Major Robert F. Burns

90th Division, U.S. Army

 

War Letters from Europe

Normandy to Germany

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Letters from France

June 22, 1944
June 29, 1944
June 29, 1944 (2nd)
July 6, 1944
July 17, 1944
August 10, 1944
August 14, 1944
August 25, 1944
September 1, 1944
September 2, 1944
September 3, 1944
September 3, 1944 (2nd)
September 14, 1944
September 16, 1944
September 16, 1944 (2nd)
September 17, 1944
September 28, 1944
October 2, 1944
October 14, 1944
October 22, 1944
November 2, 1944
November 12, 1944
November 24, 1944
December 2, 1944
December 27, 1944

Letters from Luxembourg

January 9, 1945
January 16, 1945
January 20, 1945

Letter from Belgium

February 7, 1945

Letters from Germany

February 9, 1945
February 21, 1945
February 23, 1945
February 26, 1945
April 5, 1945
May 5, 1945

Letters from Czechoslovakia

May 10, 1945
May 16, 1945

Letters from Germany

May 19, 1945
May 20, 1945
May 24, 1945
June 3, 1945
June 22, 1945

Letters from France

June 30, 1945
July 3, 1945

Letters from Germany

July 14, 1945
July 27, 1945
July 30, 1945
August 3, 1945
August 14, 1945

Letters from France

August 26, 1945
August 28, 1945
August 29, 1945

Letters from Germany

September 9, 1945
September 11, 1945
September 13, 1945
September 15, 1945
September 17, 1945
September 23, 1945
September 27, 1945
October 1, 1945
October 9, 1945

Letters from France

October 13, 1945
October 15, 1945
October 22, 1945
November 5, 1945
November 17, 1945
November 17, 1945 (2nd)
November 23, 1945
November 30, 1945
December 17, 1945
December 17, 1945 (2nd)
December 18, 1945
December 26, 1945
January 2, 1946

Letters from Belgium

January 14, 1946
January 15, 1946
January 17, 1946
January 17, 1946 (2nd)

Letters from France

January 21, 1946
January 24, 1946

France

October 14, 1944

Dear Mom,

Yesterday it came to me how little has been said about some real heroes of this war - the runners. Theirs is a truly difficult job; to carry messages, day or night, literally through hell or high water. Theirs is the unpleasant task of crossing fields punctured with enemy shelling while others seek cover. Of tracing and retracing their steps over difficult, hard-fought foreground. Of finding people who are somewhere else than where they ought to be. Of going through pitch black into areas they have never seen by day to find their company, who lie silent and huddled in their holes, not revealing themselves.

Unsung. Unhonored. Almost unthought-of, save for the careless phrase "Send this by runner." Easy enough when the companies are all together in one area a few hundred yards at most separating them. But suppose the company is a mile or two away. Then what? Let me tell you about yesterday.

One of the companies was in a new area and I wanted to go check their position. The woods being thick and the trails many, I went to get a runner to put me on the right road.

He was scraping the mud off his shoes with a stick, for in some places the brown goo was ankle deep. He straightened his lean figure and in his slow-talking voice he said: "Sir, I'd better take you there or you'll get lost." I protested. Who is not vain enough to think he can find his way around?

"Just put me on the road and I'll get here." So we went off together and I knew he intended to go all the way. I was not sorry. I liked this man. I had been in his company and he under my command. I knew him well. Not outstanding, not brilliant, but reliable.

We started to skirt the muddy approach. "It would be better to go by jeep. Then we'd only have about 600 yards to walk." He looked at me hopefully. I hadn't realized it was so far. He had already made the full trip twice, on foot, that day. I agreed and went in to beg a vehicle.

It came and we ground and slithered our way along the twisting trail. Finally we slid to a halt and got out. My guide pointed to the ridge ahead. "We've got about 600 yards, all uphill. It's pretty slippery."

That proved to be a masterpiece of understatement. I slipped and I slid and I grabbed at trees as a man learning to skate reaches for support. I flailed my way up that slope. My guide, not without difficulty but with considerable more ease, paced out ahead, stopping now and then to wait for my floundering approach. Mud was everywhere. It squished over my shoes and grasped at my ankles, covered with leggings. Fortunately it was not sticky. I plunged on up the devious path, making new paths which muddied as fast as I set my foot down. My legs grew tired, my arches ached from the constant tenseness. Underneath my jacket I began to sweat. Still the guide went on. The mud splashed higher, caking my trousers. I was beyond caring. I wanted only to get there. At last we arrived. The Command Post group greeted me with broad grins. They lived in this. I was exposed to it only as I went around to the companies. I suppose it did their hearts good. I rather enjoyed their humor.

As I went around the position with the Company Commander, I found the runner tagging along. When I urged him to wait at the Command Post, he shook his head. I gave up. He seemed to feel personally responsible for me (or perhaps he wanted to be sure of that jeep ride back).

This was an easy day. We were only 150 yards from the Germans, but we couldn't see them, nor they us. Their shells climbed overhead but fell harmlessly off to one side and to the rear. Neither side was otherwise engaged, and our men were out of the rock-carved holes to enjoy the spark of sun, which filtered through the damp and mildewed foliage.

The downward trek was easier than the ascent. Again the runner forged ahead, I being careful not to make a toboggan of myself on earth's slick cover.

It was then I thought: If only those who write messages would sometimes carry them, they'd think twice about what they wrote and several times about what they sent.

Love,

Bob

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