BURTON, JAMES EDWARD, JR
BURTON, JAMES EDWARD, JR
Rank / Branch:
WO1, U. S. ARMY
101ST AIRBOURNE DIVI
Date of Birth:
Awards & Decorations:
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JAMES EDWARD BURTON, JR., WARRANT OFFICER ONE, U.S. ARMY, MIDLAND, MIDLAND COUNTY, TEXAS
AWARDS AND DECORATIONS
Army Aviator Wings, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Air Medal with 8 OLC, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal
James was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His family moved often as his father was career military officer with the U.S. Air Force. He was born to Gayle Jean Kenivil and James Edward Burton, Sr. He had two older sisters, Bette and Patty. He graduated from high school in Alexandria, Virginia, Class of 1966 as his father was stationed at the Pentagon at the time.
After high school, he attended Colorado State University and worked for the Atlantic Bell Telephone Company.. He wanted to fly with the Air Force, but needed a college degree, so he decided to join the Army to take advantage of the Warrant Officer Helicopter Training Program. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in March of 1968. He completed his basic training at Fort Polk, Louisiana and the Primary Helicopter Training at Fort Wolters, Texas. While at Fort Wolters, he met his wife to be, Brenda J. Pritchard of Midland, Texas. Brenda was a student at Texas Women's University in Denton, Texas, about 50 miles from Fort Wolters. They dated for three months and decided to marry. They married March 21, 1969 in Midland, Texas during the Easter Holidays, while he was a student at Fort Rucker, Alabama. He completed his secondary flight training, May 1, 1969 and was commissioned a Warrant Officer One.
Wedding Picture in Midland, Texas March 1968
He and Brenda took a 30 day leave before he was due to report for travel to Vietnam. He began his tour in Vietnam on June 1, 1969 and was assigned as a pilot with B Company, 158th Assault Helicopter Battalion (Lancers), 101st Airbourne Division. After eight months in country, he met Brenda in Hawaii for R&R, in the first week of February 1970. He told Brenda that he would not live through Vietnam and told her how he wanted his funeral to be and where he wanted to be buried. Brenda was in shock.
On March 3, 1970, he was the pilot of UH-1H, tail number 68-15663. According to Dennis Forster, who was the crew chief of the aircraft, "the mission was to land ARVN troops in an abandoned fire support base mear the DMZ. Our aircraft had eight ARVN's on board. We were the lead ship and as we approached the LZ, Cobra's had been prepping the area. There were several secondary explosions observed and we knew the area was heavily booby trapped. As we made our approach, we were firing downward to detonate any explosive devices that might have hindered our landing. When we landed , four ARVN's each went out each side. As this was going on, we started to receive fire from all four sides. This was the first mission we had flown with the co-pilot as he was new in country. I was spraying the area with M-60 fire and I kept wondering why we were not trying to leave the LZ and I heard the gunner screaming that he had been hit and then I heard WO Burton state over the intercom that he had been shot. I looked over and saw WO Burton's head leaning back and he was facing upward. I could see the co-pilot fighting to get control of the helicopter. When WO1 Burton was shot, his left had wedged between the collective and the side of the ship and thus the co-pilot was having trouble getting the aircraft airborne as WO Burton's feet were on the foot pedals as well. But the co-pilot finally succeeded and I didn't think we were going to make it back and would have to crash land. We almost went down several times. A cobra came along side and radioed for us to slow down. Our gages had been shot out and we not aware of the air speed. The helicopter was shacking very badly. I was trying to tend to the gunner and WO Burton. The co-pilot was finally able to get the aircraft back to Quang Tri and we landed with difficulty. I was taken to triage along with the gunner and WO Burton. WO Burton had been declared dead by the time they began to work on me. I was unhurt, but remember being next to WO Burton, when they said he was gone." A fellow pilot indicated that the flight surgeon told them that the wound WO Burton had sustained would have been very painful and would have been fatal within 40 seconds. The wound had entered the left side of his chest and had penetrated his heart.
James in Vietnam-1970
WO1 Burton was buried with full military honors in the Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs. He was survived by his wife of Midland, Texas and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. James E. Burton, Sr of Colorado Springs, and by his sisters, Bette Spencer of Montgomery, Colorado and Patty Wood of Jacksonville, Florida.
Evergreen Cemetery, Colorado Springs, Colorado