William "Bill" Frank Burns, 87, of Elizabethtown, passed away Wednesday, May 22, 2013.
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He was originally from Springfield, where he met and married the love of his life, Mickie Begley. Together they raised four children, Karon Wheeler, Jolene (Fred) Eicher, Linda Burns and Kelvin Burns. He was a proud grandfather of 13, great-grandfather of 27 and great-great-grandfather of 10.
His legacy to his family was to follow Christ, attend church and help others. He was a member of Central Baptist Church.
His military career spanned 27 years and included three wars.
World War II: He began his military career in 1944 at age 17 with the 347th Infantry Regiment, 87th Infantry Division. He was sent to England and as-signed to Patton's 3rd Army. He fought in the Ardennes Forest during the Battle of the Bulge where some of the fighting was hand to hand. He was in Germany on Victory in Europe Day. His unit eventually went to Fort Benning, Ga., to refit and prepare for the invasion of Japan. He was at Fort Benning on Victory over Japan Day.
Korean War: He re-enlisted and was assigned to the 7th Infantry Division and sent to Korea from 1946-48 with the mission of disarming the Japanese south of the 38th parallel. In the summer of 1950, war broke out on the Korean peninsula and he was sent back to Korea as a weapons squad leader, HHC, 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment. The 35th Regiment and the rest of the 25th Infantry Division assumed the responsibility of guarding the approaches of Seoul. By successfully defending Seoul from continued attack from May to July 1953, the division earned its second Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.
Fourteen division soldiers were awarded Medals of Honor during the Korean War, making the division one of the most decorated U.S. Army divisions of that war. During his almost three years in Korea, Staff Sgt. Burns' weapons squad was responsible for providing security for the regimental headquarters. Twice their lines were overrun by the Chinese and twice he had to lead his squad, with the regimental commander and command sergeant major and their staff, through the night to sneak back through enemy lines. He could hear Chinese soldiers talking to one another on both sides of them. He said if anybody had coughed or sneezed, they all would have been killed or captured. Their supply lines also were overrun and they would go days with no food. He told stories of putting rocks in his mouth to ease the hunger pains.
Vietnam War: When the Vietnam War broke out, he was a platoon sergeant in the 25th Infantry Regi-ment. After his tour in Vietnam, he reclassed military police and went back for a second tour in Vietnam where his military police platoon was responsible for guarding an airfield. His airfield was overrun during the Tet Offensive and they suffered hundreds of casu-alties. He said this was worse than any combat he experienced in the previous two wars. He survived, came home and finished out his time chasing down absent without leave soldiers in eastern Kentucky.
He retired from the Army in 1971 and spent another 17 years in civil service at Fort Knox, where he held various positions. He often talked fondly of the time he worked for Gen. Starry, and several other general officers that came through Fort Knox, as a personal aide. He retired from civil service at Fort Knox in 1988 after 44 years of service to the nation.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Samuel A. and Jennie Nalley Burns; five brothers; and three sisters.
The funeral is at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 25, at Manakee Funeral Home in Elizabethtown with Mike Wheeler and Tom Wicker officiating.
Visitation is from 3 to 8 p.m. Friday and continues from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday at the funeral home.
Manakee Funeral Home
2098 Leitchfield Road Elizabethtown, KY 42701
Published in The News-Enterprise on May 23, 2013