day the administrative sergeant asked FW what he had done in the Coast Guard. When FW informed him that he had been an investigator, the administrative sergeant said: "Investigator? That's it." FW was sent to Lieutenant Ray Krebbs, commander of the 37th MP Detachment (Cl). He was interviewed, accepted, and officially transferred into that unit in January 1951. Because the 37th was just being formed, FW was a combination investigator, photographer and supply sergeant. Two other members of the unit were SFC Chuck Cowherd (operations officer) and MSgt Freeman B. Mariner. While at Camp Chaffee, FW never had a case he really felt was exciting, but he was young in CID and would get plenty of excitement later.
FW was accredited by OPMG in August 1951, and in April 1952 went to the CID School at Fort Gordon, Georgia. His CID class had 71 students, a little heavy I would say. Another student was a WAC named Lois E. Edwards. FW was told she was the first female to attend CID School.
Next came his first overseas assignment. On 1 December 1952 he received orders assigning him to the 3rd MP Det (Cl), Pusan, Korea, but the work was actually done on Yong-do Island. FW departed Fort Lawton, Washington, on Christmas Eve, 1952. Since he traveled by troop ship, which encountered high seas (and a lot of sea sickness, I bet), FW did not arrive in Korea until mid-January 1953. The commander of the 3rd was Captain Paul R. Elliott who in May 1953 promoted FW to MSgt. Back then, MSgt (E-7) was the highest enlisted rank in the army. Captain Elliott was replaced by Major J.F. McGowan in February 1954.
The highest enlisted rank came with added responsibilities; FW became the unit's investigator supervisor, a job that later became known as operations officer. FW continued in that position until about April 1954 when a new investigator arrived and took over the position. FW took charge of the Korean Investigation Section on a full-time basis. That section made a name for itself because of the number of cases solved at the Port of Pusan and the large amount of stolen property recovered. The Korean National Police must have liked FW because it appears he was the only CID Investigator that was made an Honorary Colonel and issued a badge of the office. FW departed Pusan, Korea, in June 1954 and headed to the 48th MP Det (Cl), at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.
FW's new commanding officer was Major Warren F. Lafferty and the operations officer was CWO Bud Rathjen. The unit had 17 investigators and the workload was not heavy. FW had no sooner arrived when Rathjen transferred to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, which left FW to take over as operations officer. FW had hardly warmed the chair when it was decided that he should attend Lie Detector Class #17, scheduled to start in August 1954 at Fort Gordon, Georgia. FW graduated from Lie Detector School and returned to the 48th where he resumed his job as operations officer, with additional duties as lie detector operator (later called polygraph operator and later still, polygraph examiner). Major Lafferty, the commanding officer, also headed up the 4th Army Pistol team, and for that reason was absent quite often, which left FW in charge. FW remained at Fort Bliss until October 1957 when it was once again time for him to go overseas.
This time he was lucky and got assigned to the 32nd MP Det (Cl), Stuttgart, Germany, the Land of Good Beer and Schnitzels. His duty station was the Ulm Sub Post, Neu Ulm. The officer-in-charge was CW4 Roy Britt. In addition were CW2 El-wyn H. Butler and George W. Stephens who held the rank of SP7, a rank that everyone hated. The unit's main area of responsibility was Combat Command A, 4th Armored Division, commanded by MG James B. Quill.
It was here that FW solved a nighttime hit and run accident that resulted in the death of a German citizen. The case almost resembled a jigsaw puzzle with FW being very good at solving it. He collected small parts broken from the vehicle and began making a methodical search of vehicles commonly in use near the accident scene. His search led to the barracks area of the Combat Command A, which was located about one half mile from the scene. He found a vehicle that was missing the broken parts. The vehicle owner, a PFC, would not confess, but with the parts and analyses made of them by the CID Crime Lab in Frankfurt, FW was able to send the case before a General Court Martial and obtain a conviction. FW received a letter of commendation from MG Quill, endorsed by MG Paul A. Gavin, Commanding General of Southern Area Command (or SACOM as we used to call it).
Since FW had two years of college under his belt, he decided in about October 1959 that he might as well submit his papers and become an officer and a gentleman. That very month he appeared before a board of officers and began the long wait.
About the middle of 1960 a rumor circulated that only four CID agents stationed in Germany would make warrant that year, and confident as ever, FW thought, "I wonder who the other three will be." In December his confidence was confirmed when he received orders informing him that he was to be promoted to Warrant Officer. The other three successful applicants were Donald J. Presson, Bob Brisentine and Joseph Keough. On 3 October 1960 each raised his right hand and was sworn in.
Soon after, FW received orders assigning him to the 46th MP Det (Cl), Sandia Base, New Mexico, where as a brand spanking new warrant officer he assumed duties as officer-in-charge. The 46th MP Det (Cl) supported the Mercury Test site in Nevada, and other defense atomic agencies in and around New Mexico.
While at the 46th, FW applied for Operation Bootstrap, a program that allowed officers with college credits to attend the University of Omaha to complete requirements for award of the baccalaureate degree. But FW was told that the program was for commissioned officers only. He disagreed with the interpretation and made it known. His insistence must have worked because in May 1962 the main headline of the Army Times read, "WO BOOTSTRAP" and the accompanying article said that Operation Bootstrap was open to warrant officers. FW immediately applied and in July or August of 1963 he received a call from OPMG informing him that he was accepted and that the PMG was proud that a CID agent would be the first warrant officer to enter the program. FW received his degree on 1 June 1964.
When he returned from Omaha it was off to the Presidio of Monterey Language School to learn Portuguese. In January 1965 he reported to the 550th MP Det (Cl), 8th Special Forces (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, Special Action Force, Fort Gulick, Canal Zone, Panama. His job was translating lesson plans from English to Portuguese. Brazil, being the only South American country speaking Portuguese, wanted no part of training offered by the U.S. military. The prospect for FW was to move into Central and South America to teach military tactics and aid local police forces. This was not what FW had in mind so he managed a transfer to the PMO, United States Army Southern Command (USARSO), where CW4 Mel Williams was the CID operations officer. Not long after, Williams departed, and FW took the job. In May 1968 FW left Panama and arrived at Long Binh, Vietnam.
The assignment placed him at the USAF base at Tuy Hoa but he did not remain there very long because on Thanksgiving Day he became the operations officer at Det D, 8th MP Gp (Cl) in Saigon. The commander was LTC Frank Schaefer. Here FW would acquire a nickname. There were about 15 investigators assigned to the office and every day around 1700 hours they would depart and not return. FW had a pile of cases on his desk and would work alone late into the night. After a week of this he called a meeting and informed the investigators that since there were about 350 open cases, everyone would go to eat at 1700 hours and return to the office at 1900 hours to work on the "old dogs" that remained open. Initially, the investigators had negative thoughts about their chief. A few days later, FW arrived at work and found a sign above his office door that read, "The Bear's Den." FW didn't say a word. As time went along, the "old dogs" were cleared. No one ever said "Bear" to FW's face, although he heard it said out of his sight. As time passed, the name became an endearing one and the investigators started calling him "The Bear." When FW was getting ready to depart Vietnam, Bill McCoy from the 18th MP Gp presented him with a coolie hat that had "The Bear" painted on it.
FW's next assignment was Det D, 4th MP Gp (Cl), Fort Sam Houston, Texas. When he arrived there in July 1969 he had no way of knowing that it would be his last assignment. The commander was CW4 Jack Mullis and the operations officer was CW3 Barney Bishop, who was in the process of retiring. FW took over Bishop's job, and then in January 1970 he became commander when Mullis retired. CW3 Frank Traficante temporarily took over the operations officer position until CW3 Bob Buckles arrived.
The end of FW's military career came during September 1971 when he was hospitalized with heart problems. In October 1971 the doctors informed him that he was no longer fit for military service and would be medically retired. He was transferred to the Medical Holding Detachment and on 30 June 1972 retired at the ripe young age of 51, holding the grade of CW4 with 28 years of military service. Since then "The Bear" has occupied his time playing golf.
Wayne McNeely remembers when FW arrived at Fort Sam Houston. Because FW was a left-handed golfer, Wayne and others called him "Leftie." Wayne said of FW, "Burkman came with many years experience, what we all liked about him was that he gave us plenty of rope to complete our investigations." In other words he trusted the agents' competence and he backed them 100 percent. Wayne added: "Leftie always offered constructive criticism, had a kind way of working with younger agents and CID/MPI teams, and was an individual greatly appreciated by all the office workers." Wayne concluded: "Leftie was a well respected CID boss, and is respected in the CID family today. He is still very active and sharp as a tack!"
CIDAA member Edward Wilusz made the following comments: "My family and I arrived in Panama during September 1967, and FW Burkman was the operations officer. One of the outstanding traits of FW was his compassion for others. Shortly after our arrival my oldest brother died. Due to having just arrived and my wife being pregnant, we were unable to leave Panama. FW and Vera Burkman, joined by Veryl (a fellow agent now deceased) and Helen Warford, visited with us and showed great compassion and sympathy. FW also was a forgiving person because during a CID party some of the agents threw him into the swimming pool, clothes and all, causing him to hurt his back. Although he was hurting, he took it in good humor and did not carry a grudge. He was a good operations officer and is a very caring individual to this day."
CIDAA member George Luketic commented: "I worked for FW Burkman at Fort Sam Houston from about July 1969 to about June 1971. FW was not only a top-notch agent, but one of the best operations officers. He displayed great knowledge in the investigative field and was never too busy to help his agents. He was highly respected by his agents, the local Provost Marshal, and the officers and NCOs of the 4th MP Gp (Cl), including Colonel Dubois the Group Commander."
Colonel (Retired) Keith F. DuBois said the following: "FW Burkman was one of finest agents in charge of a detachment in my Group. I always found him to be thoughtful, a reliable individual, who did a great job for me. He always kept me informed and up to date on matters pertaining to his detachment. He always conveyed his opinions to me, reflecting an intelligent judgment. I considered him an asset to my command. He was an outstanding detachment commander and person, liked and respected by his superiors and his subordinates."
FW Burkman and his wife Vera have four children, two daughters and two sons. Their youngest son, Jerry Lynn Burkman, resides with them in San Antonio, Texas, which is a real blessing to them because he does the cooking, laundry and cleaning.
I thought FW Burkman was someone you should know, Hubert "Herb" Marlow
| Frank W. Burkman receiving an honor from the Korean National Police
"As reflected in the May 2006 CIDAA Newsletter"
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