James Montross Burt is one of the proud NU alumni to have received the Medal of Honor, our country’s highest military award. Out of the over 16 million Americans who served in World War II, only 464 received this honor.
Burt hailed from South Lee, Massachusetts and graduated from Norwich in the Class of 1939. While at Norwich, James Burt belonged to Theta Chi fraternity and participated in the glee club, football, and track, as well as serving on the staff of both the War Whoop and the Guidon.
During World War II, he served in the 2nd Armored Division under General Ernest Harmon, one of several Norwich men who commanded that division. Burt participated in the invasion of Normandy (D-Day), the occupation of Berlin, and many other significant engagements. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his extraordinary heroism during the Battle of Aachen in October 1944. The following is an excerpt from his award citation:
…[T]hrough rainy miserable weather and under constant, heavy shelling, Captain Burt held the combined forces together, dominating and controlling the critical situation through the sheer force of his heroic example … He took great risks to rescue wounded comrades and inflicted prodigious destruction on enemy personnel and materiel, even though suffering from the wounds he received in the battle’s opening phase.
Burt’s brother Thomas was sadly killed in action during the war. Later in life, Burt was an active member of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and a good friend to his beloved alma mater, serving on Norwich’s Board of Fellows and the Friends of the Kreitzberg Library. He gave the keynote address at the dedication of Sabine Sally in 1958. James M. Burt Drive near Plumley Armory was dedicated in his honor in 1990. He passed away in 2006. His classmates wrote the following about him in his senior War Whoop:
It is hard to say goodbye, but we are certain that you will succeed; let us assure you that we are proud to call you a brother cadet.