BURNS, FREDERICK JOHN
Remains returned 1994, identified April 1995
|Name: Frederick John Burns
Rank/Branch: E3/US Marine Corps
Unit: H/2/3 1st Marine Division
Date of Birth: 11 June 1949
Home City of Record: Merrick NY
Date of Loss: 25 December 1967
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 155700N 1081651E (BT089659)
Status (in 1973): Killed in Captivity
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S.
Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families,
published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK in 2020.
SYNOPSIS: Marine LCpl. Fred Burns was just over 18 and had been in Vietnam a
very short time when he was sent out his first mission - a patrol southwest
of Da Nang. While on patrol, Burns reportedly dropped a grenade, and dropped
back to find it. Fred Burns was captured by the Viet Cong and moved about
among the prison camps in South Vietnam.
At least one returned POW provides further information on LCpl. Burns. Fred
evidently had difficulty adapting to Vietnam service, and felt unliked by
his patrol members. He told at least one fellow POW that he had fallen
asleep and the rest of the patrol had moved out, leaving him behind
purposely. He also told fellow POWs that, a devout Catholic, he had attended
Notre Dame on a scholarship. Fred, described as a baby faced young man with
light brown hair, neither smoked, drank or swore.
Life in camps in South Vietnam under the care of the Viet Cong was
difficult. Some camps were in hostile areas, and POWs and guards alike were
subject to air strikes. Air strikes and U.S. presence also sometimes
prevented food and other supplies from reaching the camps, and unless the
camp was secure enough to have grown vegetables or other food crops, POWs
and guards alike suffered from lack of food.
The American POWs were ill suited for the dietary deprivation they
experienced, and unaccustomed to the Vietnamese diet. Consequently,
dysentery was common, and freqently led to worse conditions. The Americans
were also subject to such jungle diseases as malaria. While some POWs report
they received adequate medical attention, others report criminal neglect in
this area. Some POWs died from wounds, others literally starved to death.
Starvation did not usually occur because of lack of food, but more often
because the deteriorated physical and mental condition of the POWs caused
them to lose the will to survive. In less than a year, Fred Burns had
suffered to this point. Fellow POWs answered his calls in the night, and
continually pushed him to eat and tried to rebuild the hope he had lost.
Finally, on January 2, 1969, Fred Burns died at age 19. He was buried by
fellow POWs near the POW camp in Happy Valley, Quang Nam Province, South
Vietnam near other POWs who had died before him. Fred, according to other
POWs, never lost his gentle manners.
When 591 American prisoners were released, a small number of remains were
also sent home for burial, but not those of Fred Burns. For some reason, the
Vietnamese have never returned Fred's body or many of those buried at Happy
Fred Burns became a Sergeant while in captivity, but probably never knew it.
Tragically, his family must live with the knowledge that he has died, but
for over 20 years has remained a Prisoner of War.
Even more tragically, the U.S. has conducted "over 250,000" and analyzed
"several million documents" related to Americans still missing in Southeast
Asia and many government authorities believe there are still hundreds of
Americans alive in captivity. The return of those Americans said to be still
alive could give Fred Burns the greatest gift we have to offer - that of
having died for an honorable country.
South Vietnam, pre-1975: Private Frederick J. Burns, Investigation
ARCHIVES | 1995
With Return Of Remains, A 'Closure'