Editor’s note: World War II officially ended Sept. 2, 1945, when the Japanese signed surrender terms. We’re honoring the war’s area veterans over the next several months with these brief profiles.
Date of birth: Aug. 4, 1922
Dates of service: 1942 to 1949
Theater and location of service: China Burma India (CBI)
Rank: 2nd lieutenant
Unit and specialty: Buffalo Soldier 9th Cavalry
Lives in: Clovis
Veterans organizations: VFW 3015, American Legion 117
In his words: Serving in the 9th Cavalry unit of the Buffalo Soldiers, Ira Pottard was sent to CBI as both a cavalry soldier and a trained veterinarian. “I was soldier and a doctor (but) I was a soldier before a doctor,” he said.
The Buffalo Soldiers, segregated African American Cavalry units, were sent into undeveloped areas where horses were more able to traverse the terrain than vehicles. Traipsing through the jungles, Pottard recalled the environment often being the greatest enemy — hazards such as snakes and tigers threatening the lives of both horses and men.
Seeing to the needs of the horses, Pottard was a combat medic for the equine soldiers. “I took care of the sick and wounded. We treated the animals just like the humans. They pulled duty just like the regular soldiers,” he said. “You had a feeling for the animals. The animals came first — before you did. You put your animal to bed before you went to bed.”
Pottard said his first military horse was shot while he was riding him through a hostile area. “He fell down and caught my knee — he was dead before he hit the ground,” Pottard said.
Trapped under the weight, Pottard remained under his horse until his friends were able to come and help him. In the end his horse’s body served as a barricade for flying bullets.
After returning home from war, Pottard went on to serve an additional 10 years in the national guard.
World War II profiles are compiled by CNJ staff writer Sharna Johnson. Contact her at 763-6991 or by e-mail: