SGT Francis E. Burtnett
1st Army, 9th Infantry, 2nd Division
KIA February 20, 1945 in Bronsfield, Germany

 

Sgt. Francis E. Burtnett (# 33 931 436) was born in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania on April 9, 1912. His parents were William J. and Margaret Finn Burtnett. He was a student at St. Michael's Roman Catholic Grade School where he also served as an altar boy and Hollidaysburg High School.

He had an active childhood and adolescence that included a great deal of interaction with his brothers and sister and participation in numerous part-time and summer jobs. Following high school, he worked for 17 years for the Wilt Dairy and was active in a number of church and community organizations. He married Rose Marie Benton of Hollidaysburg and they had two sons, Francis (1940) and James (1942).

Sgt. Burtnett, known to his family, friends and fellow soldiers as "Hank," joined the United States Army on April 5, 1944 and was assigned to the 1st Army, 9th Infantry, 2nd Division and received his infantry training at Fort McClellan in Alabama. Upon completion of his training, he departed for the European Theater in October, 1944. After his unit fought through France, Belgium and Germany as a part of the Battle of the Bulge, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant on December 26, 1944.

He was killed in action on February 20, 1945 in the small town of Bronsfeld, Germany where his division had taken a fall-back and rest position from the heated battles that they had experienced in the early part of the year. Their encampment was hit by an enemy shell attack and numerous men were killed.

Sergeant Burtnett was admired by the military officers under whom he served and the men that he led. Upon learning of his death, a fellow soldier -- Allen V. Cellars wrote the following to his widow: "He was a good soldier in every sense of the word. He had developed into a fine leader, and at the same time was extremely well liked by the members of his platoon and company." Another colleague, Les Anderson wrote: "In the army, a buddy is more than a brother. We confided in each other . . . we learned to depend on each other. Hank saved me a couple of times and at one time, I am certain, I was able to return the favor."

Sergeant Burtnett was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously for having made the supreme sacrifice in the defense of his country and its European allies and the Bronze Star Medal for exemplary conduct against the armed enemy on or about 9, November, 1944. He is buried in the Henri-Chappelle American Cemetery in Henri-Chappelle, Belgium (Plot D, Row 10, Grave 14).

Rose Marie died in 1993 and he is also survived by sons Francis (wife Susan) and James (wife Jenny), three grandchildren (Kevin Francis (wife Brenda), Kimberly Susan (husband Robert Cumbie) and Kelly Lee) and four great grandchildren (John Andrew Cumbie, Alexandra Frances Burtnett, William Gray Cumbie and Isabelle Susan Weber).

– Frank Burtnett and James Burtnett