From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

John Burke '63

Date of birth: October 9, 1941

Date of death: May 22, 1968

Age: 26

Lucky Bag

From the 1963 Lucky Bag:


John was lost when USS Scorpion (SSN 589) sank on May 22, 1968.



September 27, 2014: A tribute from Jim Ring.

Jack was my plebe summer roommate and he was a great one to have. We were here three days when our other roommate, Gordon Smith from Georgia, said "I ain't doing this sh--! And resigned. If it wasn't for Jack, I probably would have followed him. I know I called my Mother and told her I wanted to come home. But thanks to Jack and my folks, I stayed and it was the best decision of my life.

Jack helped me because he always had a positive outlook on everything and a fantastic smile on his face. He encouraged me and made our short time together enjoyable, if that is possible during plebe summer.

During our four years at the Academy, he was in the other regiment, so I would only see him occasionally, but he always had that big smile on his face.

After we graduated, Jack went into the nuclear power and submarine pipeline and unfortunately was on the USS SCORPION-SSN-589, when it sunk on 22 May 1968 with two other classmates. This was almost one year later to the day that one of my other roommates, Jim "Kelly" Patterson, was lost over North Vietnam. Their bodies were never recovered.

I had no contact with his family until I was involved with the Class Foundation and Mike Lents tracked down his widow and found out that Jack had two children. Stasia was four and Heidi was under one, when he died. The Class Foundation provided grants for college to both of his children and both finished college.

Fast forward 50 years and I noticed that a Gordon Smith from Georgia (and there was only one person with that name, who entered with us) donated $1000 to our 50th reunion gift fund. Guess you can't get USNA out of your system.

From Mike Rubel:

Jack was my roommate all 4 years. He and I met several times after graduation and he was stationed at Groton CT when I was in Sub school as a porkchop. When news of SCORPION came out I tried to get to Jolene but no answer. 3 days later I took GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER out of Charleston SC on my last patrol. We now have Jolene in our company data base and we email from time to time. She's also on my Facebook! He was the sweetest guy ever.

And from Sherwood Zimmerman: My memory is that Jack was the smartest guy in our company - maybe the smartest guy in '63. We knew Jack and Jolene at sub school in Groton, CT - a great couple.

From USS Scorpion (SSN-589) In Memoriam

John Patrick Burke was born October 9, 1941, in Adrian, Mich. He attended Holy Rosary Grammar School in San Bernardino, Calif., and graduated from San Bernardino High School. He was a member of the high school tennis team and received a publication award for meritorious contributions to high school publications.

In July 1959, he was accepted as a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy. He was consistently on the superintendent’s list at the Academy and after graduation with the class of 1963, was commissioned as an Ensign. He received nuclear propulsion training at Mare Island, Calif., from September 1963 to April 1964, and Idaho Falls, Idaho, from April 1964 to October 1964. He attended the Naval Submarine School in Groton, Conn., from October 1964 to May 1965. His first duty in submarines was in U.S.S. Tench, where he served as electronics material officer, sonar officer, supply officer, and commissary officer.

Lieutenant Burke reported to U.S.S. Scorpion in September 1966, and served as weapons officer and duty officer. He was authorized to wear the National Defense Service Medal.

He is survived by his widow, the former Jolene Belle Gillard of San Bernardino; and daughters Stasia Marie and Heidi Jane. He is also survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Maurice E. Burke, of San Bernardino.

Related Articles

Francis Slattery '54, David Lloyd '56, Daniel Stephens '59, Charles Lamberth '63, George Farrin '63, John Sweet '64, Laughton Smith '65, and Michael Odening '66 were also aboard USS Scorpion (SSN 589) when she was lost with all hands on May 22, 1968.

USS Scorpion (SSN-589) In Memoriam - LT John Burke

Class of 1963

John is one of 29 members of the Class of 1963 on Virtual Memorial Hall.

The "category" links below lead to lists of related Honorees; use them to explore further the service and sacrifice of the alumni in Memorial Hall.