Plymouth County

1st Sgt. Robert J. Burns

Born 28 Jul 1917
Died 07 Nov 1943


Letter Written April 21 Indicates Casualties Not Heavy

Mrs. Jim Burns received four letters this week, all in a bunch, from her son, Sgt. Bob Burns, the latest of them written April 21.  The letters speak of having “gone through more than you will ever know,” but add the welcome information that losses in the units with which Sgt. Burns is connected were very light.  He states that all of the men originally with his platoon have been transferred to other duties, with the exception of Phil Dominick, who is referred to as being “as good a soldier as anyone could ask for.”

One of the letters, evidently written before he knew of the death of Ronald Carey, tells about Corporal Carey being transferred out of his platoon and attached to headquarters.

“I’m sure glad to see Ron get this good break,” wrote Sgt. Burns.  He’s a swell fellow, and this is a nice advancement for him and the work is pleasanter.” But Corporal Carey had only about a week or 10 days to enjoy his new assignment before he was killed.

A later letter mentioned that “we have lost _________.” The censor has scratched out the name.  Censors do not allow the naming of casualties, but there is enough of the writing visible to identify Corporal Carey’s name.

The letters also state that up to the time they were written “all of the Plymouth County bunch”  with the exception of the one killed, were in good health, though dog-tired.

A “whole bunch of Globe-Posts, some of them dated as far back as February, just got here,” says one of the letters. “But it doesn’t really matter what the date is, it’s all ‘Right & Early’ to us.”  One of the papers contains a letter praising the Red Cross, and the boys in Tunisia liked that.

The boys of the “Fightin’ K” are griped, one of the letters says, about the complaints of the civilians back home over rationing.  “Guess what we have to eat?” says Bob Burns.  “I cooked for my platoon yesterday.  All we had with us was some canned salmon, and some hardtack.  So I made salmon loaf.

“We had nothing to bake it in, so we made pans out of gasoline tins, and baked our salmon loaf in that.  It was swell.”

Source: LeMars Globe-Post, May 6, 1943

Sergt. Bob Burns Reported Wounded In Italian Campaign
Was First Sergeant of Co. K Which Went From LeMars

Mr. and Mrs. James Burns received a telegram Friday noon notifying them that their son, Bob, had been wounded in action.  The telegram is as follows:

“Regret to inform you, your son First Sergeant Robert J. Burns was, on November 4, seriously wounded in action in Italy.  You will be advised as reports of condition are received. –Signed, Adjutant General.”

Bob is a member of Co. K. and went with them to Camp Claiborne, La., from there to Camp Dix, New Jersey, then to Ireland, England and then to Africa where they saw action.  On September 21 they arrived in Italy and two days later went into action.

The last letter that they received from Bob was written October 23 and in it be wrote, “In regards to our goings on, no doubt you can well imagine it.  Your radio can give you much more than I even know.  So keep an eye on us, as we move up your map.”

Bob was recently made First Sergeant of Co. K.

Source: LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel, November 30, 1943

Was Wounded In Italian Fighting On November 4

Mr. and Mrs. James Burns of LeMars were notified Thursday of the death of their son, First Sergeant Robert J. Burns, who had previously been reported seriously injured in action in Italy. The message from the adjutant general’s office in Washington said:

“The Secretary of War desires that I tender his deep sympathy to you in the loss of your son, First Sergeant Robert J. Burns. Report received states that he died on November 6, in the north African area as results of wounds received in action. Letter follows.”

Bob was a member of Co. K., Iowa National Guard, when that unite was inducted into service in February 1941, and trained with the 34th Division at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. He went with them to Camp Dix, New Jersey, thence overseas to Ireland, England and finally to North Africa where he participated in the heavy fighting in which a number of Co. K. boys were killed or wounded. On September 21 they moved into Italy to reinforce General Clark’s Army and November 26 Mr. and Mrs. Burns were notified that he had been seriously wounded in action November 4. This latest message indicates he died two days later. Bob has served with Co. K. throughout almost three years in the Army and was made First Sergeant of the company after Sergeant Robert Vanderwal was killed in the African fighting. He was a good soldier and was popular in the company as he had been when clerking in the Schneider-Bowers store.

Robert J. Burns was born July 28, 1917, in Oyens, and attended LeMars high school, graduating in 1936. He was active in both basketball and football and well liked by his fellow students.

He is survived by his parents and two sisters, Mrs. F. L. Sharp of Carroll, and Mrs. C. L. Peterson, East Lansing, Michigan. He was a member of St. James church.

Source: LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel, Dec. 10, 1943

Honor Memory of Sgt. Robert J. Burns

Memorial services were held Monday morning at St. James church for Sergeant Robert J. Burns, who died from wounds November 6, while in action in Italy with the Army.  Requiem high mass was celebrated with Rev. H. B. Karhoff of Oyens, Rev. A. Friedman of Remsen, Rev. H. Weimer of Bancroft and Rev. L. J. Cooper of St. James church officiating.

Military honors were accorded the young soldier.  Members of Company D., Iowa State Guard and Wasmer Post, American Legion, being in attendance.  Color bearers were: Floyd Freeman, Frank Varenhorst, Harry Feller, Will McDougall, Jas. Carey, and Martin Wanderscheid.  Relatives from out of town present at the service were Miss Avis Schully of New Orleans, Mr. and Mrs. C. L. Petersen of Lansing, Mich., Mr. and Mrs. F. L. Sharp of Carroll, Iowa.

Source:  LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel, December 14, 1943

1st Sgt. Robert James Burns is buried in Calvary Cemetery, Le Mars, IA.