Col. Lloyd Burke, 74, Medal of Honor Winner

 

By Richard Goldstein, , June 7,1999

 

Col. Lloyd Burke, who won the Medal of Honor in the Korean War for killing 100 Chinese communist soldiers in a five-and-a-half-hour battle to capture a hill, died on Tuesday, June 1, 1999, at his home in Hot Springs, Ark. He was 74.

Burke died in his sleep, his family said, after he returned from ceremonies in Indianapolis on Memorial Day weekend, in which Medal of Honor winners were recognized.

During the last week of October 1951, Burke, then a lieutenant with the 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, was preparing to return to the United States after 13 months of combat in the Korean War. He had received the Distinguished Service Cross for leading his company through a roadblock in November 1950 when Chinese forces poured into North Korea across the Yalu River. He had also won a Bronze Star and earned two Purple Hearts.

He was at a command post while U.S. troops were trying to dislodge Chinese forces from Hill 200 near Seoul, the capital of South Korea. When the effort bogged down amid heavy casualties, Burke headed into the thick of the action, 300 Chinese defending the hill against 35 weary American soldiers.

"These men were completely beat," he recalled later. "They lay huddled in foxholes, unable to move."

Burke moved ahead of his troops, firing a rifle and throwing grenades. Chinese soldiers hurled grenades at him, but he caught three and threw them back. He picked up a machine gun and fired into an enemy trench, clearing out mortar and machine-gun positions.

The Chinese began to flee, but when Burke's machine gun jammed, a soldier tossed a grenade that sent shrapnel into the back of his hand. Burke unjammed his machine gun, killed that man and continued to fire as the remnants of his company, inspired by his efforts, began to fight again. When he ran out of machine-gun ammunition, he used a pistol and grenades to kill enemy stragglers.

The bodies of 250 Chinese soldiers were found -- 100 of them killed by Burke -- after the hill was taken.

Burke finally went home to his wife, Virginia, and an 18-month-old son. On April 11, 1952, President Harry S. Truman presented him with the Medal of Honor at the White House.

Burke, a native of Tichnor, Ark., served in Italy during World War II as a sergeant in the combat engineers. After his discharge, he resumed studies at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Ark.

After graduating from college, he re-enlisted in the Army in 1950 with a lieutenant's commission. He remained in the military after the Korean War and arrived in South Vietnam in July 1965, as a battalion commander in the 1st Infantry Division. On his 10th day in combat, he was hit by a Viet Cong grenade while riding in a helicopter near Bien Hoa. He suffered a fractured left leg and shrapnel wounds, ending his career as a combat officer.

He was the Army's chief liaison to the House of Representatives from 1967 to 1978, and then retired as a colonel.

His first marriage ended in divorce; his second wife, Maxine Hardin Burke, died.

He is survived by two sons, Gary and Douglas, and a daughter, Leslie Ann Burke, all of Springfield, Va.; three sisters, Donna Eddins and Dorothy Burke, of Hot Springs; and Betty Lorince, of Stuttgart, Ark.; a stepson, Michael Hardin, of Helena, Ark.; a stepdaughter, Pam Hardin Hughes, of New Hampshire, and five grandchildren.

Burke, a former president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, participated in fund raising for the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington. When the memorial was dedicated in July 1995, President Clinton praised Burke, a guest of honor at the ceremonies, for having displayed "extraordinary courage and leadership" in battle.

 


 

 

Medal of Honor

 

BURKE, LLOYD L.

Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Company G, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.

 

Place and date: Near Chong-dong, Korea, 28 October 1951.

 

Entered service at: Stuttgart, Ark.

 

Born: 29 September 1924, Tichnor, Ark.

 

G.O. No.: 43.

 

Citation:

 

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 machinegun 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 machinegun 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.


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© 1999 by Neil Mishalov