S/Sgt. Bob Burrows, S-2
317th Infantry Regiment
Edited By Terry D. Janes
I take great pride in presenting you, dear reader, with the personal memoirs of S/Sgt. Bob Burrows, S-2, 2nd Battalion, 317th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division. Bob wrote these memoirs, primarily for the benefit of his children and future generations of his family. Bob is a very humble man, and at no time brags or tries to make his part of his story seem like self-glorification. Bob originally did not intend for his memoirs to reach outside his own family. I persuaded Bob to share his story here with us, because I believe that besides being a great story-teller, he gives us a vivid picture of what the war was like from his perspective. Bob had help, from men like Percy Smith and Andy Adkins, among others, to fill gaps left in his memory after nearly seven decades following the war. Bob would be the first to thank those men for the help they gave, so he could fill in bits and pieces of facts about what he went through. I wish to thank Bob, and his helpers for this great contribution to the history project. I offer this story to you, dear reader, in honor of Veteran's Day, 2013, on behalf of Bob, and the 3,480 men of the 80th Infantry Division "Blue Ridge" who never made it home, because they gave their all on a foreign battlefield, so that other men might be free. When you go to bed at night, be sure to say a prayer of thanks to these brave young men, and all the others who fought, so you can be free. May God bless them, and their families.
Terry D. Janes
I entered the Army of the United States (Not the United States Army) at the Federal Building in Detroit, Michigan, 20 February 1943. Immediately after my eighteenth birthday, October 1, 1942, Ted Kovalenko, Chuck Baker and I tested for Air Corps flight school at this same location. I should not have made this attempt as I had quit school in the tenth grade. No smarts. They checked the test sheets immediately, when it was determined I had missed the test by only one point they asked if I would like to go to aerial gunnery school. I assured them that would be great, at least I could be an air crewmember. Ted and Chuck waited for me to complete the Air Corps physical. I was sent down the hall to see the Doctors who were in the process of giving their exams. Another defect this time though no fault of myself, I was determined to be color blind, therefore not eligible. I was determined not to give up entering our armed services that day. With Chuck and Ted, school and church buddies (both passed the written test) in tow we went down the hall with my intent to join the Marines. When we got to their door, it was locked, a sign posted at eye level said, "We are not taking enlistment at this time"! Unbelievable, this is October 1942, less than 10 months after Pearl Harbor and the Marines were fighting to survive at Guadalcanal!
Chuck and Ted were to be notified by mail when they were scheduled to leave for pre flight training. I decided that I would wait until they received notification then I would volunteer for the Army. They were notified a couple of weeks later by mail to report for duty on 22 February 1943. I volunteered to leave on Saturday the 20th. I reported at the same Federal Building, took another physical examination, was determined to be alive, was sworn in and sent to Ft Custer, near Battle Creek, Michigan for processing that afternoon.
I was at Ft Custer for about a week then transferred to an Air Force basic training Center at Kearns, Utah, which was located about 15 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. After six weeks education of basic military etiquette, rules, regulations, close order drill and calisthenics. I was transferred to and stationed at the Breakers Hotel, Palm Beach, Florida. At our arrival the hotel was in the process of being converted into an Army Air Corps General hospital. It was established to care for airmen who were wounded in the North African Campaign that began 8 November 1942. I was assigned to the Laboratory as a clerk in the serology department. Some time either July or August I was encouraged by Officers to take a written test to qualify for a West Point appointment. Of course, due my lack of a fundamental education again I failed.
I volunteered to transfer to the paratroopers in September or October while at the breakers. I was denied permission, as I was "needed" where I was!
January 1944 an Adjutant General Officer came to the Breakers, I was in line with others, some with complaints but I wanted to transfer out to a line unit. Someone with a very high pay grade knew that the European Invasion was in our near future. The following month on 20 February ’44, one year to the day that I was sworn in, I was on a train headed for Camp Reynolds, in Sharon, Pennsylvania just a few short miles from Youngstown, Ohio. I shipped out within a week from Reynolds for Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. I left New York harbor on a British ship, Mauritania about the 27th of February. We arrived at Liverpool, England either the fourth or fifth of March 1944. Within two weeks after I left Palm Beach, I was 3,000 miles east of the United States in England!
While we were enroute to Shrivenham from Manchester we were involved in a head on Jeep/auto accident near Manchester, this accident happened about the tenth or twelfth of March. A Lieutenant was the driver whose name I do not recall. Considerable damage was done to the Englishman’s auto as we caught his left rear end and virtually totaled his car. After the war about the first of June of ‘45, I was in a head-on rail work-car/train crash in Austria. P J Carpenter was our "Engineer". We abandoned the vehicle before it struck the engine of the oncoming train. Luckily none were seriously injured but all had scrapes and bruises! Late July or early August of ’45 at Pfronten, Germany, I was in either an L-4 or L-5 Stinson airplane (probably L-4) which was a 313th Field Artillery spotter craft assigned and operated in combat to the 317thInfantry Regiment. Our intent was to make a simulated bombing run over one of the rifle Companies who were making an assault against an imagined enemy.
When we were about 75-100 feet in the air our plane stalled and we crashed. After striking the ground and stopped moving we were hanging upside down from our seat belts. I remember the pilot and I yelling to each other at the same time to get out. I am sure the pilot was concerned about fire! Fortunately no fire and the wheat field we ended in was not consumed in flames. I still recall that German woman screaming that we were destroying her crops! At the time I was wondering if the ship that would be taking me home might sink to complete the cycle!
After the jeep accident we finally reached our destination Shrivenham, a small thatched roof village about twenty miles from Swindon in central England. I had three months of easy duty in that beautiful countryside.
Just prior to D-Day June 6. 1944 I received my military drivers license to operate a "jeep" and was assigned to the G-5 Section (Civil Affairs/Military Government) section of the XII Corps as Major Frank Weaver’s driver. The Major was from Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin. (In January ’46 I received my first civilian drivers license. I got into an argument with the Royal Oak, Michigan police Chief. He was reluctant to issue one to me, as I was "color blind"! Same standards as the air force!)
D-Day, June 6, 1944 morning found the Major and I traveling to our new headquarters location of the XII Corps at King Edward School near Birmingham, England. News of the "Invasion" was headlined on an early morning paper as we entered the city. We were well aware that the invasion began the night before when at about 10:30 or 10:45 PM flights of C-47’s in formation flew over, all in the barracks sensed "this was it" the night before! I did not know it at the time, but units of the airborne and air force were stationed near Swindon. This information came from an airborne buddy in 2010; he was one of the troops who came over Shrivenham that night!
In France I was also drove for 1st Lieutenant David Pettibone Crane of our section when the Major had others duties. On 24 July, Corps forward Headquarters of which the G-5 Section was assigned, sailed from Southampton. I remember the Major and I were loaded aboard the Liberty ship James Haviland early Tuesday afternoon and unloading early the next afternoon. We were set ashore on Utah Beach from an amphibious small craft called a duck (DUKW) . Major Weaver and I drove through the small town of St. Mere Eglise shortly after being set ashore. If you saw the movie the "Longest Day", you may remember the paratrooper whose chute that caught on the Church steeple and had survived by feigning death. The Church was in bad physical shape when we passed through. I spent my first night in France in an apple orchard near Bricebecque.
From the twenty-fifth, to the day we became operational 8th August, Major Weaver and I traveled in the U S Army sector of France from St Lo to Mont St Michel sight seeing! But one of those days it became our duty to attend a funeral of a French woman who had been raped and murdered by one of our soldiers. I trailed this long funeral procession in the Jeep as the Major walked with the woman’s family who followed behind a pair of black horses drawing a black hearse, which carried the casket. Two women dressed in long black clothing, wearing black hats and veiling which covered their faces. They wailed from the Church to Cemetery. As we reached the Cemetery their wailing immediately stopped, what an eerie experience. Apparently that was their custom.
During the third Army break out from Avranches August First, to Nancy, I met many Free French and Communist underground fighters that came to the surface as our Armies advanced across France. XII Corps followed the combat troops under its command as they liberated towns and villages. Many times we were caught up in the celebration of these underground fighters. During my time in Corps, I was very fortunate to only encounter small arms and artillery fire twice, each time with Lieutenant Crane. G-5’s job was to assist each Village, town or City to get police and public utilities up and operating. The intent was for local Governing bodies to function on their own as soon as possible.
Our Corps sector varied from time to time as we moved south and east from Normandy toward our ultimate goal Germany. XII Corps became operational on 8 August 1944 at Mortain then continued generally eastward toward Chartres, Orleans, Sens, Bar-Le-Duc, Toul, Commercy, Nancy, Chateau Salins and Morhange where I left Corps in December. The last of August or the first of September the 3rd Army, which we were attached to, was restricted on fuel use for our vehicles, which immediately stopped our Tank Divisions. The cause was operation "Market Garden" a fiasco in the Netherlands of British General Bernard Montgomery’s making. The 3rd Army was bogged down in a defensive/offensive quagmire in Alsace-Lorraine region of northern France until 8 November when the 3rd Army resumed attacking eastward again.
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