World War Two, 1943-1945        
 
The night before Bob was to report for duty at Fort Lewis in Tacoma, Ebba took a slew of family photographs, all of which, she later lamented, were out of focus. Still, they give us an idea of how the family was doing at that critical moment, with both Don and Bob having been declared 1-A.







He and his Whitman buddy Robert Turner went through the Fort Lewis gate, shown below in 1943, on about December 8. They enlisted as part of the Enlisted Reserve Corps, and owing to their high draft numbers, were among the last of the able-bodied Whitman men to leave campus. Bob was 22 years old.

Army life was not difficult, but it was extremely tedious from the very start: monotony, routine, repetition marked every day of training. The pictures below show Fort Lewis as it appeared in the WWII years.





At Fort Lewis, the Army General Classification Test (similar to an SAT) revealed Bob's smarts and he was transferred to Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia, in January of 1944 for further assessment.



Bob underwent another round of testing, in specific subject areas this time, just as Don was summoned to report to Fort Lewis for his own induction process.
Here Don's long battle with sinusitis and allergies served him well. He fell ill, was confined to the infirmary for a long while, and eventually discharged for health reasons. As a vocal opponent of the war, Don was not disappointed in this outcome, and rejoined D.A. Burns & Sons.
With Don out of the fray, and Dave the beneficiary of a deferment by virtue of working in a defense-critical industry (D.A. Burns & Sons had earned this designation because they cleaned rugs for some temporary Navy headquarters), only Bob was left to worry about. But his subject testing had gone well, and he had been accepted into the Army Specialized Training Program as a future engineering student.
This relief lasted all of a few weeks. The ASTP was disbanded, and although he did not tell his family right away, Bob knew he was very likely to be shipped overseas. His unit, Company C of the 345th Regiment of the 87th Infantry Division, was transferred to Fort Jackson, South Carolina in March.
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Bob came home on furlough in May, and Betty played hooky from college, without asking her aunt and uncle, so she could spend the time with him at the Burns shop.
Betty lived with Ada and Guy that summer, working at a warehouse job and joining in the family trips to Lake Ames on weekends. She and Guy planted "Bob and Betty" trees in the yard.





The cabin continued to be a wonderful retreat for the family throughout the long summer of waiting to hear what would become of Bob.








In the summer of 1944, the 87th Infantry Division became "hot", meaning it would prepare for an active combat role. Bob was identified as good medic material by one of his superiors and trained for that role.
Medics did not carry guns, but he had already attained "sharpshooter" status with the M-1 rifle.
The 87th went by train to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey to prepare for shipment to the ETO, the European Theater of Operations.
Bob went to New York City before they sailed, spending the whole night walking around the city with his old college friend, Jack Parrish. The New York Times building was his favorite sight.
They sailed across the Atlantic on the Queen Elizabeth, one of the largest cruise liners in the world, which had been painted battleship grey. Bob recalls meals of mutton and a bit of seasickness.
They landed in Scotland and took the train to Biddulph, England, where they spent Thanksgiving. The Biddulph Station is shown here.
In the meantime, back in Seattle, the family was in a dither packaging up Christmas gifts for Bob, which included one of these two little angels. Betty kept the other one.
Once she learned that Bob was being shipped overseas, Ada became distraught. She took the boat to Victoria and spent a week trying to calm down at The Charming Inn, at Oak Bay.
 
 
By the first week in December, the 87th Division -- the Golden Acorn -- had arrived at LeHavre, a port city in France that lay in ruins from bombing.
The first engagement with the "enemy" was at the fort at Flappeville, near Metz, in northeastern France, when a soldier out on patrol was killed by friendly fire.
In the middle of December, the 87th moved to the Saar region, in Germany near the French Lorraine. Near the little town of Medelsheim, Bob treated a lieutenant from another company who had been shot in the foot. For this he received the Bronze Star, although he felt his actions were by no means heroic. Below is Medelsheim today.
It was also in the Saar that Bob witnessed death up close and in person. William Guenther, whose grave is shown below, was a Browning Automatic Rifle specialist dug into a foxhole with Bob as their squad tried to flush out some Geman snipers. The snipers killed Guenther and others in the squad -- and also other soldiers sent as backup. After the snipers were killed, Bob and his fellow medic Jerome Stockell were left behind to treat those injured in the fight. They ended up transporting several severaly wounded soldiers back to camp, only to find the whole regiment loaded up and ready to depart. They were minutes away from being left behind.
On Christmas Eve, the regiment was on the move again, to counteract the German bulge. On transport and on foot, they made their way in freezing temperatures and falling snow to Belgium.
Their first battle was in Moircy, a small town they entered at the end of December. Here friendly fire and poor communication wreaked havoc on Bob's company, which never received word to withdraw from the town as the Germans advanced. Bob recalls being given an abandoned field radio as he did reconnaissance in the town looking for wounded, and delivering it to the company commander, holed up in the basement of a safe house. The company's radio man was then able to contact headquarters and call off the artillery. The photo is of Moircy, and it's not impossible that one of the soldiers is Bob.
On January third, Wilma gave birth to David Argyle Burns, III.

On January 9th, in Bonnerue, just a few miles from Moircy, Bob earned his Silver Star by rescuing two soldiers from a burning building he later learned was full of ammunition. Below is Bonnerue today.
Bob's two decorations were his ticket home. George Patton, General of the Third Army, had decreed that soldiers with two awards for valor would receive an extended furlough of 45 days. The General was in no danger of a mass exodus of infantry as a result. There were very few such doubly decorated soldiers to reward in this way.

   

   

It took Bob almost six weeks to get home -- his transport ship broke down in Southhampton and repairs took a month -- and by the end of the furlough, which was slated to begin only after he returned to Seattle, the war in Europe was over.
Bob and Betty got married less than two weeks after he arrived back at Fort Lewis.
This is Bob and Betty, crossing the threshold at the shop.....
Shot 2016-03-31 at 10

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