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

September 2, 1944

Dear Mom,

Yesterday I had a real treat: corn-on-the-cob. It was not the best I've had, but good for this country. The French apparently do not eat it, at least in this manner, and think we're crazy for doing so. One Frenchman tried and went off with a puzzled look on his face. They feed it to the pigs. Two of our officers came inside to eat theirs as they were afraid to make a spectacle of themselves.

We also had some champagne. Some of it was two years old but pretty fair. Cost $2 per bottle. It was marked for the German Army but apparently they didn't get time to drink it all. The other was 14 years old and cost only $2.50 per bottle. Champagne from a canteen cup is good, but hardly romantic.

I got a wedding announcement from Al Willing the other day. It was postmarked Midland, Texas, so I imagine the girl is from there though they were married at Miami Beach at Atlantic Towers Chapel. The girl's name was Naomi Lucille Herrick.

Somebody, and I imagine it was Joe Landers for it came from his HQ, sent me half a dozen books on French, so I guess I'll have to take up the study in earnest. One set is the Army text book on Spoken French and very good it is. It requires someone who speaks French to talk it to you, but we've got several men around who do, and I imagine I can cajole one of them to assist. What with the news broadcasts perhaps I ought to start learning German!

Ever since England where we were constantly pestered by the cry of "any gum, chum?" from the little kids, our men have taken keen delight in passing the phrase on to French children. Variations spring up, of course, but one of the funniest episodes happened the other day when a little French boy came up to the colonel and said in perfect English, "Any gum, G.I." ("G.I." being slang for "enlisted man" you can imagine the result.) However, the colonel took it as a good joke. No gum, though.

Recently I had opportunity to visit a French barber shop, I didn't need a haircut but I stopped in for a hair wash and shave. I say "hair wash" advisedly, for that's what it was and not the shampoo it was supposed to be.

Over here they hang a long metal trough on the back of the chair and you bend your head back into it. Then the barber pours on soapy water from a small silver pot, rubs that in, and rinses with warm water from a large silver pot. The water drains off the troughs into the wash bowl. That way you don't leave the chair. And that's just about it. The shave was very conventional but he hurt my feelings by not trimming my mustache which I have let grow in again. Apparently he didn't even see it. (It was rather dark in the shop.) Since my principle reason for getting the shave was to have the mustache trimmed, I felt rather frustrated. The barber spoke no English so I didn't feel equal to the task of sign language necessary to put over what I wanted. I got the shampoo by pointing to his sign and the shave by rubbing my hand on my chin. Total cost: $.40

As I wrote you before, our chaplain was injured in an accident so today we had Mass in the village church of the little town we are near. The local priest read the mass. He wore red robes and the two altar boys wore red cassocks and red Cardinal's caps. It made a colorful note against the stone walls of the building. He gave no sermon as he spoke only French. A good share of the town were present but we rather crowded them out.

The normal congregation would seem to be about 100. We rather overflowed the place and they brought in extra chairs from the priest's house and where ever they could.

This priest was an elderly man. The previous pastor was a young man killed in the war in 1940. After church we saw his grave in the adjacent cemetery.

French cemeteries are astounding in the quantities of marble they have. How they afford it is a mystery. Typical also are elaborate and intricate metal crosses and, of course, quantities of flowers everywhere. The cemeteries are either a walled-off plot outside the town or the ground immediately adjacent to the church.

Something surprising in church interiors, in view of the elaborateness of everything else, is the simple form of stations of the Cross. Nearly always in these village churches they are a plain wooden cross with a Roman numeral or a very plain panel.

This church today was more like our own inside in its arrangement. Its sanctuary was about normal size. Most churches here use half the space of the church for a sanctuary surrounded by a grill-iron fence and the choir apparently sits herein also.

Our chaplain used to tell us that French priests are not assigned as ours are, but rather travel around until they find a church which will support them and there they stay.

Unbeknown to me I was recommended for the Silver Star medal and the other day the order came down awarding it. I enclose that portion, which pertains to me. Actually, I had little to do with the affair and I have taken steps to insure that those men who did the job receive proper recognition and medals.

I haven't got the medal yet, or even the ribbon, for we've been moving too fast to let Division catch up to make the award.

Some time ago, along with others of the unit I was awarded a Combat Infantryman's Badge which I have not received either mainly because they haven't been made yet as it's a new badge.

I still am sedulously avoiding the Purple Heart.

The news about Pop was good. Hope the job lasts for him.

Tell Gracie I got all of Marnie's letters which she copied. Also the one on India and the package she sent. Don't bother about anything for Christmas. Don't expect anything either, for all towns are Off Limits for fighting troops. We capture them and then have to move out of them. Just the service units get to stay in them. Makes us pretty mad.

Love,

Bob

My envelopes are all stuck and I have to use this German gummed tape which I found in one of their headquarters we took over. Hope it sticks.

Enclosure

CAPT ROBERT F. BURNS, 0384203, Inf. United States Army. On 12 July 1944 Capt. Burns, battalion S-3, while forward, located the remnants of three rifle companies. Due to high losses the morale of the men was very low and they were completely disorganized. Capt. Burns, working under heavy enemy fire, completely reorganized the remainder of these companies into a provisional unit and stayed in command until relieved by another battalion. Capt. Burns' fearlessness and leadership under very difficult circumstances was in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service. Entered service from Illinois.

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