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War Stories

Howell "Wayne" Burns KIA Cambodia - 12 Dec 1971
Killed in Action 12 Dec 1971
Incident Discussion (Jones, Dow, Ring. Benner, Broadbent)

Taken from and

PFC Howell "Wayne" Burns was an observer on a U.S. Army helicopter OH-6A (tail number 68-17229) from F Troop, 4th Cavalry, 1st Aviation Brigade which was involved in a shoot-down in Cambodia on December 12, 1971. PFC Burns was fatally wounded in the incident. The aircraft crashed but did not burn. MOS 67A10. In country for four months. Awards: Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Air Medal

Newspaper Article:

Burns is honored 38 years after his death (Article from The Hartsville Vidette Online Newspaper For Hartsville, Tennessee. Dec 17, 2009; Managing Editor Liz Ferrell)

The date was Dec. 12, 1971 and Trousdale County's PFC Howell Wayne Burns, known as Wayne to his friends, had been in Vietnam less than four months.

On this particular day, Burns and his fellow crew members, for whom he served as crew chief, were on assignment in a light observation helicopter (LOH) when, according to reports, they came under enemy fire.

Although Burn's crew managed to return fire effectively enough to enable the helicopter to evade the area, the copter took numerous hits, and Burns was mortally wounded. The aircraft crashed. The helicopter's pilot and the observer were also wounded.

Burns's body was returned to Hartsville on Dec. 18, 1971, and he was buried in Hartsville Memorial Gardens the following day.

Burns was one of only two Trousdale Countians to lose his life in the Vietnam conflict. The other soldier, Ronnie Martin, was honored several years ago with the dedication of Hartsville's Little League Field, which is officiallynamed Ronnie Martin Memorial Field.

Last Saturday, Dec. 12, on the 38th anniversary of his death, PFC Howell Wayne Burns was honored in a ceremony renaming the Little Goose Creek Bridge in his memory. The Howell Wayne Burns Memorial Bridge crosses the Little Goose Creek on Broadway Street, a segment of State Highway 141, in downtown Hartsville.

Both a state legislatures representing Trousdale county played a role in garnering the honor. Legislation to enact the name change was introduced in the Tennessee House of Representatives by Rep. Stratto Boe and sponsored in the Tennessee Senate by Sen. Mae Beavers.

A subdued gathering of Burns' family, friends, former school mates and state and local officials gathered by the bridge for the event. Just two hours prior to the ceremony, Hartsville's annual Christmas parade had made its way over the bridge, and the pavement underfoot was covered in remnants of candy, while decorations adorned the streetlight poles over head. The evidence of holiday festivities, along with an awareness of several local soldiers departing with the 278th National Guard for Iraq just one week prior, lent a poignancy to the atmosphere.

Several state and local officials attended the gathering, including Bone, state Rep. Susan Lynn, Trousdale county Executive Jerry Clift, Judge Kenny Linville, Trousdale County Sheriff Ray Russell, County Commissioner Wayne Brown - who sponsored the resolution from the Hartsville/Trousdale County Commission requesting the honor - and several other county commissioners, including David Nollner, Jond Oliver, Robert Thurman, Mike Keisling and Steve Burrow.

The ceremony began with an introduction by master of ceremonies Bone and was followed by an invocation and opening prayer, then the Pledge of Allegiance, led by VFW Commander Dwight Holder, as an Army National Guard Color guard from Smyrna, Tenn., presented the colors.

Wayne Brown, who was one of Burns's close friends during their school years, talked briefly about Burn' life before presenting Burns' family with an American flag. Burns' second cousin Dillon Young introduced family members and state and local officials present at the event before reading Public Chapter 535, the resolution declaring the official renaming of the bridge.

Burns' sister, Eve Burns Cook, gave some brief words of thanks for the honor before she and sister Joan Burns Harp unveiled the memorial sign, and the ceremony closed in prayer.

Burns was the son of John H. and Lia Purcell Burns and the grandson of Hurlin and Myrtle Holder Burns of Galiatin, and Jam Mack and Minnie Coons Purcell of Red Boiling Springs. He is survived today by tow sisters, Joan (Paul) Harp and Eve (Robert) Cook, six nieces and nephews, and eight grand-nieces and nephews.

Incident Discussion

Bob Jones: Is this the aircraft that Jackie "Rookie" White was piloting? If so, I was flying cover in one of two Cobras during the extraction.  Buddy Ring was flying with Broadbent in a LOH also.

Dale Dow: The only thing the VHPA has is that the LOH was over Cambodia at the time.  I checked a couple of other sites and they don't have any information.  There is no indication of damage to the LOH, so no incident report was filed.

Buddy Ring: Wayne was the first person I really got to know when I got to F Troop. I learned quick about getting to be close friends with scouts and losing them.

We were on standby when we got the call. I had never flown a mission before! What a way to break someone in. Rookie White was the pilot and Wayne Burns was the crew chief of the downed aircraft.

When we arrived at the crash site we were taking heavy fire. The tail boom was out in the open and the main body was under some small trees; hard to see it. Helicopters were flying over head every where. We landed and picked up Rookie. Wayne was dead; so we left his body. I think maybe the blues recovered his body. I made some mistakes that day that I still live with, but I never made those mistakes again. We got Rookie out and I guess that's all that matters.

Rookie only flew one mission after that. I was on that mission with him. He was a total wreck and we had to cancel the mission right after we started. I think if I had of been in his shoes, I would have been a total wreck also.

I've only heard from him twice since then once was at the reunion we had in GA. He called and left me a message at the hotel desk but I didn't get to talk to him. Tom Broadbent stays in touch with him. Toms nickname was "BB". He did a heck of a good job flying that day. He will always be great friend of mind.

Richard "Rick" Benner: We were on stand by when we were sent in to rescue the down LOH (21 Dec 1971). I had 20 Vietnamese Rangers and 1 interpreter. It was a race between us and the NVA to get to the down LOH. Lucky we had all the cobras and other LOHs flying in support to keep the enemy delayed.

I was on the ground and led my people in. We circled the LOH and lifted the aircraft and rescued the Pilot, who I believed is Jackie Rookie White. I never got his name or the name of "UH-IH" Pilot that hovered down between the Jungle Triple canopy and took the pilot and also the body of Wayne Burns. The pilot was amazing.

Tom Broadbent: My call sign was Centaur 18. I was involved in that mission. My Crew Chief that day was Leon “Buddy” Ring. I do not remember my Observer’s name. At the time we were flying out of Tay Ninh into Cambodia. I don’t remember if we had yet moved to Long Binh from Lai Khe.

We had just come off a mission in the same area. We were gassing up when we got word of an aircraft down. I told “Buddy” to fill it to the max, (you can never have too much gas right? Wrong!).

On that day I’m not sure if Bob Jones was flying cover for me or for “Rookie”aka Jackie White. Anyway, he and his Cobra were there.

The Loach was down in thick trees. We made a pass and spotted “Rookie”. He was at the tree line. We went in and got him. He looked like John Wayne throwing a “frag” to cover us. By the time he got to the aircraft he made Usain Bolt look like he had lead in his legs! “Buddy” said he had to grab “Rookie’s”belt to keep him from flying out the other side of the aircraft.

Pulled pitch, lot of gas, lot of “Rookie”, lot of redline. The OH-6 is a great aircraft and it got us out of there.

Wayne Burns was, I believe, the Crew Chief for “Rookie”. The Observer(in the left seat) was trapped. I think, Rick, that’s the person you rescued. We always flew PIC in the right seat, Crew Chief in right rear and Observer in the left front seat (unless it was a Mini gun ship)with no Observer.

On a side note. I think that was “Buddy,s” first mission. What a great guy. Read the article on Lady Ace 72. He, and a lot of brave men, are in that article.

Richard "Rick" Benner: Tom is accurate about the 2 we recovered.  I put a perimeter around the Loach to engage any enemy. It was a race between us and the NVA. Gunship and Loaches all over the place firing at the enemy.  I always thought we rescued the Pilot. Now I know the story about Rookie White. 

We lifted the Loach up and freed the observer and Wayne Burns.  I do not know the name of the amazing Huey Pilot who hovered down between the trees. We put the rescued observer and Wayne in the Huey. The amazing pilot hovered up. I mean his blades were touching the tree branches!! I could not believe it!!

We left for the Extraction LZ.  I do not know if Cobras fired  and destroyed the Loach or not. All I know we had to get out of there fast. The LZ was a big open area. I believe 3 or 4 UHIHs extracted us. I was on the last Huey and the NVA were all around the tree line. As we lifted off, the UH1H was hit in the front
of the Huey. The pilots were wounded. I said to myself, No way are we going to clear the trees around the LZ. That is it!! We are finished!! I am going to kill as many enemy as I can when we crash!! Cobras and Loaches flying all around firing at the enemy. All Hell was breaking  loose!!

Somehow we made it over the tree line.  This is where my memory is blank. I do not know if we landed somewhere else and another UHIH came and got us or if the pilots were able to get us all the way back to safety.

There was alot of bravery on that mission. I am hoping someone can remember the name of the observer we rescued. Also the extraordinary UHIH pilots that extracted me and the pilot who hoovered down to get the observer and Wayne. God was with us that day.