Sergeant Elmer Burr

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Record 193/959
Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
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Collection Winnebago County Historical Commission
Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
Description Gelatin print of Sergeant Elmer Burr.
Year Range from 1941
Event World War II
Year range to 1941
Medium Photographic Paper
Notes Candid outdoor view of Sergeant Elmer Burr. He is wearing his service uniform and garrison cap. His uniform has numerous marksmanship qualification badges and bars.
Elmer J. Burr was a resident of Menasha, WI. His wife's name was Lucille and the couple had two children: Betty Ann and Elmer J. Burr, Jr. He was a member of Company I, 3rd battalion, 127th Infantry, 32nd Division, Wisconsin National Guard. By 1939 he had risen to the rank of sergeant. In October 1940 the division was called to active service. He was later promoted to 1st Sergeant and fought in the Buna Campaign on New Guinea. On December 24, 1942 he jumped on top of a Japanese hand grenade to save the lives of his comrades. He died of his wounds the following day. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions. A letter to his wife from Lieutenant Francis Young explains the details:

November 10, 1943

Mrs. Elmer Burr
100 Lawson Street
Menasha Wisc.

Dear Friend;

I received a call this afternoon from my sister Menasha in which she asked if I could attend the program in honor of your husband.

I knew Elmer in Company I, and was in action with him in the Buna Campaign. We were both hit on the same day and hour. I owe Sgt. Burr very much and cannot express my feelings for him in words. I had been hit by a machine gun seven times and also by a grenade. You can imagine my helpless condition at the time and my need of assistance. Captain Michael Ustruck crawled out to drag me back in. I was a heavy burden to drag back so it required much time. Sergeant Burr guessed something was wrong so he also crawled out to find out the delay. He had to go through a mortar and artillery barrage but he got to us safely. He and the Captain carried me to a safer area in rear of the lines. So you see his bravery and loyalty was one of the chief reasons why I am here today to tell about it. I understand that about fifteen minutes later he, the Captain and some other fellow officer were pinned down in a shell hole by a Jap machine gunner. The Jap, seeing he couldn't get them that way, lobbed in a hand grenade. Sergeant Burr knew instantly that it would be fatal to all of them so He dropped on the grenade. He sacrificed his life to save his comrades. I believe it was habit of his to save lives, disregarding his own. He could not have died more bravely. I hope you are as brave about this loss as he was in battle.

I realize you wonder why I am hesitant about appearing on this ceremony. I wouldn't mind the appearance but when it comes to speak-ing, I can't do it. I hope you can understand that; after being hit seven times together with nine operations, my nerves are no longer normal. I tried to speak at a gathering at home, but it only embarrassed me. Then again, this ceremony in honor of your husband would be much more trying. I can assure you though, that when taps are sounded at 11 o'clock, my thoughts will be of Sgt. Burr and all my buddies who gave their lives for our country.
If you care to have me visit you in the future kindly let me
know. In closing, I offer you my deepest sympathies and regret that I cannot be there to pay tribute to the best soldier I have ever known.

Lieutenant Francis Young
Percy Jones Hospital
Battle Creek, Mich.
Object ID P2005.20.22
Object Name Print, Photographic
People Burr, Elmer J.
Place Menominee, MI
Print size 2 3/4" x 4 1/2"
Subjects Portrait photographs
World War II
32nd Division
127th United States Infantry
Pacific Theater of Operations
Title Sergeant Elmer Burr
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Last modified on: December 12, 2009