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Remembering World War II
Howard Thomas Burns
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Name: Howard Thomas Burns Rank: First Lieutenant Service Number: O-023822 Service: Marine Fighting Squadron 111, Marine Aircraft Group 31, 4th Marine Base Defense Aircraft Wing, United States Marine Corps Awards: Air Medal, Purple Heart Date of Birth: March 26, 1921 Place of Birth: Astoria, Clatsop County, Oregon Date of Enlistment: 1942 Place of Enlistment: Oregon Address at Enlistment: Oregon Age at Enlistment: 20-21 Complexion: Light Hair Color: Brown Eye Color: Blue Date of Death: July 7, 1944 Age: 23 Cemetery: Honolulu Memorial, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Hawaii Reference: Court 2, Courts of the Missing Howard Thomas Burns was the son of Patrick Howard Burns (1884–1965) and Margaret Elizabeth (Keegan) Burns (1895–1982). Howard’s father was born in Ogden, Guysborough County, Nova Scotia. His mother was born in Wytopitlock, Aroostook Co., Maine. After moving to the United States, Howard’s father served in the US Army during the First World War as a Master Engineer Junior Grade (Service No. 172450) with Group Headquarters, 13th Battalion, 20th Engineer, Demolition, from Sept 22, 1917, until July 10, 1919. Alec attended school in Naselle, Pacific Co., Washington and resided in Wauna, Oregon. The family lived in Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon in 1930, and Knappton, Pacific Co., Washington, 1935-1940. Alec registered for the US Draft on February 16, 1942, in Wauna, and was working for the Wauna Library Company at the time. After enlisting in 1942, he trained at the Naval Pre-Flight School in Saint-Mary’s, California in June 1942, and the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida in 1943. Alec mustered on the American aircraft carrier USS Essex (CV-9) on September 15, 1943, as a Naval Aviation Cadet (NAVC), departing San Diego with the destination listed as ‘VF’, VF meaning a US Navy/Marine Corps fighting aircraft squadron. He served as a USMC fighter pilot with Marine Fighting Squadron 111 (VMF-111), appearing on the squadron’s muster rolls in January, April and July 1944. Nicknamed the ‘Devil Dogs’, VMF-111 left Samoa in January 1944 for the Central Pacific and participated in raids against bypassed Japanese garrisons for the rest of the war. This practice, skipping over heavily fortified islands in order to seize lightly defended locations that could support the next advance, became known as island hopping. As Japanese strongholds were isolated, defenders were left to weaken from starvation and disease. This new strategy turned the vast Pacific distances into an American ally, and the United States used it to leapfrog across the Pacific. That said, these bypassed garrisons were still a threat, and VFM-111 was tasked with eliminating these. First Lieutenant Howard Thomas Burns died after being wounded on a mission against a Japanese base in the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific. The Squadron’s muster states: died after an airplane crash at 1640 hrs. on July 7, 1944, and that his body was not recovered. First Lieutenant Howard Thomas Burns has no known grave and is remembered in Court 2 of the Courts of the Missing of the Honolulu Memorial of the American Battle Monuments Commission with the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii. He is also remembered on the base of the US flagpole erected by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 7825 at the Peaceful Hill Cemetery, Naselle, Pacific County, Washington.
Clatsop Co. Historical Society Quarterly Vol. 15 cover, No 3, Summer 1995