Skip Navigation
West Virginia Veterans Memorial

West Virginia
Veterans Memorial

Remember...

Arthur Lee Burner
1912-1945

"This is undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war and will, I believe, be regarded as an ever-famous American victory."

Winston Churchill

Arthur Lee Burner was born December 8, 1912, in Philippi, Barbour County, West Virginia, to Effie Winans Burner and Guy Burner. The 1920 Federal Census show the family to include older brother Hartzell and two younger sisters: Martha and Madeline. Madeline does not show up in the 1930 census, but by this time the family included Ruby and Dortha, and in 1940 eight-year-old Arlene is included. (Arthur’s death notice includes as a sister “Mrs. Elsie Winans,” but she does not show up as a sister in census lists.) Mr. Burner was a farmer, and the family lived on a farm that they owned.

West Virginia marriage records show that Arthur married Genevieve Anglin, daughter of Jap and Bessie Anglin, also of Philippi, on February 6, 1935.

By 1940, the Burners were joined by a daughter, Barbara, in Philippi. Arthur Burner is listed in the census as a coal miner and no longer living on a farm. The census estimates the family had been living in this new place for at least five years. On December 20, 1943, a second daughter, Karen, was born.

On March 29, 1944, Arthur Burner enlisted in the military, according to the information entered on the family’s application for a military headstone and a death notice in the Philippi Republican. He received basic training at Fort Fannin, Texas, took a brief furlough at home, and was shipped overseas in October (“Body Returned for Reburial,”15 April 1949). He served in Company L, 3rd Battalion, 347th Infantry, 87th Infantry Division. U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946, indicate his education lasted only through grammar school, and he enlisted at Fort Thomas, Newport, Kentucky. His civil occupation was given as “unskilled occupations in extractions of minerals,” which would support the fact that he was a coal miner; however, his death notice states that Arthur Burner worked for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company of Akron, Ohio. It seems likely that Arthur would have left the coal mines sometime after 1940, when the rubber industry in Akron was booming because of the war, and more secure employment awaited.

The 87th Infantry Division Legacy Association offers this historical overview:

The 87th Infantry Division fought in General George S. Patton’s Third U.S. Army during World War II. After months of training, first at Camp McCain, Mississippi, then at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, the division shipped overseas on the Queen Elizabeth. They first entered combat in France’s Alsace-Lorraine, and after extremely bloody fighting, crossed the German border in the Saar, capturing the towns of Walsheim and Medelsheim. Caught up in the Third Army’s historic counterattack in the Battle of the Bulge, the 87th Division raced off into Belgium—attacking the German Panzer Lehr Division near Bastogne at the towns of Pironpre, Moircy, Bonnerue, and Tillet. At Tillet S/Sgt. Curtis Shoup earned the Medal of Honor, posthumously, and Lt. Glenn Doman the Distinguished Service Cross.

Soon after breaching the Siegfried Line in the Eifel Mountains, the division crossed the Moselle River and captured Koblenz. Then the Rhine River crossing near Boppard and the dash across Germany which took them to Plauen, near the Czech border.

The 87th Division returned to the States in July 1945 expecting to be called upon to play a role in the defeat of the Japanese, but the sudden termination of the war in the Pacific while the division was reassembling at Fort Benning changed the future of the 87th. The division was inactivated 21 September 1945. (“Historical Overview,” 87th Infantry Division Legacy Association,” accessed 22 August 2017, http://87thinfantrydivision.com/.)

Private Burner died in Belgium on January 1 or 2, 1945. The dates and place coincide with the dates and places that were part of actions that became known as the Battle of the Bulge. The conditions were terrible: snow and cold.
patrol

Three members of an American patrol cross a snow-covered Luxembourg field on a scouting mission in Lellig, Luxembourg, December 30, 1944, in the Battle of the Bulge. White bedsheets camouflage them in the snow. Courtesy U.S. Army Center of Military History

Cecil G. Davis, in his eyewitness account “History of the Antitank Companies of the 87th Division in Europe,” describes the situation of Company L during the time period that Pvt. Burner died:

The CP [command post] for the Third Battalion was at the Leitz farm in Jenneville. On January 2nd the Germans destroyed four of our tanks located in the fields of Canton (the 761st Tank Battalion). The German tanks were located near the Collet home in Bonnerue. After repeated attacks and counterattacks, the Germans with four tanks attempted to surround members of L Company. (“Personal Account,” 6 September 2001, accessed 22 August 2017, http://87thinfantrydivision.com/cecil-g-davis/history-of-the-antitank-companies-of-the-87th-division-in-europe.)

According to statistics researched and compiled by Jim Amor and others of the 87th, approximately 45 soldiers from the 347th lost their lives that day. (“WWII Rosters,” 87th Infantry Division Legacy Association,” accessed 22 August 2017, http://87thinfantrydivision.com/wwii-rosters.) A military document provides a great deal of factual information regarding the 87th, including the number of casualties and the nay awards received by the Division. (“87th Infantry Division,” accessed 22 August 2017, http://www.history.army.mil/documents/ETO-OB/87ID-ETO.htm.) The Amor research found that Pvt. Burner died on the 1st, but Genevieve Burner listed the death date as January 2 on the application for a military headstone. The Barbour County death registry also lists Pvt. Burner’s date of death as January 2. His death notice notes his place of death as Bonnerue, Belgium.

headstone

Now nearly overgrown, Arthur Lee Burner’s military headstone remains in Mount Vernon Cemetery. Courtesy Cynthia Mullens

Pvt. Burner was buried in Mount Vernon Cemetery, outside of Philippi. According to research supplied by Justin Davis, Pvt. Burner was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantry Badge, the Good Conduct Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two campaign stars, and the World War II Victory Medal.

Article prepared by Cynthia Mullens
June 2017

Honor...

Arthur Lee Burner

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.


Veterans Memorial Database

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

West Virginia Archives and History

West Virginia Archives and History