WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 5, 2007) - A World War II veteran who fought the Nazis with Patton's 3rd Army found himself reminiscing about the war during a Pentagon tour one week before the 63rd anniversary of D-Day.
After basic training at Fort McLellan, Al., Wilford Burnette joined 1st Army Soldiers in the second wave to hit Omaha Beach. More than 9,000 allied troops died during the two-month invasion.
"I was afraid, but I felt that my training had prepared me for battle."
The Battle of Normandy is considered the largest sea-borne invasion in history, with more than 160,000 allied troops, 5,000 ships and 13,000 planes.
Mr. Burnette later joined 5th Division's campaign through France, fighting for Gen. Patton, who he considered to be a tough guy with tough language. He remembers Gen. Patton sitting on his helmet in the mud, telling Soldiers, "With the help of the 5th Division and God, we will kill every one of those bastards."
Mr. Burnette also spoke about carrying a fellow Soldier three miles to safety after he had been critically wounded by mortar shrapnel in Metz, France.
While he is proud of his service and the Purple Heart he earned in combat, the veteran remembers well the hardships of war.
"I was married and had two little girls that I hated to leave, but it had to be done," he said. "No one would be able to call me a draft dodger; I wanted to serve my country."
Mr. Burnette's Pentagon visit also brought back memories from 66 years ago, when he helped lay the foundation for the Pentagon as a contractor operating power equipment.
His attraction to duty and strong work ethic began at an early age.
"My dad died of Leukemia at 38, when I was nine years old. So I went to work at 3 o'clock in the morning, walking a couple miles to feed a neighbor's logging horses for 50 cents a day," he said.
Mr. Burnette retired last year at age 92 after more than 70 years in construction.
"A lot of people would ask me why I worked instead of not doing what I wanted. But working is all I ever wanted to do," he said.
When asked what advice he would give to Soldiers fighting today in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. Burnette said, "No single man can win a war by himself. Stay low, keep your cool and take care of yourself."
June 6 is the 63rd anniversary of D-Day.