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Private George H. Burr

29th Infantry Division - 116th Infantry Regiment - M Company

Omaha Beach

 
I entered in 1941 and was trained at Fort Devans in Massachusetts; then, we went to Fort Meade in Maryland. I was also trained for 13 weeks at Camp Croft in South Carolina. I was in the army when Pearl Harbor happened. The Sergeant at Camp Croft told us that they were no longer going to ask us where we wanted to go, we were at war and they would send us where they needed us. I was sent with a lot of others whose name began with “B” – Bianchi from Connecticut and Bowles from Massachusett. We continued training at Camp Croft with heavy machine guns (water cooled).
My trip to England from the states was very "eventful" and the exact date can be looked up - because of the event! I was on the Queen Mary that had been converted to a troop carrier. There were about 11-12,000 troops on board. We did not travel in a convoy, as we would have been a sitting duck.  The Queen was so fast that the ships could not keep up with her. She changed course every 3-5 minutes - I could see the change by watching the horizon and the waves. It took 5 days to cross. Outside of Glasgow, Scotland, British minesweepers that criss-crossed in front of the Queen met us. One minesweeper came too close and the Queen cut the Curacao in half.It sunk immediately. I was told that 290 sailors perished. On board, I was below deck and all I felt was a slight shudder.  We could not stop but ships following in our path did try to look for survivors. On the return to the US the Queen went to Boston, I believe, for repairs.
My unit was stationed in Tidworth. Life was nice in Tidworth and people were friendly. A town close by was Andoverwhere we went on occasion for a beer and fish and chips. Then we marched on to Plymouth. We had all kinds of training with heavy and light machine guns. The heavy machine gun was used in heavy weapons. We also had heavy mortar. The light ones were in the rifle company with the light machine guns. The final training was the invasion trials. We practiced landings in a place called Slapton Sands. We went out in big boats and practiced going down the cargo nets into the landing craft that would carry us to the shore. One man in the unit got seasick each time, and they did not let him go out with us on the real landing.
I visited my grandfather's family on March 31 and April 1, 1943 (checked in my diary) in Manchester during a weekend pass.
I went to London many times and saw many shows. I remember seeing "Coney Island" with Betty Grable and Jon Payne about four times!  Everyone was pretty nice to us.
My worst memory, in England, is of a disaster with the fourth division. They lost a lot of men in a practice drill called operation Tiger. (This did not come out until after the war, and a British admiral committed suicide over it). While practicing at Slapton Sands, a German boat got through and sunk two of the landing crafts. Many men died (over 400 infantrymen) by drowning - they were wearing their flotation vest too low (cowboy style) and they flipped when they were in the water. You could see the bodies bobbing in the channel the next morning. Our Sergeant told us to wear them high, not low - I will always remember that!
We waited in staging areas and continued to train in England on a place with lots of wet ground. This was where an English prison was which I think was called Dartmouth prison.)
The night before the landing we all met with our priest, or chaplain, and said prayers and received communion. On the way to the beach, men were mostly quiet – keeping thoughts to themselves. I prayed and thought about my home and my family. I asked God to keep watch over me.
As we landed on Omaha Beach, I was in line to be the third man off of the boat. My Technical Sergeant, Melvin Taylor, told us all "there are only two kinds of men on the beach, dead men and men who want to die. So, get off the beach as soon as possible". I ran as fast as I could up the hill to where we would meet. My friend, Chick Evans, was right with me, when a rifle bullet from a German sharpshooter hit him. (They were trying to pick off men who carried heavy weapons.) He passed away there. We advanced as far as we could. Lieutenant Thomas was leading us. We regrouped. I was carrying a range finder at the time.