John Edward Burke--born on 24 January 1905 in Bismarck, N.D.--was commissioned ensign upon graduation from the Naval Academy in 1928. Burke saw service afloat before serving as aircraft gunnery observer with the Battle Force Torpedo School. Service in Wasp (CV-7) was followed by periods of training duty. On 2 February 1942 Lt. Comdr. Burke reported to South Dakota (BB-57) at the New York Shipbuilding Corp. in Camden, N.J., for duty as air defense officer. The battleship was commissioned on 20 March and, following shakedown training, headed for the Pacific. Just after midnight on 15 November 1942, South Dakota engaged a Japanese bombardment group under Admiral Kondo off Guadalcanal. South Dakota took 42 hits which killed 30 crewmen and caused considerable damage. Lt. Comdr. Burke was one of those killed.
(DE 215: dp. 1,400; l. 306'; b. 36'10"; dr. 13'6"; s. 24 k.; cpl. 186; a. 3 3", 4 1.1", 8 20mm., 3 21" tt., 8 dcp., 1 dcp. (hh.), 2 dct.; cl. Buckley)
Burke (DE-215) was laid down on 1 January 1943 by the Philadelphia Navy Yard; launched on 4 April 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Miriam Katherine Burke, the widow of Lt. Comdr. Burke; and commissioned on 20 August 1943, Lt. Comdr. Edwin K. Winn in command.
Following shakedown off Bermuda, the destroyer escort participated in general type training in late September and October. On 29 October, she joined a convoy bound for Ireland and arrived safely at Londonderry on 11 November. Burke soon returned to New York and made eight more uneventful round-trip transatlantic voyages to escort convoys to Europe or North Africa and back. On 25 January 1945, the warship entered Sullivan's Dry Dock and Repair Corp. in Brooklyn, N.Y., for conversion to a high speed transport.
Redesignated APD-65, Burke left the shipyard on 8 April and was slated for service in the war against Japan. Burke transited the Panama Canal and joined the Pacific Fleet on 1 May at Balboa. There, she also embarked officers and sailors for transportation to San Diego and, after reaching southern California, took on board more passengers for passage to Pearl Harbor. The high-speed transport's mission was to carry underwater demolition teams (UDT's) to assault areas for prelanding beach clearance. Burke trained with UDT's on Maui in preparation for service in the conquest of Okinawa.
The fast transport arrived off Okinawa on 27 June after the major part of the struggle to take that island was over. She briefly served on picket duty off Ie Shima, but Burke's duty was cut short on 30 June, and she sailed for the Philippines. The high-speed transport trained near Legaspi on southeastern Luzon with other amphibious ships in preparation for the expected invasion of the Japanese home islands. However, the explosion of atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki early in August demonstrated to Japan the futility of continuing the war, so Burke never had an opportunity to participate in an assault. She returned to Leyte and was there when the Japanese capitulated on 15 August.
Burke escorted occupation forces to Japan and, as the formal surrender ceremony took place on board the battleship Missouri (BB-63) in Tokyo Bay on 2 September, the transport steamed up the channel and into the bay. Burke escorted convoys of occupation troops until 26 October then proceeded to Manila. After transporting men and equipment among the islands of the Philippine archipelago, Burke embarked returning veterans and headed for home. Upon arrival at San Diego, the fast transport disembarked her passengers and got underway for the east coast of the United States.
In January 1946, Burke became the flagship for Transport Division (TransDiv) 121 and commenced operations with the Atlantic Fleet. She participated in fleet antisubmarine and amphibious exercises along the east coast and in the West Indies. She also trained UDT's and naval reservists. On 16 April 1949, Burke reported to the Charleston Naval Shipyard for inactivation. She was placed out of commission, in reserve, on 23 June 1949 and was towed to Green Cove Springs, Fla., to be berthed with the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. Late in 1967, Burke was selected for sale under the Military Assistance Program to the Republic of Colombia. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 1 June 1968, and she was transferred to the Colombian Navy on 8 December. She was commissioned Almirante Brion (DT 07) and served until disposed of in 1974.
Burke earned one battle star for her World War II service.
Mary P. Walker
21 November 2005