CHARLES F. BURLINGAME, III, CAPT, USN (RET.)
Charles Burlingame, III '71
Date of birth: September 12, 1949
Date of death: September 11, 2001
From the 1971 Lucky Bag:
Inclusion in Virtual Memorial Hall
Chic was not on active military duty the morning of September 11, 2001, and is therefore not included in Memorial Hall. For the purposes of this website, however, we feel that this is a distinction that is simply not worth making: The attack was against all Americans, regardless of employment status, and we will honor and remember them here with all other alumni who gave the "last full measure of devotion" to their country.
Charles “Chic” Burlingame was a resident of Oak Hill, Virginia. He was married to American Airlines flight attendant, Sherri Burlingame, father of Wendy, grandfather of Jack, and stepfather of John and Chad Harris. Captain Burlingame was a graduate of the United States Naval Academy (’71) and a former Navy jet fighter pilot. Prior to his 22-year career with American Airlines, he flew F-4 Phantoms in Squadron VF-103 aboard the U.S.S. Saratoga. He continued military service as a Naval Reserve Officer, retiring at the rank of captain in 1996. Captain Burlingame’s military career highlights include:
Honor graduate of the Navy “Top Gun” school NAS Miramar.
Recalled to active service and served at the Pentagon during the Gulf War.
Awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal.
Captain Burlingame was hired by American Airlines in 1979 and was furloughed in 1980. He then worked as a manager for Lockheed Aerospace until American Airlines recalled him to service in 1984. He qualified as captain in Boeing 727s and Boeing 757/767s.
Captain Burlingame was born on September 12, 1949 in St. Paul, Minnesota to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Frank Burlingame, Jr. His father was a World War II Navy veteran who later served as a noncommissioned officer in the United States Air Force. Captain Burlingame was known by his childhood nickname, Chic. He grew up on or near military bases throughout his youth, aspiring from an early age to attend a United States service academy and become a pilot. He was an Eagle Scout and played trumpet in his high school marching band. Captain Burlingame was awarded a presidential appointment by Lyndon Johnson to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis upon graduating from Anaheim High School (’67) in Anaheim, California. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from USNA in aeronautical engineering.
He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
To those who knew him, Capt. Charles F. Burlingame's dependability was legend. "He was kind of a go-to guy," said Perry Martini, a former classmate of Captain Burlingame, a Navy fighter pilot many affectionately remember by his nickname, Chic. "If you needed something done and done right," Mr. Martini said, "you would call on Chic."
As a pilot, Mr. Burlingame, 51, captain of American Airlines Flight 77, was a perfectionist, and his attention to safety earned him the respect and admiration of his colleagues. But Captain Burlingame's most valued quality, friends say, was his commitment to people. He personified the word classmate, Mr. Martini said, and as such, "he became family."
A graduate of the Naval Academy and the Navy's Top Gun fighter pilot school in Miramar, Calif., Mr. Burlingame accepted a position 12 years ago with American Airlines, where his wife, Shari, is a flight attendant.
He was to attend his 30-year college reunion, which he helped organize, the week after the attacks. Instead, former classmates from as far as Hong Kong gathered to honor their fallen brother, take in a Navy football game and reminisce.
"If Chic were around this weekend," Mr. Martini said, "he would be doing a lot of high-fives and hugs."
Honoring a 'True American Patriot'
April 2, 2002
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA -- Opening Day.
So much hope.
So much at stake.
So democratic -- today, every team still has a chance.
So emblematic -- spring is hopeful no matter how long the winter has been.
No matter how deep the loss.
No matter how much we miss that one person who used to live for trips to the ballpark.
That one person ...
He wasn't here Sunday night for a California family when Major League Baseball opened the 2002 season with a nationally televised game.
He wasn't and yet he was.
Americans know him as the pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, the jetliner that slammed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11 after being hijacked by terrorists.
His family knew him as "Chic" (pronounced Chick), a brother and a friend who was gregarious and eager, disciplined enough to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy and yet crazy enough about baseball to do things that still make his loved ones smile.
The Burlingames were smiling Sunday as they gathered for the first time since Dec. 12, when Chic was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
They were smiling because they were together at Edison Field for a tribute to Chic.
Chic had virtually grown up at Edison Field, so the Angels were honoring his memory by arranging for U.S. Navy SEALs to parachute into the ballpark and deliver the baseball that would open this new season.
That ball was handed to Burlingame's brother Brad, who stood on the mound and looked skyward as eight SEALs dropped one by one onto the lush, green grass of center field.
Brad took the ball as if it were a "diamond," he would say later.
And then threw out the first pitch.
That's how this season began.
Let's hope it's a good omen.
Big-league baseball could use it.
And those who run baseball could use the reminder that baseball is, above all, a sport where families gather and a game that marks the years through memories and moments at the ballpark.
Since Sept. 11, we've all been reminded of how precious life is, of how much our country and our families mean to us.
More than most, the Burlingames know this.
They've spent the past six months grieving as families do when suffering a tragic loss.
Add to their grief the magnitude of what our country has gone through since 9/11, and you have a winter that has been a blur of emotions.
So when the Angels called and invited them to the park to open the season, the Burlingames and their friends -- many of whom live on the East Coast -- made the cross-country trip because they knew Chic would appreciate it.
He was a baseball fan to the bone.
And he was a lot more.
His family is certain that hijackers killed Chic on 9/11 before his plane crashed into the Pentagon, that there is no way he would have crashed the plane himself into that building -- even with knives at his throat.
"The Pentagon was hallowed ground to him," Brad said.
That's because Chic was a Navy man who had once worked at the Pentagon when he was in the Navy Reserves.
Arranging for Chic to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery was one important step in the family's healing process. Being at the ballpark Sunday was another.
Chic and his brothers had seen years of frightful Angels baseball in the 1960s -- and yet their love for their team never wavered.
In fact, in 1986, when the lowly Angels were one game away from reaching their first World Series, Chic dropped almost $1,000 for two tickets to see his "Halos" against the Boston Red Sox. He took Brad with him.
They had great seats. It was an epic game. The Angels came within one pitch of baseball's promised land ... and they lost.
It didn't matter. Though his work and family took him to the East Coast, Chic Burlingame -- a California guy, at heart -- stuck with his team.
When he died on 9/11, a day before his 52nd birthday, he had been planning to go to an Angels game.
Sunday, Chic's image was flashed on the big screen at Edison Field as a capacity crowd rose to its feet.
It was a special moment for baseball and for a family.
"This was more than just a reunion for us," Brad said.
"It was like a homecoming."
It was also a great way to start the season.
Pilot Buried at Arlington, but Issues His Interment Raised Have Not Been Laid to Rest
Thursday, December 13, 2001
Charles F. "Chic" Burlingame III, pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, was buried at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday and eulogized as an American patriot who inspired those who served and worked with him.
Burlingame, a former Navy fighter pilot, was honored with his own grave at Arlington only after his family, members of Congress and veterans campaigned to persuade the Army to waive cemetery rules to make it happen. Until Friday, the Army said Burlingame would have to share a grave and headstone at Arlington with his parents.
Yesterday, more than 200 mourners -- including friends from American Airlines and the Navy -- gathered at Burlingame's grave, where a Navy band filled the chilly air with "America the Beautiful" and a bugler played a soft, slow taps.
"I'm very pleased and grateful that Chic was honored in this way," Sheri Burlingame, his widow, said afterward. "It was a beautiful service, and I'm thankful to everyone who made it possible."
The push to make yesterday's ceremony a reality gathered momentum after Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) and others cited evidence that Burlingame died fighting the hijackers before Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon on September 11 -- an image of heroism touched on by those who eulogized him yesterday.
At the service, Senator George Allen (R-Va.) said Burlingame "gave his last breath in the struggle against terrorism," calling him "a true American patriot who paid the ultimate sacrifice as one of our nation's first warriors to perish in the war on terrorism."
Others described an intelligent, generous and lighthearted man known for his imitations of Frank Sinatra and "Saturday Night Live" skits. After graduating from the Naval Academy, he served eight years in the Navy, flying F-4 Phantom fighters. He was a reservist for 17 years and served in the Persian Gulf War. The Herndon resident died one day before his 52nd birthday.
"To the forces of evil that took his life, I say this to you: We are a nation of Chic Burlingames, and you can never impose your will on us," said Capt. Barton W. Whitman, a Navy Reservist and friend of the pilot. "You have taken this man from us, but his spirit is in tens of millions of Americans. . . . There is no cave deep enough, or ocean wide enough, or jungle dense enough to hide from our wrath for what you have done."
Until last week, Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White had said Burlingame would not get his own grave because of his age. Rules at the cemetery -- which is run by the Army -- require that reservists be 60 or older to be eligible for their own plot. After discussions with the White House and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, White said Friday that he would relent and grant an exception for Burlingame.
The uproar -- including offers by veterans to give their Arlington spots to Burlingame -- spurred two pieces of proposed legislation, including a House bill that aims to remove the age requirement for burial at Arlington. Hearings on that bill -- sponsored by Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.) -- are scheduled before the House Armed Services Committee this morning.
John C. Metzler Jr., superintendent of Arlington, attended the burial yesterday and said that under such legislation, more than 188,000 reservists and their relatives who otherwise wouldn't be eligible because they aren't old enough would immediately become eligible. Metzler said such a change would cause the cemetery, which is rapidly filling, to close its gates sooner than expected. Under current rules, the cemetery expects to run out of space in 2025.
Burlingame was lowered into the ground at Arlington yesterday not far from where his parents are buried.
His brother, Mark, said it was Burlingame's lifelong dream to fly jets, adding that his proudest moment was earning his gold aviator's wings in 1973.
"He was the go-to guy to get the job done," Mark Burlingame said. "He was the kind of man everyone would have been proud to call a fellow American."
Navy Vice Adm. Timothy Keating said Burlingame, who trained many pilots, "could make the jets talk. He could fly."
Keating, a classmate of Burlingame's at the Naval Academy, said U.S. forces will avenge his death as they fight terrorism.
"Those of us who were Burlingame-trained, we're going after them hard because Chic taught us how to do that," Keating said, his voice rising. "They are going to live to regret the pain they have caused us today."
Foundation Helps Others Live 9/11 Pilot's Dream
By Steve Vogel
Sunday, September 21, 2003
Chic Burlingame was a boy of 6, living with his family in England, when he found some pieces of lumber in the alley behind their home and fashioned them into a plane.
Despite his age, he already had dreams of flying -- and he would realize them eventually, attending the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, landing F-4 Phantom jets on aircraft carriers as a Navy pilot, and flying as a pilot for American Airlines.
On a beautiful morning two years ago, Charles "Chic" Burlingame III was the pilot of American Airlines Flight 77 when it was hijacked and flown into the Pentagon. The crash killed 125 people at the Pentagon and all 59 passengers and crew members on the flight, including Burlingame, 51, a resident of Fairfax County.
On the second anniversary of the attack, Burlingame's brothers and sister launched a nonprofit foundation that will provide college scholarships for young men and women who wish to pursue careers as officers in the U.S. armed services. "We are targeting young people who have demonstrated a wish to be a part of something bigger than themselves," said Debra Burlingame, his sister.
At the heart of the genesis of the foundation is a photograph taken by Chic Burlingame's mother that day in England in 1955 when the boy surprised his parents by presenting them with the plane he had built.
The photograph shows a young boy shyly holding up a plane bigger than he is. On the wings, the boy has written the letters "U.S.A."
"What really gets me about this picture, apart from the fact it's my brother with his whole life ahead of him, is that it represents the innocent dreams and aspirations of a child," said Debra Burlingame, who came to Washington recently with her brothers, Brad and Mark, to promote the foundation and attend Sept. 11 remembrance services, including a ceremony at Burlingame's grave in Arlington National Cemetery.
The photograph was among those on display at a memorial service for Burlingame at Annapolis after the attack. Soon afterward, a friend who was at the service suggested having the picture made into a life-size sculpture. Pursuing the idea, Debra Burlingame contacted Ron Petitt, a Colorado artist and Vietnam veteran who specializes in sculpting military figures.
Petitt has created a model for the planned sculpture, and the family plans to raise funds for the foundation by selling bronze sculptures to the public. The Burlingame siblings have created a Web site, www.patriotdreamsfoundation.org, with information about the organization.
The foundation's goals are something Chic Burlingame would have embraced, according to his sister.
"We feel that there are many talented, bright kids who would make terrific officers and that they should not be denied their dream simply because they come from families with modest incomes or attended secondary schools that didn't adequately prepare them for standardized testing," Debra Burlingame said.