Band of Brothers


Mom brought some old pictures when she visited last week. We had the opportunity to go through them and talk about them. Some of them I want to share with you. This is a photo of my Great Grandmother Burns and her six sons. All the boys served in World War II, most of them seeing heavy action. It was a miracle they all returned home alive.

Going from left to right:

John Burns – Navy

John was the only Uncle I never met, I don’t know anything of him. He passed away when I was very young. I don’t know where he served, if he ever got married, had kids or how he died.

Bob Burns – Army

Uncle Bob came back from the war and married his sweetheart Vera. They lived a simple life on the South Side near Idora Park. They were a private couple. One year the family got together at one of Uncle Clarence’s birthday bashes and I found myself sitting down with Bob over a few beers. He started talking about the War. Turns out he spent the war as a Captain of an Army unit in Burma. Burma was the longest campaign in the war and arguably the most ferocious. Bob told me stories about operating hundreds of miles behind enemy lines and ruthless hand-to-hand fighting. His unit was the model of the formation of the Army Rangers. His most horrific story, by far, was about the end of the war when he entered and released starving American GI’s from Japanese POW camps.

Lillian Burns – Mom

I never met her for she passed before I was born

Jim Burns – Army

Uncle Jim and his wife spent a lot of time together with Grandma and Grandpa. Whenever we visited their house on the West Side, it was always a happy place. The ladies meet every month to play Bridge for over 50 years. Jim and Grandpa shared their love of fishing. Uncle Jim spent time in the European Theater, including, I think, heavy action at the Battle of the Bulge.

Clarence Burns – Navy

We called him Uncle Monk. He and his wife Mildred both lived into their ’90s, having being married together for over 60 years. Both of them had incredible senses of humor. I don’t know much about his service in the war because he never talked about it. I think he served in the Pacific.

Floyd Burns – Army

Sadly, I don’t remember anything about Uncle Floyd. Someone once mentioned he was at Anzio. Mom recalls him fondly.

Frank Burns – Navy

My Grandpa. Look up the definition of a crusty seaman and you’ll see a picture of him. He was a tough little guy who could build and fix nearly everything. I guess that’s why they made him a Sea Bee. He said that when the Marines bragged about landing in the Solomon Islands his unit had built an airstrip and piers before their arrival. Once he told me of seeing his best friend take a shell, killing him instantly.