By Joseph Cates, Curator of Education and Public Programs
Captain James M. Burt graduated from Norwich University in 1939, receiving a commission through the United States Army as a Second Lieutenant in the new Armor Branch. He was assigned to the 66th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Division out of Fort Benning, Georgia.
So the story goes, Burt never liked to ride in his tank, preferring to ride on the outside so he could see better while commanding his troops. The story continues that he placed an order for a hassock in Rabat, Morocco while garrisoned at Forest Maâmora November 1942. This hassock bears the emblem of the 2nd Armored Division, the distinguished unit insignia for the 66th Armor Regiment, as well as the names “Jim” and “Frances.” Frances, his first wife, predeceased him in 1975. Burt’s unit pulled out before the hassock was ready and was delivered to him in Sicily by the regimental chaplain.
Shortly after the hassock was delivered, Burt received his promotion to Captain. Burt commanded Company B, 3rd Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment through nearly continuous combat from their landing on Normandy’s Omaha Beach, on June 9, 1944, until the war’s end. Burt led his soldiers across France, into Belgium, and became as one of the first units in Germany. In Germany, he participated in Operation Cobra to pierce German lines while their forces were distracted at Caen. His company also helped to contain the German offensive during the Battle of the Bulge. All the while, his hassock stayed with him.
Over the course of his military career, Captain Burt participated in seven major military campaigns, received four Purple Hearts, the Medal of Honor for actions in Aachen, Germany, and two oak leaf clusters. He was named an honorary Colonel for the 3rd Battalion,66th Armored Regiment, which was nicknamed “Burt’s Knights.” After the war, Burt returned to civilian life, remaining a strong believer in the citizen-soldier concept that Norwich instilled in him until his death on February 15, 2006 at the age of 88.
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