Buerkle, Elmer Charles, CDR

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Last Rank
Last Primary NEC
111X-Unrestricted Line Officer - Surface Warfare
Last Rating/NEC Group
Line Officer
Primary Unit
1939-1943, 111X, USS Helena (CL-50)
Service Years
1925 - 1943

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

Home State
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Tommy Burgdorf (Birddog), FC2 to remember Buerkle, Elmer Charles, CDR.

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Casualty Info
Home Town
San Diego, CA
Last Address
3020 Goldsmith St
San Diego, CA
(Wife~Lillian Neil Buerkle)

Casualty Date
Jul 06, 1943
Hostile, Died while Missing
Other Explosive Device
Pacific Ocean
World War II
Location of Interment
Manila American Cemetery - Taguig City, Philippines
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Tablets of the Missing (Cenotaph)

 Official Badges 

 Unofficial Badges 

 Military Association Memberships
WWII Memorial National RegistryThe National Gold Star Family RegistryWorld War II FallenUnited States Navy Memorial
  2013, WWII Memorial National Registry
  2013, The National Gold Star Family Registry
  2015, World War II Fallen
  2015, United States Navy Memorial - Assoc. Page

 Photo Album   (More...

 Ribbon Bar

 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
USS Cachalot (SS-170)CNO - OPNAVUSS Helena (CL-50)
  1933-1937, 112X, USS Cachalot (SS-170)
  1937-1939, 111X, CNO - OPNAV
  1939-1943, 111X, USS Helena (CL-50)
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1941-1941 World War II/Asiatic-Pacific Theater/Attack on Pearl Harbor
  1942-1942 World War II
  1942-1942 Guadalcanal Campaign (1942-42)/Battle of the Eastern Solomons
  1942-1943 World War II/Asiatic-Pacific Theater/Guadalcanal Campaign (1942-42)
  1942-1942 Guadalcanal Campaign (1942-42)/Cape Esperance (Second Savo)
  1943-1943 Guadalcanal Campaign (1942-42)/Battle of Rennel Island
  1943-1943 World War II/Asiatic-Pacific Theater/New Georgia Campaign (1943)
  1943-1943 Northern Solomon Islands Campaign (1943-44)/Battle of Kula Gulf
 Colleges Attended 
United States Naval AcademyUniversity of California, Berkeley
  1921-1925, United States Naval Academy2
  1931-1933, University of California, Berkeley
 Other News, Events and Photographs
  Jun 12, 1921, Service entry date
  Aug 24, 1943, Yale News Digest no. 23 August 24 1943: Buerkle, Ex-Professor Here, Reported Missing
  Oct 06, 2015, General Photos1
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

He was the Executive Officer, USS HELENA (CL 50)

The Sinking
The Helena opened fire to port at 0157 hours. About seven minutes after she opened fire at about 0203 hours, the Helena was hit by a torpedo. The first Japanese Type 93 torpedo, also called a Long Lance, could travel at 48–50 knots (56 to 57 Mph) and impacted the Helena on the port side just below number one turret (near frame 32), tearing off the bow of the ship. The following explosions by two more torpedoes that hit under the second stack, port side, (near frame 82 and about frame 85) less than two minutes later at about 0205, caused catastrophic and terminal damage. The forward movement of the ship along with the massive structural frame damage caused the ship to twist and jackknife around the damaged area. The ship, still under momentum, went past the bow of the Helena and began to flood. The center part twisted to 45 degrees port sinking first. It dragged the rear of the ship down until the stern was vertical. About 22 minutes after the ship was first hit the ship sank at about 0225. In the mean time, the crew abandoned ship by going over the side after cutting free all the surviving life rafts into the ocean. Between the forward momentum of the ship the survivors were scattered over several hundred yards, at night, amidst a raging naval battle. Later currents would separate them even more. The bow would finally sink later the next day.


Name of Award
Silver Star
Year Awarded
Details behind Award:
Awarded for actions during the World War II

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Silver Star (Posthumously) to Commander Elmer Charles Buerkle (NSN: 0-59576), United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and meritorious service in the line of his profession as Executive Officer of the U.S.S. HELENA (CL-50), which as a unit of a Task Force successfully engaged Japanese land and naval forces twice within a period of twenty-four hours on 5 and 6 July 1943, in the vicinity of Kula Gulf, British Solomon Islands. Commander Buerkle by his skill and cool and determined conduct under enemy fire contributed material assistance to his Commanding Officer in directing the extremely heavy and accurate gunfire of his vessel. During the second of these engagements his vessel was struck by three Japanese torpedoes and sank within the space of a few minutes. Commander Buerkle directed the abandon-ship operations so successfully that the total personnel loss of the officers and crew of his vessel was only fifteen percent of her total complement. Commander Buerkle in complete disregard for his own safety assisted many members of his crew on board rescuing destroyers and was instrumental in saving the lives of a great number of his men. Due to this heroic conduct he was not rescued and is considered missing in action. His conduct and heroism throughout were an inspiration to his officers and men and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: Commander South Pacific: Serial 001979 (September 28, 1943)
Action Date: July 5 & 6, 1943
Service: Navy
Rank: Commander
Title: Executive Officer
Ship: U.S.S. Helena (CL-50)
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