BURGESS, RICHARD GORDON
RIP 08/May 2019
|Name: Richard Gordon Burgess
Rank/Branch: E4/United States Marine Corps
Unit: 3rd Marine Div 3rd BN 4th Regt
Date of Birth: 22 July 1946
Home City of Record: Aloha WA
Date of Loss: 25 September 1966
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 164700 North 1065100 East
Status (in 1973): Returnee
Other Personnel in Incident:
Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw
data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA
families, published sources, interviews, information from S/Sgt. Burgess,
USMC RET. 2019
REMARKS: 730305 RELEASED BY PRG
Feb 18 1998
I am writing so that you will have something to put on the cyber
system so that I do not appear as an enigma. The reason that there isn't
any information to be had on me I can only guess.
I will give you as exact accounting as possible. My recall about
Vietnam and the circumstances is from a near photographic recall.
Athough like many I do have periods where torture and deprivation closed
a few doors. They have slowly been opening as the years have passed. I
don't think any of us could take the stress of having all of the doors
opened at once.
I was born July 22, 1946, at St. Josephs Hospital, Aberdeen,
I joined the Marine Corps on March 31, 1964 in Seattle,
Washington. Went through boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot for 16
weeks. I graduated from 2nd. Initial Training Regiment (Camp Pendleton)
July 25, 1964.
I was stationed at Camp Le Jeune for 18 months where I served with
106 recoilless rifle platoon- H & S 2nd. Bn, 8th. Marines, 2nd. Marine
Division. Learned phonics for communications and went to Nuclear,
biological and chemical warfare school while stationed at Camp Le Jeune.
Volunteered for the conflict in Vietnam in the fall of 1965.
Received orders for Camp Pendleton in December and was sent to Okinawa
in January, 1966 where I joined 3rd. Bn., 4th. Marines, Third Mar. Div..
In August, 1966, I was transfered to 3rd. squad, 3rd platoon, 3rd.
Bn., 4th. Marines, 3rd. Mar. Div.. Was a team leader, a L/Cpl., and an
automatic rifleman while in the infantry. Was capture by the N.V.A. on
Sept. 25, 1966. I was shot by an A.K.47 in the right forearm. The bullet
followed the bone structure to the elbow and shattered it. I have thirty
degrees flection in my right arm and it does not swivel. Also have two
more wounds where two other bullets threw fiberglass (from my flak
jacket) into my back. I was captured while on Operation Prairie 1 in
Quang Tri District, in the Con Tien mountain range (North Western South
Vietnam) while on a search and destroy mission. One of eleven missions
that I was on in the brief six months that I was in combat.
While a Prisoner of War I was first taken into Laos and then into
North Vietnam. Was in solitary confinement for five years, total
solitary confinement for 27 months, six months in hand cuffs, thirty
days in a tiger cage, thirty days with legs in stocks. Escaped twice and
was placed on a salt and rice diet for over six months. Body weight
dropped from 230+ lbs. to 65 or 70 lbs in the fall and winter of 1967
and 1968 during the N.V.A.'s push south for the Tet Offensive. At a camp
called D-1 I spent eight days on my knees with my hands in the air for
fourteen to sixteen hours a day for ripping the speaker off the wall and
breaking the light bulb.
Was on the sixth flight out of Hanoi on March 25, 1973. Was sent
to Oak Knoll Navel Hospital for recouperation and debriefing procedures.
Was retired a S/Sgt. Jan. 1, 1975.
I reside in Utah with my wife Melinda.
Mr. Richard G. Burgess S/Sgt. U.S.M.C. Retired
NETWORK NOTE - From an ex-pow -
For those of you who don't know Richard, he was one hell of a tough guy down
South. He underwent torture and years of solitary, bamboo cages, months of
salt and rice diets, and endured all the brutalities that most of us endured
up North. He is the only Marine from the 3rd BN, 4th Marines to survive
(captivity) and be released. MM
This is S/Sgt. Richard G. Burgess U.S.M.C. retired. It seems like
just a short time ago that we returned home from the P.O.W. camps of
North V.N. Although I was captured in the south (9/25/66), I was slowly
taken north and released from the Hilton (3/5/73).
I will be releasing a book before the end of summer 1997 entitled (Mental
Flight). Although it is based on my imprisonment, it is not actually a war
story. It is about life, living, concepts, purposes, directions of life,
poetry, philosophy, religious realities, and a chapter on P.T.S.D.S. that is
based on a person's natural instincts of survival. Also relative to everyday
Wed Aug 20 1997
Re: in retrospect
Most of you don't know me or the circumstances in which I was captured.
I am S/Sgt. Richard G. Burgess, U.S.M.C. retired. I was a L/Cpl. when I was
captured Sept. 25, 1966. At the time I was up for meritorious promotion to
Cpl.. I had been a team leader up until a week before my capture. We were
30% down on our troop numbers and I was made an A.R. man. I am proud to say
that I never lost a man while I was a team leader. I valued my mens lives
over my own and being almost 20 years old, I was considered an old man. I
also put my mens lives before my own.
I was with L Co. 3rd. Bn. 4th.(Thundering Third) Marines Third Marine
Division out of Okinawa, based at Phu Bai. In the six months that I was in
combat, we went on three major operations and over a half dozen other small
ones. The three were Pawnee, Hastings, and Prairie 1. I was captured on the
third day of Prairie 1.
You fly boys were deeply appreciated any time that you covered for us
when we were heavily out numbered. Gave us a chance to back up and regroup.
Also gave us a chance to get our wounded to safety.
I was captured in the Con Tien mountain range, in the N.Western corner
of south V.N..At the time of my capture I was wounded in the right forearm.
The bullet exited at, and shattered my elbow. I have thirty degrees flexion
and no swivel in it. But because of the way that it healed I am able to do
most anything. There were two more bullets that went into my flak jacket,
went around to my back and exited. As they went out they threw two pieces of
fibreglass into my back. The pieces were rotting the meat and had to be
removed after a month or so, taking the rotten meat with them.
It took almost three months for my elbow to heal. There were many times
that I thought that I might lose the arm. The infection was so severe that
the fingers were black, blue, and yellow. So swollen that I couldn't move
the fingers at all. A chinese doctor came along after about two months, made
a couple of incisions to drain the puss and infection and the healing began.
That Dr. was about 6ft. 2in. and spoke five different languages.
From the jungle hospital I was taken deeper into the northern area of
the D.M.Z.. It was from the first camp that I made my first escape attempt.
After that I was taken up into Vinh by way of river. I stayed at farmers
huts and always with the guards watchful eyes. Nine months after capture I
was put with another prisoner (Alfonso Ray Riate). He was to become one of
the dirty dozen.
I was at eleven different camps all together. The ones that you may know
were Portholes, Death Camp 1, Plantation Gardens, and on to the Hanoi Hilton
just after the Arc Light bombing of Hanoi and Hai Phong. At D-1 I spent
nineteen months in solitary confinement. In that 19 months I saw other
prisoners just one time. Seven months of that time was spent out on death
My second escape attempt was with Riate. He left a trail that a blind
man could have followed. For my second escape I was introduced to a little
of the rope trick, Was placed in a tiger cage and a salt and rice diet
began. I pissed on the floor more times than I didn't., and the guards
enjoyed every minute of my pains and agony.
That was in a Pagoda that had been made into our little prison. But I
could feel the soul of the contentment that had once been there. Riate never
lost weight nor did he get the severe treatment that was given to me.
From the Pagoda I was taken to a place that I called Bamboo Plait.
There I had my legs put in stocks for another thirty days along with hand
cuffs. The hand cuffs stayed on for almost six months. Made it hard to try
and kill the cat sized rats that came in for visits.
From the salt and rice diet my weight dropped to about sixty five or
seventy lbs.. Although that is just a guess, I could put my hands around my
waist, and had about four inches between my thumbs (about a 22 inch waist
line). All of the taste buds fell off of my tongue, had rickets in my feet,
with agonizing pains that shot from my feet to my knee caps. Prickly heat
was constant, and when I tried to take leaves off of the bushes outside of
my cell I was given hell for that too.
Towards the summer of 1968 I was moved to a place called Portholes.
There we were joined by 12 more P.O.W.s. The Peace Talks were starting and
things started getting a little better for a short time. The peace talks
slowed and we were taken to D-1 12/1968.
I don't speak of the torture that I endured during my captivity. But the
memories are there and always will be. As time goes by I am able to bring
them to the surface and deal with them with wisdom and for a greater
understanding of myself. More often than not it is so that I can help
someone else through a traumatic situation that they are in or have
As you know there is much more to my story as we have lived it more than
a thousand times in our minds. At D-1 I memorized a small bible that they
had let me keep. I had callouses on my knee caps from praying. Then there
came a day when I stopped fearing God and realized that God was love and I
could not serve God as a fanatic. Christmas night 1969 I started yelling and
screaming about Riate being a traitor and was taken out to death row. On the
walk out there I asked God to forgive them for the torture and torment that
they had given to me in the past and were about to give me again. When one
is in a circumstance that they feal that they might not survive it is time
to make that covenant with the Almighty God and Creator. Although I had a
vision a couple of years earlier that I would be taken to the Red River
Delta, and in this vision I was told why, I did not remember the body of
that vision. What I remembered was that I was going there because I did not
understand. We were and are all of a religous nature and blessed for reasons
not bestowed upon and within us. Perhaps if we knew the composition we would
try to change that which God has blessed us with. Not our call.
At plantation Gardens I heard the cries of those that were tortured to
death, but they were in Gods keeping and given laughter in there glorious
courage before death.
I have a chapter on the spiritual experiences that I had during my
I want you all to know that I overcame the hate that I carried for so
many years for the Vietnamese. But I still have a hate that is directed
towards the Communists that were the cause of pain for millions of S.E.Asian
peoples, and still is today. To have freedom of speech, freedom of religion,
freedom of movement, freedom of thought, and the freedom to study the things
that is directed from the soul is what formed the greatness and versatility
of this great nation of ours. It is great that we can say the things that we
do and have someone say, he's worth listening to even if we don't always
agree. But, someday we must have the truths about Vietnam, the cause, the
purpose, those that profitted from it and, isn't it about time that the
realities were given to our children and the children yet to come. After all
there must be universal laws that govern in the future. For every action
there is a reaction , for every action there is an expected outcome,
therefore nothing happens by accident, and all things have a purpose. Always
consider the source and motivating factors.
My Love, G.B.U.A.,
Wed, 20 Aug 1997
I have thought much and long about many things since my return home
in 1973. In the past few months I have thought a great deal about the
vigil of Commander Ted Guy. I myself am one of Hawks Heros. I was with
Ted at the Gardens. I was put with the dirty dozen many times. I was
weak starved and beaten on time and again by them. The cong wanted me to
write protest letters and be a part of the traitorous group but, I would
not. There were times that I was in desolation and destitute for some
kind of reprieve. My faith was all that kept me going. Faith in God and
faith in those that I knew were somewhere close and had to know the
ordeal that I was coping with. I admit that there were times that I
brought torture and torment on myself. But, when your pride, dignity,
honor, and self esteem reached a low it was time to regain those
qualities again. So, on occasion we did. I never told anyone what was
really on my mind. The thoughts about God, creation, the tower of
babbel, the breakdown into nations and tongues, or the bombardment of
mathamatics that I had in relation to time, space, righting wrongs and
reversing adversities. The laying of foundations of thought for anything
and everything that entered my head. I never studied deep mathamatics.
Although I did have a high school diploma through the G.E.D. program in
the Corps. The Cong had been putting haroin in my food while I was on
death row while I was at D-1. When I came out of solitary they put me
with two of the protesters. Got my first beating there while I ignored
their passive crap with the cong. But, it was there that my mind was
bombarded with numbers. Numbers related to time, space, and traveling
the speed of light. The thoughts and equasions went on for weeks. Then
one day in silent prayer I said; God I can't do this anymore. There is
no outlet for this knowledge and I don't know what to do with it. Please
take it away and give it back when I can serve thee and mankind with it
and at a time when I have the wisdom to know how to use the knowledge.
The knowledge was then gone, but has been in my mind always. Simple was
who I portrayed and simple was how I acted. The density of thought that
I had when I came home could not be expressed. Besides that I was still
in that analitical survival mode.
What I am leading up to is that Commander Guy is doing what we all
want but, did not have the power to do so in the past. My time as a
prisoner was an experience. Not a condemnation by God for the life that
I had lived or the one that was yet to come. It was a time for gathering
knowledge and wisdom as a mortal man that I could serve God and man. For
whatever level of thought one has it is with love and faith and
progressive directions we will fulfill that covenant that we made with
God while we were being enlightened as prisoners. If we can bring even a
small number of the total P.O.W.s that were left behind home then our
souls will be set free. I know the day before we flew out of Hanoi I
heard a prisoner being beaten and ran down the halls. I have cried many
time over their isolation in being left behind. My greatest desire was
to be free and come back home. How long it took did not matter. You as
officers have the distinction of being and the titles of Gentlemen.
Being intellectuals, distinguished, having honor, dignity, selfesteem,
and being the pride of our nation. So back the Hawk to bring our
brothers home where they belong. Truth is the only tomorrows that we
have for the future. G.B.U.A.,
Richard G. Burgess, (The Burge)
Date: May 8, 2019 at 8:44:42 AM CDT
Subject: Passing of SSG Richard Burgess
Sir, my name is Christopher Burgess.
It is with regret that I am contacting you to inform you that my father,
away this morning from heart failure. He always had great things to say about all of
you that are part of this great brotherhood and the many memories that he had with many of you.
Date: May 12, 2019 at 3:48:50 PM CDT
Subject: Re: Passing of SSG Richard Burgess
Sir, we will be holding my father's funeral mass this Friday at St
Elizabeths in Richfield UT at 1100. We will hold his military honors on
July 22 at the VA memorial cemetery by camp Williams in Bluffdale UT.
More info: http://veterantributes.org/TributeDetail.php?recordID=1724