Thomas Charles BurkeFirst Lieutenant
ADVISORY TEAM 7, MACV ADVISORS
Army of the United States
02 September 1947 - 12 February 1970
Bayport, New York
Panel 14W Line 130
The database page for Thomas Charles Burke
An Officer Candidate School classmate and one of the best of friends.
From a friend and military classmate,
I didnít know Tom Burke very long. I was an advisor with the 8th Regiment of the 5th Division (ARVN) and I believe he was assigned to one of our Battalions (ARVN). On the day of his death, he and a sergeant (also an advisor) went by jeep to check on one of the units in his battalion. On the way back to Ben Cat, where our regiment was headquartered at the time, Lt. Burke decided to return by a road that was a shorter route back but was not "secured" and had not been swept for land mines. They had been advised by the ARVN commander they had visited not to travel by that road, but Lt. Burke, as I remember, was the adventurous type and not afraid to take a chance. Unfortunately, the jeep hit a mine in the road and the result was the death of both Lt. Burke and the sergeant (whose name I do not remember).
There was an ARVN unit in the vicinity of the explosion and we were promptly notified of the accident through the ARVN channels. We were in hopes that they had not been killed and our Regimental Senior Advisor, Lt. Col. Price, was anxious of getting to them. We tried to get a helicopter from the American unit located at Lai Khe but one was not available for our use at the particular time. So, Lt. Col. Price decided to go by jeep, being accompanied by two or three other jeeps of ARVN troops because we didnít know what the VC situation was at the location of the accident. The ARVN had reported sighting VC in the area and for all we knew at the time, it could have been an ambush. The ARVN were not in favor of going, but Lt. Col. Price insisted very strongly and the ARVN Regimental commander finally relented to sending some troops with Lt. Col. Price who insisted that he was going to Lt. Burke, either with or without an escort. Even though it had been reported by the ARVN that he and the sergeant were dead, we were still hoping the ARVN in that area were just too afraid to actually go check on them and they could maybe still be alive.
I, the Assistant Regimental Advisor, was getting ready to go with Lt. Col. Price, but he ordered me to stay at headquarters in case they got into trouble so I could coordinate a rescue mission to help them. It was mid-afternoon already and they did not have too many hours before dark. It was several miles away and Lt. Col. Price want to get out there and back before dark, not wanting to spend the night out there because of the threat of VC activity in the area. It seemed like a long time at the time, but Lt. Col. Price and his escort probably got under way in about 30 minutes after we received the message of the explosion.
After an hour or so, Lt. Col. Price radioed back that he had gotten to Lt. Burke, but discovered that they were in fact dead, having been killed by the explosion and there was no sign of any VC ambush or of any of them having been around the accident site. They recovered the bodies and rapidly returned to Ben Cat, getting back just before dark.
We lost a fine young man in Lt. Burke. He was a good officer, showing great promise and would have done well as an Army officer had he lived. It really hurt us to lose him, but he simply took too great a risk and the result was disastrous. But, really, we all, from time to time and many times, took risks in the execution of our duties but we were just lucky and Lt. Burke was not so lucky that one time. Lt. Col. Price could have hit a mine, also, and he was very aware of that possibility, but he was going to get to Lt. Burke if at all possible and bring him back before dark and before the VC got to him, if they had not already done so.
God bless Tom Burke. I didnít know him long, but I knew him as a fine, brave young man. I am so sorry he did not live to be an old man and have grandchildren as I have been so fortunate.
From a friend,
A Note from The Virtual WallIt seems likely the sergeant with 1LT Burke was Staff Sergeant William J. Montague of Valley Stream, NY. 1LT Burke's casualty record is coded for Binh Duong Province, while SSG Montague's casualty record is coded for the adjacent Tay Ninh Province - but SSG Montague's death was caused by a mine as described by Mr. Mixon above.
The point-of-contact for this memorial is|
a friend and military classmate,
William D. Steen
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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 23 Sep 2002
Last updated 11/14/2006