Private First Class Edward Dennis Burke

Service Number: 287677

Birth and Early Life:
Edward Burke was born around the year 1920; he was the son of William and Elizabeth Burke of Providence, Rhode Island.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Burke joined the Corps on July 12, 1940, and was sent to Parris Island for boot training. Next, he attended Sea School at the Norfolk Navy Yard in Portsmouth, Virginia, and joined the crew of the USS Quincy on December 12.

Wartime Service:
As with most junior Marines on their first voyage, Private Burke’s first duty was to serve as an attendant in the Quincy’s Marine mess. His first year on the cruiser took him across the Atlantic from Maine to South Africa to Iceland as they escorted convoys, performed “neutrality patrols” to keep German U-boats at a safe distance, and conducted amphibious landing exercises. After twelve months aboard, Burke was promoted to Private First Class and assigned as a gun striker on one of Quincy’s 5-inch antiaircraft guns.

Quincy joined the Pacific fleet in June, 1942, and sailed for New Zealand where she joined the fleet preparing to invade the Solomon Islands. On August 7, her main batteries fired some of the first rounds of the Guadalcanal campaign, and her antiaircraft gunners had a busy time defending against marauding Japanese aircraft as the grunt Marines landed on the beaches and began moving inland.

Quincy steams past the smoking wreck of a Japanese airplane, August 8, 1942. Photo from http://www.ussastoria.org

With the landings complete, Quincy moved out to patrol and protect the transports still offloading supplies.

Date Of Loss:
PFC Burke was awakened by the Quincy’s general quarters alarm shortly before 0200 on August 9, 1942. As he rushed to his battle station, he would have felt the impact of large-caliber shells, and the wrenching force of torpedo explosions as Quincy was caught in a Japanese crossfire.

Exactly where Burke died isn’t known. While his last known assignment was with a 5″ gun, his brother Raymond Burke, recalled that Edward was serving as the bodyguard for Captain Samuel Moore when the Quincy was attacked. A survivor of the sinking told Raymond how Edward died – set afire by some catastrophe, the young PFC ran to throw himself into the ocean, but misjudged the distance and hit the deck instead. Mercifully, the fall killed him.

The Quincy sank at 0238, taking Edward Burke to a grave he would share with 369 of his shipmates.

Next Of Kin:
Mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Slayton

Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea

Memorial:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.

8 thoughts on “Private First Class Edward Dennis Burke

  1. Whoever wrote this piece of fiction, in part; you are being corrected by a family member, Dorothy R. Znosko, (niece of Edward) who never got to meet Edward as my UNCLE and thank him for serving our country. Please read on:

    PFC Edward Dennis Burke, USMC, who was my mother’s brother, was NOT onboard the ship when it sank. Edward’s brother, Raymond J. Burke, was told many years later by a co-resident at the same retirement home in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, who asked Raymond if he was related to Edward Burke, as the resident served on the USS Quincy with Edward and survived the battle.

    The resident told Raymond that Edward was at his battle station TOPSIDE and was set aflame during the attack; he told Raymond that Edward must have thought he was jumping into the water. In actuality, Edward hit the deck and was killed. His body was never recovered; he is officially listed as “Missing At Sea”, in the Battle of Savo Island August, 9, 1942. My grandmother and mother never revealed this truth to Raymond.

    Ironically, my father, Edward J. Znosko, United States Navy, was aboard the Heavy Cruiser USS Chicago (CA 29)* on August 9, 1942, in the very same Battle of Savo Island. My father survived and married Edward’s sister, Dorothy, in January of 1945. Dorothy was a Navy Ensign (Nurse) who met my father at Newport Naval Hospital where he was a patient.

    * The first USS Chicago (CA-20) was it by a Japanese destroyer torpedo in the Battle of Savo Island; Chicago fought damage while continuing to engage until contact with the enemy was lost. Chicago was repaired at Noumea, Sydney, and San Francisco, where she arrived 13 October, 1942. It was sunk during the Battle of Rennell Island, 30 January 1943.

    1. Hello Dorothy,

      Thank you for the correction, and I apologize for any offense I may have caused. Unfortunately there are very few surviving accounts of the fates of individual marines aboard the Quincy; the majority of them served with her 5-inch secondary batteries (as with other ships of her class) and a July, 1942 muster roll lists PFC Burke’s battle station as “gunstriker, 5″ AA gun” it was my belief that he had been caught below decks with other members of the gun crews.

      My great uncle, Lt. Commander Edmund Billings, was the communications officer for the USS Quincy; he was on the bridge when it was set afire by an explosion and managed to make it to the deck, where he was last seen badly wounded encouraging the men to fight on. Like PFC Burke, his body was never found and he is also officially missing at sea.

      Again, thank you for sharing this story, and again, please accept my apology for the mistake. I will correct Edward Burke’s entry as soon as possible.

      Best,
      Geoffrey

  2. His brother Raymond relayed that PFC Edward Dennis Burke, USMC was the guard for the Captain of the ship.

    1. That very well could be the case. The last surviving muster roll for the ship was taken in July, 1942; any other paperwork would have been lost when she went down. Here is PFC Burke on that document:

      He might have been reassigned more recently as guard for Captain Samuel Moore, or perhaps had a double duty – though that seems unlikely, as the Captain’s guard was a full-time position.

      In that case, our relatives might have been close by one another when they were hit. As Moore’s bodyguard Burke would have been close by the Captain at all times during action; the Captain was killed on the Quincy’s bridge. Lt. Cdr. Billings was also on the bridge, lost half of his face and was set on fire by the shell that hit the bridge. An officer who arrived shortly thereafter found everyone on the bridge dead or dying, with the exception of the helmsman.

      1. It would make sense that Edard Burke’s battle station was manning the Gunstriker 5″ (?) AA Gun when he was set afire.

    1. Of course! I’m happy to help out, and as I mentioned I’ll be sure to update PFC Burke’s entry with the story you provided.

      A “gun striker” (as near as I remember) was responsible for maintenance and upkeep of the crew’s weapon; I have an acquaintance who was aboard the USS Lexington on a 5″ gun identical to those on the Quincy, so he will probably have an idea. And of course PFC Burke may have been at the gun, or with the Captain as bodyguard when he was hit. It just struck me that our two ancestors should have fought and died on the same ship in such a similar manner.

      Best,
      Geoffrey

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