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From Robert Burton, Jr., come the following photos of his dad.  Thanks Robert!





In growing up I was proud that my father, Robert E. Burton, Sr. was an American GI during World War II.  I remember spending many a Sunday afternoon watching war stories on a program aired in the sixties called “The Big Picture”.  Dad was always looking to see himself or his unit in some of the footage that was shown about the battles of that Great War.  He told me that he had fought in the Battle of the Bulge and that he and two others were the only ones that survived from his unit.  He was always curious as to what happened to his army buddies, but I just don’t think he knew how to go about finding them.  Perhaps if he had lived long enough to experience today’s Internet, he may have been more fortunate in his quest.


Dad was born, July 15, 1925, in a small Kentucky town known as Jabez.  He came from a farming family in this rural Kentucky area and entered the service six months after he and my mother, Helen Whitis, had met.  Dad went through his basic training in South Carolina. The photo below shows his unit with which he trained.


He is the third from the left on the back row.

After completing his basic, he was allowed to go home for a leave before shipping over seas.


The photo below is Dad and Mom right before he left for Europe.



Dad had entered the service August 22, 1944.  He left for Europe January 8, 1945 from New York.  I remember him saying that the men were packed in the boat like sardines and that he got terribly seasick on the way over.  I am not positive but I think he first went to England and then on to Europe.  He did write that he arrived in Europe on January 18, 1945.  He was in the 1st Infantry Battalion of the 317th Infantry regiment.


Dad told bits and pieces about his battle experiences over the years but didn’t really talk a lot about his military service.  I know that he served in the “Battle of the Bulge” and saw a lot of hostile action. He related one tale of when he and some men had been sent out on patrol and he and two others were all that came back to base.  He said they got involved in a firefight when they were caught coming down a hillside by some German’s hiding in a wooden thicket.  He was lying on his stomach behind a small tree firing down into the woods line, when bullets started hitting the ground straight for him.  The fire kept coming and reached the small tree, went up the trunk of the tree until it became thin enough for the bullets to go through, then they hit the ground between his legs and went on up the hillside.  He looked to his left and right and both his comrades were dead.  There was a tank concealed in the thicket and the sergeant ordered him and another fellow to go take out the tank.  Dad carried the ammunition and they worked their way around to the right of the tank.  He said that apparently the tank operator saw them crawling around on the right and began turning the turret toward them.  On the way around as they lowered the barrel of the tank it became stuck in the fork of a tree.  He couldn’t come around and Dad and his partner blasted the tank.  He said he could still close his eyes and hear the barrel of that turret thumping against that tree trying to get around. 


At another time Dad told of a time when he had been awake for three days and totally exhausted.  They were in thick woods at night and couldn’t see anything around them.  He and another fellow came upon a shell hole and crawled in to get some rest.  Dad said the next day they woke and it was bright daylight and not one tree was left standing around them.  They had completely slept through a mortar attack without waking.


Below is a photo of the squad that Dad was in.  He has written on the back of the photo that these were the men that "I trained with and fought with through the war."  Apparently only three of these men came home.


Robert Burton is second row to the left, first person.


Dad was apparently in Switzerland when the war ended.  He had several photos taken while he was in this area.   In one photo, he is standing guard duty on a bridge in the Alps Mountains.  On a note on the back of the photo, he wrote that the bridge was over 100 foot high in the middle and that this photo was taken a day or two after the war ended.



In another photo, he writes that these are some men we had captured and after the war ended we let them go back home.




This next photo is also of the bridge in the photo above that my father was guarding.  He says that wagons of soldiers going home to Germany passed this way for several days after the war ended.



The following picture is a view of the road up the Alps Mountains and a corner of the bakery shop where they were staying when they learned the war had ended.



At some point Dad’s unit must have been moved into Germany.  In one photo of a grand house, Dad said that the house of the Duke of Oldenburg was now “his” home.






House of the Duke of Oldenburg, Rastede, Germany



Here is a photo of Dad and a friend he called Bailey, June 1, 1946.



On June 17, 1946, Dad left Europe for the United States.  On June 25, 1946, he arrived back in the United States.  On July 2, 1946 he was honorably discharged from the service.  He was then back home again in the hills and valleys of Kentucky.



On October 1, 1946 Helen Marie Whitis and Robert Earl Burton were wed.

One year later, they had a photo taken on their first anniversary.

I’m in this photo, but only by about a month.



I have a lot to be thankful for in my lifetime.  I am truly thankful for men like my father who gave up dreams and safety at home and placed their country, it’s future, and the future of it’s citizens above their own best interests to sacrifice their time and too often their lives, so that we could live the life we have today.



Robert E. Burton, Jr. (b. June 2, 1948)






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