Donald R. Burgett John (April 5, 1925 – March 23, 2017)

Donald R. Burgett John (April 5, 1925 – March 23, 2017)

He was among the Airborne troopers who landed in Normandy early on the morning of D-Day. He was a member of the 101st Airborne Division, ("The Screaming Eagles"), and the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Burgett served in Company A, 1st Battalion, 506th PIR as both a rifleman and a machine-gunner. Later he was a writer and a former World War II paratrooper.

Burgett was born in Detroit, Michigan, and grew up on the city's west side. In the opening paragraph of his memoir Currahee!, he wrote that he was determined to follow his older brother Elmer, who had joined the Paratroops in 1942. Burgett volunteered to be called up as soon as he turned 18 the following year. On May 3, 1943, he reported to the Induction Center where he officially volunteered for the Paratroops, signing the statement "I do hereby volunteer to jump from a plane, while in flight and land on the ground via parachute." He went through Basic Combat Training in Kansas, completed Airborne training in Fort Benning, Georgia, and joined the 101st at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana.

Burgett participated in Operation Overlord, parachuting into Normandy as a member of the 506th PIR, 101st Airborne. Burgett parachuted into the Netherlands, his second combat jump, as part of Operation Market-Garden[1] with the 1st Allied Airborne Army, and fought for 72 days behind the German lines. After just a few weeks' rest, he was again sent into combat, this time at the Battle of the Bulge, where the 101st, along with Combat Command B of the U.S. 10th Armored Division and the all-African-American 969th Artillery Battalion (Cld)(155mm How Trac-D) held out against nine German armored divisions during the siege of Bastogne. Burgett went on to fight through Operation Nordwind, on into Germany to the Ruhr Valley, the Rhineland, and Bavaria, where he helped capture Hitler's mountain retreat in southern Germany. While in action with the 101st, Burgett was wounded three times and had his M1 rifle shot out of his hands at least twice.

Burgett lived in Howell, Michigan. He wrote four books and appeared in History Channel specials on World War II. Burgett died on March 23, 2017.

We met Don Burget a few times in the past with our club in Normandy.


Johan van Waart in conversation with Don Burget in Normandy.