Staff-Sergeant Warren C. Burford

 

Unit : Company B, 52nd Armored Infantry Battalion, 9th US Armored Division.

Served : North-West Europe (captured).

Camps : Stalag IVB, VIIIB and XIB.

 

Born in Lynchburg, Va. on June 30, 1922, entered service Nov. 21, 1942. Served in the Army. Was assigned to the 9th Armored Division, 52nd Armored Inf. Attained the rank of Staff Sgt.

 

Sailed to England via Queen Mary in 8 days, in August, 1944, via L.S.T. [Landing Ship Tank] to France in Sept. 1944, sea too rough to land, tried to eat raw chicken, was seasick, big wave came over side soaked me to the skin. Went to front lines Luxembourg-German frontier in Oct., 1944 to get feel of combat for nearly 2 months, was spread out very thin, what is known as a calculated risk. Enemy patrol tried to penetrate our sector. I needed sleep so bad I tied a tent rope to arm and to my leg and told men on each end of the trench to pull if anything happened. It wasn't long before they were pulling from both ends.

 

Upon calling for artillery support it wasn't long before the hillside was a blazing inferno. The Sherman Tanks were dropping shells too close for comfort, near our position, lucky for us it stopped in time. Two machine gun crews had been destroyed in the hills. At a later date looking through my field glasses toward the Ardennes woods, there were tanks moving about. I called my Lt. telling him there are tanks moving in the woods. He immediately said, "Don't worry about them, they are ours". I called him again after seeing balls of fire coming out of their guns, and said, "Sir, our tanks are firing on our tanks."

 

It was Dec. 16, 1944, one of our men, named Shenndaney, cook's helper, had put salt in the coffee for sugar, it was awful. Our overcoats were also all mixed up, if a big man got a small coat he was out of luck. We headed for a road junction at a place called St. Vith to hold at all cost, dug in facing the enemy in a little while. One half track of the 27th Armored Inf. Bn. drove up and said, "You had better dig in deep, this is all that's left of us." When the Germans attacked, we were short two rifle squads that were out on patrol riding tanks. They got out before the Germans made a pincer attack from our rear killing our C.O., First Sgt., wounding our 1st Lt., several others were killed, others wounded. We were surrounded, cut off from outside.

 

We kept them out of St. Vith for the few hours before being infiltrated after dark by German Infantry. We were given orders by a Col., when the tank horns blow at midnight, every man for himself, to break out, mount up on anything you can. Our troubles were just beginning so it seemed. Three days later deep in enemy territory twelve of us were caught in an ambush and captured.

 

Walked with frostbitten feet for 19 days, sleeping in barns, brick-factories, bombed buildings, etc. Was given very little to eat except for potatoes when staying in barns, and whatever was picked up along the roads. We had to eat snow for water. Was suffering from frostbite of hands and feet with injuries, diarrhea, dysentery, malnutrition, severe cold and hunger. We were threatened with bayonet for not walking fast enough. Arrived at Stalag IV-B on Jan. 7, 1945. Stayed a few weeks and went by train (boxcar) to Stalag VIII-A in Yonliz. On the way we had little space to be- no lying down. Ate frost off nuts and bolts for water. Was locked in. We arrived sick and cold. Very little medical treatment. My buddy that slept next to me died of starvation. Two British soldiers made an American Flag out of paper for the funeral. I ate whatever I could find on the dump and from the trash bin and went to different barracks to catch potato peelings when they ate. Went to get water from a flush toilet tank to drink. Had to stand in a long line. When the Russians were pushing westward I had to be evacuated by train again. I couldn't walk. We were bombed and strafed; 19 killed this time, one Canadian, in my Gp. of six. Arrived at Stalag XI-B in Fallenbastal. Was there until liberated by a Scottish Regiment on April 17, 1945.

 

I married the former Wyllis Nicely. We have one daughter, Theresa, and two grandchildren. I am now retired from Civil Service.

 

Thanks to Theresa Bryant for this story.

 

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