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 and altar boy at St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church and Elementary School and a graduate of 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. 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 fallback 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, three grandchildren: Kevin Francis Burtnett, Kimberly Susan (Burtnett) Cumbie, and Kelly Lee (Burtnett) Weber and five great grandchildren.
Regine Villers and Bernard Achten, educators in the town of Ans, Belgium, have adopted Hank’s gravesite as one they honor and visit each Memorial Day. Further, they are committed to using their classrooms and other public forums to make the Belgian people aware of the contributions to their freedom that were made by the men and women of the U.S. armed services. Their daughter Marie joins them in this effort.
– Father of Frank and Jim Burtnett –
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