Name: CPT Robert Gene Burlingham (posthumously promoted)
Status: Killed In Action from an incident on 10/06/1967 while performing the duty of Aircraft Commander.
Age at death: 25.2
Date of Birth: 08/06/1942
Home City: North Kingstown, RI
Service: MS branch of the regular component of the U.S. Army.
Unit: 45 MED
Major organization: other
Flight class: 66-14
Service: MS branch of the U.S. Army.
The Wall location: 27E-057
Short Summary: Registered pharmacist. As the result of injuries received while pilot of aircraft that crashed and burned. w/Porea, Trask, and Hoggatt
Aircraft: UH-1H tail number 66-16434
Call sign: Dustoff
Service number: OF103229
Country: South Vietnam
MOS: 1981 = 19 Rotary Wing Aviator (Unit Commander)
Primary cause: A/C Accident
Major attributing cause: aircraft connected not at sea
Compliment cause: weapons
Vehicle involved: helicopter
Position in vehicle: pilot
Started Tour: 07/17/1967
"Official" listing: helicopter air casualty - other aircrew
Length of service: 02
Location: Binh Duong Province III Corps.
Additional information about this casualty:
Dave McCarthy: Saluting an 'angel in the sky' 01:00 AM EDT on Friday, May 19, 2006 WARWICK -- Bishop Hendricken Vietnam Remembrance Ceremony pays homage to fallen N. Kingstown copter pilot Robert Burlingham of North Kingstown died in Vietnam on Oct. 6, 1967, while on a mission that only an angel would have taken. A desperate radio call had come into the 45th Air Ambulance Company from an infantry unit on the battlefield: one of its soldiers had been seriously wounded by an enemy mortar round and might not make it through the night. But with monsoon-like rain and winds that night, no medevac (medical evacuation) helicopters were flying. Captain Burlingham, a medevac pilot, decided he would try to reach the wounded soldier if the three members of his crew were up for it. This was not a night to give orders, but rather to seek volunteers. Burlingham's Huey crew agreed, without hesitation, to make the attempt. They never made it to the wounded soldier. The raging storm took down their Huey near Binh Duong, South Vietnam. Captain Burlingham and his crew all died in the crash. It took two days to find their bodies. "Dust off" is what soldiers call the take-off of a helicopter. The gallantry showed by Burlingham and his crew resulted at the time in a lengthy front-page article in the New York Times under the headline "Dust Off Down." Medevac choppers and their crews were referred to in Vietnam as "Angels from the Skies," a nickname which carries on today. Yesterday, an "Angel from the Sky" dusted down at LZ Hawk, a landing zone created for the day on a baseball field at Bishop Hendricken High School -- the Hawk being the mascot of Hendricken's sports teams. Piloted by Army National Guard Warrant Officers Frank A. Puleo and William Williams IV, the old Huey came to salute Captain Burlingham. The landing at LZ Hawk was the highlight of yesterday's Vietnam Remembrance Ceremony at Bishop Hendricken. Students in the "Vietnam Experience" classes of Joseph A. Cichon Jr. have been compiling biographies of the Vietnam War dead from Rhode Island or those with close Rhode Island ties, such as University of Rhode Island graduates. Each semester, the students in the elective pull out a name from an infantry helmet and then complete a biography of that soldier, sailor, airman or Marine. At the end of each semester, the names of those who were researched that semester are affixed to a memorial wall at Bishop Hendricken during a Vietnam Remembrance Ceremony. Up to yesterday, the students had done 200 biographies. Yesterday, the spring "Vietnam Experience" class completed 24 more biographies and added the names of those fallen to the wall. Students in the fall class will complete the last eight biographies. The Huey -- with its sound -- is the number-one icon of the Vietnam War, the war where the helicopter took center stage. Said Vietnam veteran Jeff Colt of Exeter as the Huey landed yesterday: "I don't care how old you live to be, you'll never forget that sound. You'll never, ever forget that sound." A seat of honor went yesterday to Marylee Harrington of Coventry. She was allowed to sit in the pilot's seat of the National Guard Huey after it landed -- the seat her stepbrother, Robert Burlingham, once occupied in another Huey. She wore a flight helmet loaned to her for the day by Frank Reilly, a Vietnam veteran from North Attleboro who served with her brother's company during their training at Fort Rucker, Ala. The training unit was assigned to different companies when sent to Vietnam, but Reilly kept in touch through the years with members of Burlingham's company. Marylee didn't know Robert when they first entered North Kingstown High School. "This kid I had seen in school seem liked he was a little odd," she recalled. Her father, Al Busby, married Robert's mother, Nannie Burlingham Busby, and merged their households when Robert was 16 and Marylee was 14. The parents each had three chlildren by their first marriages and later had one together. The "odd" kid Marylee had seen in school turned out to be "just a great guy." "He was a good brother. He was a straight arrow, though. When we were reading comic books, he was reading Scientific American. My philosophy was kind of 'If I goof it up they won't ask me to do it again.' Not Robert. He always said if you're going to do something, do it right. And he always did it right. "He was such a straight arrow that sometimes, boy, he could be tough. "I can still in many ways feel his hand on my shoulder saying, 'You sure you want to say that. You sure you want to do that.' " He wasn't "cool" she said, choosing to ride a bike while other kids drove cars. He would even ride his bike to his studies at URI, and in the worst of weather at that. Her brother liked to pick up litter -- long before that was cool or long before anyone had heard of Earth Day. And, she said, he was devoted to serving his family and his community. For instance, he raked the lawn and shoveled walks at St. Paul Church in Wickford and helped out at church suppers. Marylee said that with such a service orientation, it seemed "only logical" that Robert, after his graduation from North Kingstown High School in 1960, would join the ROTC at URI and later the Army. "He was one of the best friends I ever had," she said, and, noting the ceremony, added: "While he is far away, this brings him closer." She also said he did much of his ROTC training at Fort Devens in Massachusetts. She remembered visiting him there once, and, as he rode his bike, he stopped to pick up some litter at the soldiers' cemetery at Devens. He told her that he stopped all the time at the cemetery to take away the litter; that veterans deserved a litter-free resting place. Today, Robert Gene Burlingham, the "angel from the sky" who died young at age 25, is buried in the cemetery he helped keep clean. Dave McCarthy is the Journal's South County regional editor.
Reason: aircraft lost or crashed
Casualty type: Non-hostile - died while missing
single male U.S. citizen
Religion: Episcopal (Anglican)
Burial information: FT DEVENS POST CEMETERY, HARVARD, MA
The following information secondary, but may help in explaining this incident.
Category of casualty as defined by the Army: non-battle dead Category of personnel: active duty Army Military class: officer
This record was last updated on 05/19/2006
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