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Info Sheet - Howell W. "Wayne" Burns

Killed in Action 12 Dec 1971

Incident Discussion (Jones, Dow, Ring)

MOS 67A10. In country for four months. Awards: Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Air Medal

Taken from and

PFC Howell W. 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.

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 officially named 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.