COLONEL LLOYD L. (SCOOTER) BURKE, (then First Lieutenant) U.S. Army, Company G, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, Near Chong-dong, Korea, 28 October 1951, 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 M1 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 midar 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.
By John Lang / Scripps Howard News Service, July 1999
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 f 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?
Nailing down COL Burke's awards is pretty tough. If I just use info on his Arlington headstone, the Silver Star falls off (but then again, so does his Vietnam service). I tried to glean as much info as possible from many sources including my childhood recollections of hanging out in his front yard w/him and his kids. I'm sure this page is not completely accurate and for that I apologize. I simply tried to capture as much as possible with the information I had.
This website lists him as the 28th most decorated Medal of Honor recipient of all time.
An event occurred on 22 July 1965 that graphically illustrated the kind of battle injuries awaiting soldiers in Vietnam. On that day a bulldozer clearing an area near the base camp turned up a sniper position. In the ensuing attempt to capture the fleeing Viet Cong, Lt. Col. Lloyd L. Burke, the 2d of the 16th Infantry commander flying overhead in his helicopter was shot down. As a result of injuries, Burke had to be evacuated and, eventually, returned to the United States. A later inventory by Burke himself bore sober witness to the cost of combat:
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.