Major Robert F. Burns

90th Division, U.S. Army


War Letters from Europe

Normandy to Germany

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90th Division After Action Reports

358th Infantry Typed History from 9 July - 31 July 1944

Recommendation for Presidential Unit Citation for 3rd Bn, 358th Inf

Robert F. Burns

Robert F. Burns was a typical member of the "greatest generation" in that he rarely offered information about his service during World War II. When he did talk about the war, he tended to focus on humorous incidents such as while preparing to land on Utah Beach he fell off the transport ship onto the landing craft. His reticence in discussing the war seemed a bit unusual because, after being discharged from active duty, he stayed in the Army Reserves until 1974 when he retired as Commandant of General Staff College in Chicago with the rank of Colonel. He taught tactics at General Staff College in Chicago one evening each week and spent two weeks each summer at an army base taking or teaching courses. Towards the end of his life he had become interested in revisiting Normandy and planned a trip to France with my sister. Unfortunately, he became too ill with cancer to take the trip. He died in 1999.

War Letters Located. Before his older sister Grace died in 2001, we had many conversations with her about the family. Aunt Grace had a sharp memory into her 90s (she died at 93) and she served as that generation's family historian. During her last years, we discovered a treasure trove of his war letters and some photos in her basement, which we rescued during a basement flood. We added the letters to the voluminous records of his service in the Army and Reserves we had already consolidated after his death.

Utah Beach in 2004 Visit to Normandy. In his honor, his four children visited France together in 2004. We were very moved by our experience of walking Utah Beach and seeing the French countryside he saw during a very different time. Some of us felt that, in a sense, we were there in his place since he wasn't able to take his planned last trip. After we returned from France, we began to organize his letters and records. We quickly recognized what wonderful material we had in our possession. This web site was originally envisioned as a way to share his war letters and the insights they contained but it soon became evident that some of his personal materials were fairly unique. One of those documents is a 46 page copy of an original Army document that details 358th activities between July 9 and July 31st, 1944, some of the period of the Battle of the Foret de Mont Castre. The task of putting this web site together began in 2006 by transcribing his letters and the documents we thought might be interesting or useful to others researching the 90th Division's combat experience. The web site has been expanded to document his personal military history since that complements the information in the letters and the documents. To our knowledge, he never joined the 90th Division Association although he remained friends with many of the men he served with during the war such as Bill Falvey.

Personal History. Robert F. Burns was the youngest of the four surviving children of John M. and Eva Burns (nee Tillotson). Robert was born in Chicago on March 11, 1914. He attended St. Mel Grade School and Austin High School, from which he graduated in 1932. He attended the University of Illinois and received his Bachelor's in Fine Arts (major in painting) in 1936. He moved to San Francisco and worked for an ad agency for a few months writing copy and designing ads. In 1937 he took a position at the Museum of Art. where he worked at the Information Desk, prepared exhibits, and gave tours to the public. He was called to active duty in San Francisco on February 5, 1941. Please see Military Career for further information on his army career.

First Christmas in Chicago

After the War. After being discharged at Camp Grant, Illinois on June 3, 1946, he returned to Paris to marry Paulette Henriette Lequien on June 19, 1946. They had met during his time in Paris in late 1945. They returned to the United States in 1947 and lived initially with his parents in the family home on the West Side of Chicago. Their three children were joined by Paulette's mother, Elise Marie Dorpsmans, and Paulette's daughter, Marie-Paulette Lequien, both of whom emmigrated from France in 1950 after appropriate papers were obtained. Robert worked for many years at the Chicago School of Watchmaking as Advertising Manager. Paulette became ill with cancer in 1980 and battled the disease until her death in 1995. Robert died of colon cancer in 1999 at age 85.

For more information on the entire Burns family, please visit my brother Philip's extensive genealogical site at

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