A Brave Hero
I, along with millions of other Americans, honor your bravery and service to the United States.
Thank you for your service as an Unrestricted Line Officer (Helicopter Pilot.) I have family in Yonkers. It is important for us all to acknowledge the sacrifices of those like you who answered our nation's call. Please watch over America, it stills needs your courage and faithfulness. Rest in peace with the angels.
Remembering An American Hero
As an American, I would like to thank you for your service and for your sacrifice made on behalf of our wonderful country. The youth of today could gain much by learning of heroes such as yourself, men and women whose courage and heart can never be questioned.
May God allow you to read this, and may He allow me to someday shake your hand when I get to Heaven to personally thank you. May he also allow my father to find you and shake your hand now to say thank you; for America, and for those who love you.
With respect, and the best salute a civilian can muster for you, Sir
Crash Information on U.S. Army helicopter UH-1C tail number 66-00651
The mission of this helicopter was Command & Control and observation during a 'firefly' mission in the Province of Vinh Long. The crash occurred in the vicinity of the Vinh Long airfield in the early morning of the date of the incident. A firefly mission consisted of two gunships and a command and control helicopter. The C&C chopper would fly at approximately 2500 feet and release flares. The crew of the C&C helicopter included 1LT Paul S. Colvin (KIA), ENS James F. Burke Jr. (KIA), and SP4 Ernst Riley (KIA). A MACV advisor would be on board to coordinate the operation and be in contact with other advisors located throughout the province on the ground. The MACV advisor in this incident was CAPT Gustave F. Gudleske (KIA). We usually had our favorite 'hot' spots to visit every night, and then roamed the province as opportunities developed. About six of us on MACV Team 52 had a revolving roster for these missions. The gunships would fly at low altitude and look for enemy movements illuminated by the flares, firing upon targets of opportunity, or responding to outposts under sniper or other attack. These missions usually began between 9:00 and 10:00 in the evening and went until 2:00 AM with a refueling break midway. CAPT Guleske’s chopper was returning to the airfield after the last mission of the evening and encountered a violent thunderstorm just short of the runway. The aircraft went into inadvertent IFR flight. The pilot experienced vertigo and crashed, killing three crewmen and the MACV advisor. A fourth crewman, the gunner, survived the wreck. Severe turbulence was experienced with IFR conditions in the area when the helicopter crashed. The gunships had already landed safely, just avoiding the extreme conditions. (Reported in April 1998 by David A. Radin, MACV 1967, friend of Gudleske) [Taken from vhpa.org]
The Herald Statesman - Yonkers, NY - August 8, 1967
Ens. James Francis Burke Jr., USNR, 22, has become the 15th serviceman from Yonkers to die in the Vietnam war.
He was killed while returning from a night mission near Vinh Long in South Vietnam at 2:30 a.m., only eight miles from his home base.
Ens. Burke was copilot of a helicopter on a "searchlight" mission on the night of the fatal crash. It was raining heavily but details on the exact cause of death were lacking.
The Navy copter pilot had flown more than 35 missions in Vietnam since his assignment to the war area in May.
His home was at Chula Vista, Calif., where he lived with his wife, Judith, Ens. Burke's parents, Mr. and Mrs. James F. Burke Sr., live at 34 Juana St., Crestwood.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete. The only detail available is that his body is en route by air from Saigon.
Ens. Burke was born in the Bronx on Dec. 4, 1944. He was graduated from Annunciation Parochial school in Crestwood where his parents had moved. Later he was graduated from Mount St. Michael's Academy in the Bronx, and after two years at the Westchester Community College in Valhalla, he was accepted at the Pensacola Navy Flight School, Pensacola, Fla.
Ens. Burke and the former Judith Ann Sullivan of Yonkers were married in the church of the Annunciation, Crestwood, on Nov. 26, 1966.
Mrs. Burke is expecting her first child in January. She said she heard from her husband on July 29 from Vinh Long and that he had been assigned as pilot in the Army helicopter service.
The war is "something that just has to be done and we're all doing our best out here," was a statement that Mrs. Burke read from her husband's last letter.
Ens. Burke's first duty assignment in Vietnam was at Vung Tau. He was later transferred to Vinh Long, 60 miles southwest of Saigon in the Mekong Delta from where he flew rescue, attack and searchlight missions as a helicopter pilot.
It was reported that after the crash a huge ball of fire was sighted on the ground.
Mr. and Mrs. Burke have two other children, Sharon, a student at Marymount College in Tarrytown, and Timothy, who is in grade school.