2nd Lieutenant John E. Burke, US Army
Of all of the KIA Tributes conducted by this post to date, this one by far has been the most difficult and challenging. The historical record of John E. Burke is at best incomplete and we will be only able to share with you a partial story, which we hope to complete for you in the years ahead.
However since this year marks the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landings and the subsequent campaign to liberate France and the rest of Europe from the iron grip of Tyranny, we found it fitting to share this tribute with you all today.
Prior to the war, John worked as both a store manager and insurance sales man which combined earned him a salary of $140 a month. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, John found himself reporting to the recruitment office. Since John had completed 2 years of college before the war, this made him eligible to become an officer, and went though the necessary training and earned his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Infantry on April 14th 1943.
His initial assignment was as a Rifle Platoon Leader assigned to Company E, 291st Infantry Regiment, 75th Infantry Division. It would be in this role where John would learn and sharpen his tactical and technical skills that would help him in the hard fighting that was ahead of him. He would spend the rest of 1943 and the first 6 months of 1944 perfecting these skills.
In late June 1944, John was ordered to leave his unit and proceed to England where he reported to the 48th Replacement Battalion. He wouldn’t stay here long, and on July 13th he arrived in France and to a new command, Company F, 121st Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division. The Regiment and Division had only been in France at that point for 10 days, but already had lost all of their officers, John found himself now in command of that bloodied company.
The next 4 weeks would test any officer and John would be no exception. In the hard fighting that followed the 8th Division along with the 79th Division would fight their way south toward the bottom end of the Contentin Peninsula. Then in early August VII Corps, which these two division were part of, and in conjunction with the newly constituted 3rd Army under the command of General George S. Patton would undertake Operation COBRA in order to break out into France and in a massive swing first South then East, aim in conjunction with their British and Canadian allies encircle German Army Group B, more then a million German soldiers.
By the 17th of August the American, British, and Canadian Armies had nearly succeeded in accomplishing their encirclement. On August 19th large portions of the German II SS Panzer Corps and 67th Panzer Corps, short on supplies and desperate to escape the impending encirclement launched an attack to prevent the 8th and 90th Infantry Divisions from closing the 5 mile gap. It would be during this fighting on the 19th of August that a company commander in the 8th Infantry Division, 2LT John E. Burke would be killed in action.
John’s remains are one of 125,000 American Servicemen whose remains are interned in 24 American Military Cemeteries around the World. John’s final resting place is in the Brittany American Cemetery, Plot I, Row 10, Grave 22.
Name: John E. Burke
Date of Birth:
Service: U.S. Army
Unit: Co F, 121st Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division
Date of Death: Aug 19, 1944
Awards: Purple Heart