John Peter Burgess

United States Marine Corps
24 December 1947 - 28 September 1967
Stow, Ohio
Panel 27E Line 023



Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for John Peter Burgess

06 Aug 2005

Pete Burgess is one of seven men from the Akron suburb of Stow, Ohio to be killed in action in Vietnam. Pete served as a Private in the United States Marine Corps and held the most common and most hazardous military occupation - Rifleman.

Pete was not the kind of guy you would normally think of when the word "Marine" was used. In high school, he wasn't physically large nor was he intimidating; his demeanor was more smiling than serious; he was more soft-spoken than boisterous. He didn't play sports and merely tolerated gym class. Those who didn't know him might look at him and quickly categorize him as a geek. Those who knew him saw him as a guy with a sense of humor who was talented and compassionate.

High school classmate Kaye Johnson Meyer remembers those traits in Pete:

"Pete and I were in choir together, I was an alto and he was a tenor so he sat right behind me, and aggravated the hell out of me most days. But one day everyone sitting around us was talking about Ghoulardi (the host of a Friday midnight horror film show on Cleveland TV) and I in my innocent ways at that time said I had never seen it because I couldn't stay up that late. Well, you can imagine the horror and jokes of everyone that I was such a baby I couldn't stay up late enough to see Ghoulardi. So I just quietly sat there and contributed nothing else to conversation going on around me. A little while later Pete leaned forward and put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed it and whispered to me that he had never seen it either because he couldn't stay awake that late either. I've never forgotten his kindness that day."

Pete didn't start off life with a lot going for him. Lifelong friend Gigi Gleghorn Montgomery recalled that her mother and Pete's mother were good friends. She learned that Pete's birth father was an American GI stationed in Germany. His mother was an Austrian national who worked for the Army. Following Pete's birth in Vienna, his mother died and his father would have nothing to do with him.

John and Francis Burgess, a childless couple in Stow, heard about Pete through friends and adopted him. They loved him and gave him a life much different than the one he had been facing as an orphan in a war torn country.

Pete joined the Marine Corps Reserve in December 1966 but did not go to basic training until April 7, 1967, when he reported to Parris Island. Following basic training, Pete went to infantry training at Camp Lejeune. Pete was the Burgesses' only child and they hoped that he would not be sent to Vietnam. However, Vietnam was the destination for most Marine riflemen, and Pete was not exempt from going. After infantry training, Pete was given a 30-day leave before shipping out to Vietnam. It would be the last time Pete and his parents were together.

Pete arrived in Da Nang, Vietnam on Sept. 19, 1967 and was assigned to Fox Company of the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division in Quang Tri Province, an area of intense combat operations. Fox 2/9 was assigned to an outpost outside of Gio Linh. The outpost was an artillery firebase located about 1,500 meters south of the Demilitarized Zone that separated North and South Vietnam. Six months before his arrival, it had been the site of largest artillery battle waged between North Vietnamese and American forces.

On September 28th, Pete's unit was attacked while participating in "Operation Highrise" and he was killed by either artillery or rocket fire. He had been with his unit for only eight days and was the only person killed in the attack. He was one of 29 Marines from the 2/9 to be killed in September 1967.

At the time of Pete's death, he was the 106th Akron-area serviceman to be killed in Vietnam. Combat deaths had become so common in the area that the Akron Beacon Journal reported his death in only six sentences and ran it without his photograph. Pete was buried at Stow Cemetery on October 9th with full military honors.

For Pete's service in Vietnam, Francis and John Burgess were given an American flag, an official expression of gratitude for his sacrifice to his country, his medals, and a headstone for his grave.

Gigi, who is a nurse and helped care for Mrs. Burgess before her death, says that Mrs. Burgess never recovered from the grief of losing her son. Both John and Francis were proud of their son but that pride did not stop them from blaming the government for Pete's death. John died in 1982 with that bitterness still in his heart. Francis lived until 1992 and came to terms with her bitterness before dying. As for Gigi, she said "Pete and I were play buddies when we were little - I still miss him."

He is missed by all of his high school friends and classmates. May he rest in peace.

From a high school friend,
on behalf of the Stow High School Class of 1965,
Tim Butz

A Note from The Virtual Wall

In September 1967 the fire support base at Gio Linh was occupied by a composite artillery battalion made up of Army and USMC artillery batteries and by a rifle company for security, all under control of the 12th Marines. What happened at Gio Linh on 28 Sep 1967 can be put together through reference to several unit command chronologies.

According to the 2nd Bn, 9th Marines chronology Fox Company 2/9 was at Gio Linh providing a rifle security company for the artillery position. The 12th Marines' Situation Report which covers 28 Sep 1967 says that "Probably two misdirected 175 rounds landed in composite arty battalion area, resulting in 2 KIA, 3 WIA (2 medevacs)." And finally the 11th Engineers' command chronology contains the following entry: "28 Sept 1967: The Battalion S-3 driver was killed at Camp Hill (Gio Linh) at 1330H from friendly 175mm guns which were 400 mils off target."

Taken together, it is clear that in an accident of war a 175mm artillery battery firing in response to the enemy guns hitting Gio Linh placed two shells in the Gio Linh artillery position itself, killing two men and wounding three others. The two dead were

  • Pfc Willie F. Ashley, Crittenden, VA, Svc Co, 11th Engineers, and
  • Pvt John P. Burgess, Stow, OH, F Co, 2nd Bn, 9th Marines.

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
a high school friend,
Tim Butz

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 06 Aug 2005
Last updated 07/25/2006