Thursday, May 17, 2012

TFH 5/17: PFC Robert C. Burke, USMC

Robert Charles Burke was born on November 7, 1949 in Monticello, Illinois. At age 17, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on May 16, 1967. One year and one day later, this young Marine was a machine gunner with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 27th Marine Regiment fighting in Vietnam with the 1st Marine Division.

On May 17, 1968, 18-year old PFC Burke took it upon himself to charge and eliminate several well-fortified enemy positions so his unit's casualties could be evacuated. When his machine gun malfunctioned, he stripped a rifle and grenades from a wounded Marine and pressed the attack. After one of his comrades cleared his machine gun, he resumed firing from an exposed position until he was cut down by the enemies of liberty. His incredible courage was recognized with the posthumous award of the Medal of Honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for the Vietnam War (A-L):


Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps, Company I, 3d Battalion, 27th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein), FMF. Place and date: Southern Quang Nam Province Republic of Vietnam, 17 May 1968. Entered service at: Chicago, Ill. Born: 7 November 1949, Monticello, Ill. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty for service as a machine gunner with Company I. While on Operation ALLEN BROOK, Company I was approaching a dry river bed with a heavily wooded treeline that borders the hamlet of Le Nam (1), when they suddenly came under intense mortar, rocket propelled grenades, automatic weapons and small-arms fire from a large, well concealed enemy force which halted the company's advance and wounded several marines. Realizing that key points of resistance had to be eliminated to allow the units to advance and casualties to be evacuated, Pfc. Burke, without hesitation, seized his machine gun and launched a series of 1-man assaults against the fortified emplacements. As he aggressively maneuvered to the edge of the steep river bank, he delivered accurate suppressive fire upon several enemy bunkers, which enabled his comrades to advance and move the wounded marines to positions of relative safety. As he continued his combative actions, he located an opposing automatic weapons emplacement and poured intense fire into the position, killing 3 North Vietnamese soldiers as they attempted to flee. Pfc. Burke then fearlessly moved from one position to another, quelling the hostile fire until his weapon malfunctioned. Obtaining a casualty's rifle and hand grenades, he advanced further into the midst of the enemy fire in an assault against another pocket of resistance, killing 2 more of the enemy. Observing that a fellow marine had cleared his malfunctioning machine gun he grasped his weapon and moved into a dangerously exposed area and saturated the hostile treeline until he fell mortally wounded. Pfc. Burke's gallant actions upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Burke rests in peace at Monticello Cemetery in his hometown. All three battalions of the 27th Marine Regiment are currently inactive. 27th Marines parent unit, the 1st Marine Division, is headquartered at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California and is the ground combat element of the I Marine Expeditionary Force.

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