Lloyd Leslie Burke
Engagements: • World War II (1941 - 1945)• Korean War (1950 - 1953)• Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)
Lloyd Leslie "Scooter" Burke
Lloyd L. Burke was born in Tichnor, AR, on 29 September 1924.
In 1943, he was eighteen years old when he dropped out of Henderson State College (now Henderson State University) in Arkansas. He joined the U.S. Army at Stuttgart, AR, and served two years with the combat engineers in Italy during World War II. Along the way, he picked up the nickname, Scooter. After being discharged, he joined the ROTC when he returned to Henderson State College. In 1950, he graduated as a Distinguished Military Graduate. After accepting his commission, he was dispatched to Korea five months later.
Hill 200 - Korea
In Korea, Burke was the leader of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment. When Chinese forces crossed the Yalu River, Burke managed to lead his platoon to safety. As a result of his action, he was awarded the Silver Star Medal, Distinguished Service Cross, and two Purple Hearts.
Burke's tour of duty was almost over in October 1951. At the time, Burke was at the rear of his regiment. He had a plane ticket in his pocket and was eager to see his wife and infant son. Two miles away, Burke's company was attempting to cross the Yokkok-chon River. The company was hindered by a large and well-entrenched Chinese force on Hill 200. The battle raged for days as the 2nd Battalion's attacks were constantly being repelled. At first, Lieutenant Burke kept up with the reports. Eventually, he could no longer tolerate what was going on and decided to enter the front lines. As he himself stated, "I couldn't see leaving my guys up there without trying to do something."
When Burke was at the base of Hill 200, he was shocked to see that his company's strength had been reduced to thirty-five traumatized survivors. Burke described the condition of his company clearly: "These men were completely beat. They lay huddled in foxholes, unable to move. They all had the thousand-yard stare of men who'd seen too much fighting, too much death." Burke dragged up a 57mm recoilless rifle and shot three rounds at the closest enemy bunker. The bunker itself was a wooden-fronted structure covering a cave, which was dug into the overall hillside. The Chinese attacked American troops by hurling grenades from their trenches. Burke aimed his M1 rifle at the trench line and shot at every Chinese soldier that rose to throw a grenade. Unfortunately, the grenades were still being thrown. After having used an eight-round clip, Burke decided to take more drastic measures. As he recalled, "I considered myself a pretty fair shot, but this was getting ridiculous. I had to do something."
Burke laid down his rifle, took a grenade, and ran approximately thirty yards to the Chinese trench line. He avoided enemy fire by huddling at the base of a two-feet-high dirt berm. When the Chinese briefly stopped firing, Burke jumped into a trench with a pistol in one hand and a grenade in the other. He shot five or six Chinese soldiers in the forehead. Burke also fired at two Chinese soldiers from further down the trench. Afterwards, he threw his grenade in their direction, jumped out of the trench, and placed himself against the dirt berm. The Chinese were aware of Burke's location and began throwing grenades at his position. Most of the grenades rolled down the hill and harmlessly exploded but some of them did explode near Burke. Burke managed to catch three of the grenades and toss them back at the Chinese. At the same time, troops from Burke's company were throwing grenades, but some of them didn't reach their Chinese targets and exploded close to Burke's location.
Burke abandoned the dirt berm by crawling off to the side where he found cover in a gully. The gully itself ended further up Hill 200 at a Korean burial mound. After edging his way up the hill, Burke peeked over the top of the burial mound. He saw the main Chinese trench, which was about 100 yards from his position. The trench was covered in enfilade, curved around the hill and contained many Chinese troops. Surprisingly, some of the Chinese soldiers were sitting, talking, and laughing, while other units were throwing grenades and firing mortars. Burke went down the gully to Company G's position and told Sergeant Arthur Foster, the senior NCO, "Get'em ready to attack when I give you the signal!" Burke then dragged the last working Browning model 1919 machine gun, along with three cans of ammunition, back up the hill. On top of the burial mound, he set up his tripod, mounted his machine gun, set the screw to free traverse, and prepared his 250-round ammunition box. He began firing at the nearest part of the Chinese trench were the mortars were located. After Burke shot at all of the Chinese mortar squads, he then fired on a machine gun emplacement. Afterwards, Burke fired up and down the trench with the Chinese too shocked to react. Eventually, the Chinese fled down the trench in a panic. Burke continued firing until his Browning jammed. While he tried to clear his weapon, a Chinese soldier started throwing grenades at his position. Burke not only ignored the grenades, he also ignored the grenade fragments that tore open the back of his hand. Eventually, Burke was able to clear his weapon and kill the Chinese grenadier.
Meanwhile, Sergeant Foster was leading a small group to Burke's location and was summoned by Burke to provide extra firepower. Burke and company were convinced that they were under siege from a full-sized force instead of a few adamant skirmishers. As the Chinese retreated, Burke wrapped his field jacket around the Browning's hot barrel sleeve and tore the 31-pound weapon off its tripod. He wrapped the ammunition belt around his body and walked towards the trench, firing upon retreating soldiers. Naturally, Sergeant Foster and his men followed Burke. When Burke depleted his Browning ammunition, he used his .45 automatic and grenades to clear out bunkers. At Hill 200, Burke managed to kill over one-hundred men, decimate two mortar emplacements, and three machine-gun nests.
Burke also served during the Vietnam War. Lieutenant Colonel Lloyd L. "Scooter" Burke was the commander of the 2d Battalion, 16th Infantry. At Bien Hoa on 22 July 1965, Army Engineers bulldozed an area near the 2d Brigade's base camp and uncovered a Viet Cong sniper's position. Burke commandeered a helicopter and attempted to capture the VC as he fled.
The sniper shot down Burke's helicopter. MACV evacuated Burke to the United States as a result of his serious wounds, which he recounted in a letter to Major General Jonathan O. Seaman, Commanding General of the 1st Infantry Division: "A rundown of my wounds reveals a hole in my right ankle, [a] hole in my left foot, a chunk of meat out of the left calf about as big as your fist and a compound fracture of the left tibia. Moving up the body my left index finger is gone, [there is] a big gash in my left thumb, [and] a badly bruised left hand. A hole in my right cheek about as big as your thumb and about 1 inch deep. That piece severed the nerve in my cheek causing the right part of my upper lip to be dead. [I have] superficial shrapnel holes in the face, head, arms, and chest. I'm told the flax [flak] jacket saved my life. It's pretty well chewed up."
Lieutenant Colonel Richard P. Clark, Jr., U.S. Army Transportation Corps, served as Chief, Movements Branch, Transportation Division, J-4, MACV, from June 1965 to May 1966. On 24 July 1965, Clark made this entry in his diary: "Scooter Burke was wounded today. [Burke was actually wounded on 22 July] He's a Medal of Honor winner from Korea, in 1951. I've known him for a long time, and he's just crazy enough to get himself killed. It's a real good thing he got wounded and is being evacuated, because he takes such needless risks that sooner or later he would have been killed. He had no business being where he was and doing what he was doing when he got wounded. That's lieutenant's work."
After the Wars
After the Vietnam War, Burke served in Germany. He also served as the U.S. Army's liaison to the United States House of Representatives for 11 years. Burke retired from the U.S. Army in 1978, with the rank of full Colonel, after serving thirty-five years and in three wars.
After he retired, he was lobbyist for the American Trial Lawyers Association and Sperry Rand Corp. Later he worked to establish the Korean War Veterans Memorial and participated in the dedication on the Mall.
He was national president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, a director of Messiah United Methodist Church in Springfield and a member of the Retired Officers Association, First Division Association, Democratic Club, Army Navy Club and Army Navy Country Club.
Colonel Burke's wartime exploits were featured in an episode of the A&E television series "Heroes" a decade ago.
Medal of Honor
For his actions on Hill 200 in Korea, Lloyd L. Burke was awarded the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony on 11 April 1952.
Place and date of action: Near Chong-dong, Korea, 28 October 1951
1st Lt. Burke, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and outstanding courage above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. Intense enemy fire had pinned down leading elements of his company committed to secure commanding ground when 1st Lt. Burke left the command post to rally and urge the men to follow him toward 3 bunkers impeding the advance. Dashing to an exposed vantage point he threw several grenades at the bunkers, then, returning for an Ml rifle and adapter, he made a lone assault, wiping out the position and killing the crew. Closing on the center bunker he lobbed grenades through the opening and, with his pistol, killed 3 of its occupants attempting to surround him. Ordering his men forward he charged the third emplacement, catching several grenades in midair and hurling them back at the enemy. Inspired by his display of valor his men stormed forward, overran the hostile position, but were again pinned down by increased fire. Securing a light machine gun and 3 boxes of ammunition, 1st Lt. Burke dashed through the impact area to an open knoll, set up his gun and poured a crippling fire into the ranks of the enemy, killing approximately 75. Although wounded, he ordered more ammunition, reloading and destroying 2 mortar emplacements and a machine gun position with his accurate fire. Cradling the weapon in his arms he then led his men forward, killing some 25 more of the retreating enemy and securing the objective. 1st Lt. Burke's heroic action and daring exploits inspired his small force of 35 troops. His unflinching courage and outstanding leadership reflect the highest credit upon himself, the infantry, and the U.S. Army.
Other Military Medals and Awards
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Burke received the following medals and awards:
Distinguished Service Cross
Death and Burial
According to his family, Lloyd L. Burke died of a heart attack in his sleep on 1 June 1999, at his home in Hot Springs, AR. He had just returned from ceremonies in Indianapolis, IN, on Memorial Day weekend, where Medal of Honor winners were recognized.
Burke's first marriage, to Virginia Fletcher Burke, ended in divorce. His second wife, Maxine Hardin Burke, died in the early 1990s. Survivors include three children from his first marriage, John Gary Burke, Leslie Ann Burke and Lloyd Douglas Burke, all of Springfield; three sisters; and five grandchildren.
He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, with full military honors. His grave is located in section 7A, grave 155, map Grid U-23.5.
When this old warrior went down at last, heroes mourned.
It was a lovely day in June when they put the box of ashes that was Lloyd Burke into the sunlit grave below the hill crowned by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.
One by one each laid a white rose alongside the little box, six aging men, five with blue ribbons around their necks, one with a blue rosette in his lapel -- the decorations of the bravest of the brave, Congressional Medals of Honor.
Burke was one of them, a legend even to them, and yet strangely, to the people of the land he served, he was nobody.
Who, this day, outside of his family and this band of brothers, knew the name, Lloyd Burke? What he did was never on television, not much in newspapers after passing mentions. Television couldn't have been there. If it had, it couldn't have shown the things he did.
Burke caught hand grenades in midair and threw them back. It's in the citations. He killed people. He was just about the best at that, when he had to be. In one day in the Korean War, he, single-handedly to save his men, slew a hundred foe. He was as honored for this and for other actions as were Alvin York in World War I and Audie Murphy in World War II. He was that rarest of soldiers, rising from private to sergeant in WW II, a lieutenant in Korea, a colonel in Vietnam, earning the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with two clusters, five Purple Hearts, four Army Commendations, the Korean Medal of Honor, the Vietnam Cross.
A three-war hero. A nobody.
How many, after all, were aware? The irony of Burke's burial in times like these was palpable. The day they put his remains in the hallowed ground, America appeared to be finishing a war, a war with this casualty count: enemies 5,000, our boys 0. There was not a man on our side such as Burke in Kosovo. It was not his kind of war.
America didn't want the risks it takes to make a hero of his sort. The polls showed that. The people wanted a war without losses. The president, Congress and the Pentagon made it plain the original element of warfare -- the foot soldier -- was a weapon of last resort.
"No more Vietnams" is the watchword of today's leaders. This could mean, if they can avoid the messy conflicts, no more legends like the man who came out of Tichnor, Arkansas, population then 75, nicknamed "Scooter," and slogged his way up the ranks to head of congressional liaison for the Army on the merit of uncommon character.
There were men with empty sleeves at Burke's funeral, men who limped. There were old men with old wounds who eased into the pews of Old Chapel at Fort Myers on the edge of Arlington. They wore little bars in their civilian suit lapels, denoting this and that award for valor. Some wiped at wet eyes as some of his family sobbed.
All chuckled, once, when his daughter Leslie, who gave his eulogy in a breaking voice, told how he was a wonderful father -- not only to her but to every child he came across -- always organizing games for neighborhood children and always making up the rules as he went along so he could be the quarterback no matter which side had the ball, and she ended up confessing, "He never wore a seat belt."
A company of the tall soldiers of the Old Guard led the procession to the grave, behind a horse-drawn caisson and a riderless horse with boots reversed in the stirrups, symbol of the fallen hero. There were active-duty officers of high rank, for if generals wanted no more wars of the kind Burke fought, they surely wanted how he fought remembered.
The passage in the funeral program taken from Burke's Medal of Honor citation read like an account of deeds of battle of yore -- anachronistic now.
It was October 28, 1951, Chong-dong, Korea, and Burke's platoon, under attack, outnumbered, exhausted, was out of fight. Except Burke:
"Dashing to an exposed vantage point he threw several grenades at the bunkers, then, returning for an M1 rifle, he made a lone assault, wiping out the position and killing the crew. Closing on the center bunker he lobbed grenades through the opening and, with his pistol, killed three of its occupants attempting to surround him. Ordering his men forward he charged the third emplacement, catching several grenades in midair and hurling them back at the enemy.
"... Securing a light machine gun and three boxes of ammunition, 1st Lt. Burke dashed through the impact area to an open knoll, set up his gun and poured a crippling fire into the ranks of the enemy, killing approximately 75. Although wounded, he ordered more ammunition, reloading and destroying two mortar emplacements and a machine gun position with his accurate fire. Cradling the weapons in his arms, he then led his men forward, killing some 25 more of the retreating enemy and securing the objective."
One there to bury Burke, another with a Medal of Honor, another retired Colonel, was a Marine, Barney Barnum, who wanted it understood that he and Burke had not, actually, won their medals.
"Recipient," he said, "not winner. You go out to win ball games. You don't go out to win awards. That's a big distinction. People who got awards for actions they did, they did not do it for the national command authority, for apple pie and the flag. You did it because you didn't want to let down the guy on the right and the guy on the left. To protect a buddy, you did things."
The last time Barnum saw Burke alive was just weeks before, at the dedication of the Medal of Honor Memorial in Indianapolis on Memorial Day. There were 97 recipients of the nation's highest award at the ceremony. Barnum was with them there for the same reasons he and some of his peers were back together so soon again paying respects to Burke, dead now at 74.
"I think our presence is to say, 'Hey, you are enjoying the future because of the past.' "
So there he was, among the graying mourners, when another with two stars on each shoulder walked up to a man wearing the blue rosette, saluted him first, as even the highest officers do for such a one, smiled wistfully, and said, "Scooter Burke, a great American."
But who, beyond the heroes, knew?
|Honoree ID: 89||Created by: MHOH|