talking with Ralph Burrus, who was a member of the 508th
Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne
during World War II. Mr.
Burrus what was your date of birth?
Burrus: December 22, 1924.
- And where did you go
went to school at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Columbus,
were you doing before the war?
a student, basically.
you in high school at the time? Just before the war?
you graduated, did you enlist then?
No, no I didn’t
graduate at the time because I had lost a year because I had
pneumonia. So I
was about a year behind, so when the war broke out I was old
enough to go, so I decided to do my last year when I got out.
So I finished up when I got back.
when did you enter the service?
went in December, January 1st, 1943.
My first training, I went to Fort Benjamin Harrison in
there from there they deployed us, distributed us wherever
they wanted to put us. I
went to Fort Riley,
Kansas. I went
into the horse cavalry. Might
be a very funny story for you.
When we got there they put us in actually in the horse
cavalry and I went to advanced basic training in horse cavalry.
It was the last horse cavalry in the United States Army.
They disbanded after we got finished.
you were all trained, you were all done.
I put an application to go to OCS and at the same time the
airborne were looking for volunteers, so I put a request in
for that also, and whichever one come through first that’s
where I’ll go. The
airborne came through first.
Unbeknownst to me that two weeks later the acceptance
letter for the OCS came through.
So anyways, we get trained we get up and go down to
Fort Benning, Georgia, and they didn’t take us right into
Fort Benning itself they took us across to the Sandhill area,
which is in Alabama, which is across the river, the
spent about the next month I’m assuming there, but that didn’t
happen until, I got to figure my time out, that was probably
May or June of 1943. We
trained for 6 or 8 weeks before we ever got through jump
school over in the Alabama area.
was the training like?
What type of training…
what we did was calisthenics and conditioning.
Nothing more than conditioning.
All the guys that were there already went through basic
or something at some time or another, basically.
So as far as learning how to get in line, how to march,
how to black right or black left or whatever you need to do
was pretty much all part of the game.
But they got us in condition.
So we went through jump school, probably 6 weeks after
we got there. And
we went through all 4 stages of the jump school.
In fact we were the first class to make a night jump in
jump school. That
was part of the 541.
sir, isn’t there a fairly well known hill or mountain that
Yeah Cactus Hill was on the south part of the Losset
Of course the first parts are all flat, you get into a
little rolling hills, but its all thistle bushes.
We jumped there one day and one of our jumps and we got
drug through those thistle bushes.
And I'm picking splinters out of me for weeks later.
We finished the school and we moved from there to Camp
McCall, North Carolina.
At that time, they broke up a few of us and they sent
me out with a 508 who were still in the country.
Now went on maneuver, went to Tennessee, and I can't
remember the name of the town we were in.
I only spent two weeks there, but they had been there
for a while.
Then they sent me back to 541 again.
So I went back to the 541 and about that time they
decided to break up the whole 541 regiment.
Diversify them or split them up into different
Some of us went to 508, some to 507, some went to the
So by the end of the year this is before December, we
were in Camp Shanks, New York, they put us on a ship, the James
Parker, which was the same ship that the 508 had just gone
Then it came back and we went over to join them.
I’ll never forget the view coming up the English
The Irish Channel, I’m sorry.
As we got near Belfast the grass was just as green as
the middle of summer time, because there was
golf you understand.
We landed at Belfast and that was as I remember
somewhere around the first part of January, like the 3rd
or 4th or 5th of January.
And they took us to a little town called Newtonards.
We spent the next 8 or 10 days there without leave, and
not much food.
They were short of rations.
So one night one of the guys decided, “You know, they’re
not feeding up anything, all were getting is a little Spam for
breakfast a little Spam for supper and maybe a little coffee
here and there, but no bread.”
Everyone must wait for the rations to come in so we
decided that if one guy goes to town
everybody’s going to go.
So the whole company going to town.
So we found a little place…