T4 Sergeant
Name

Robert Burr Smith


Nationality
American

Unit
Easy Company - 506th P.I.R.
Location
Normandy to Austria

Date
1939 - 1945

Survived the war?
Yes
101st Airborne Division

One last look back

My name is Robert Burr Smith, I was a T4 when we first jumped in Normandy. When thinking back on that day, I can recall that in the marshalling area loud speakers were blaring out some music. I recall steaks, ice cream and milk, the fatted calf feeling!

Just a few seconds before take-off (in England) Joe "Red" Hogan and I were taken from the Company HQ's aircraft much to our violent protest and we were put in the next plane on line. It later turned out we were the only survivors from the company HQ's section, all others being killed when their aircraft exploded from a direct hit while crossing the French coast

I, better then anyone alive, know the story of the lost aircraft. I served with Company HQ's for many months prior to D-Day and knew each and every member of that section, personally and closely. We lived together in a Quonset in Aldbourne. My special buddy was Elmer "Moe" Murray, the operations sergeant. We served together as the divisional jump school at Chilton, Foliat in the months before Normandy and we were great friends. The photographs dropped in France prior to D-Day, to show the French population what an American paratrooper looked like, were taken of Murray and of James T. Flanagan, also from the 506th.

After the re-organization of the company on D-Day night, I became acting Operations Sergeant and Sgt. Diel became acting First Sgt. I performed those duties until wounded on 13th of June 1944 during the attack on Carentan. The trip over the channel and our approach to the Cherbourg Peninsula was very choppy, some light rain. The plane got hit a few times in the wings by a large number of small caliber bullets. I will never forget the sound...."PING - PING - PING"

As we approached our drop zone the pilot went down low to avoid tracers and dumped our stick at an abnormally high speed. As a result my parachute opened with a tremendous shock. I landed in some apple orchards. I got out of my chute quite easily but was still very airsick. I threw up shortly after landing when I heard a motorcycle pass close by and a voice yelling: "Hauptmann - Hauptmann".

I stuck my trench knife in my canopy shirt while I assembled my weapon and my gear. I was completely alone no other chutist landed near me. I was a demolition specialist and my mission as assigned was to blow up communication cable in a certain manhole, but I never even reached that vicinity.

I gathered a small group of stragglers and moved towards the designated drop zone. Bob Rader was one of these men who were with me. We found Frank Perconte injured from the jump. We got into a minor firefight with "White Russians" near St. Come du Mont. Disengaged and continued to press on towards Vierville.

At dawn I joined my company again just before the raid Easy Company made on Brecourt Manor in which I did not participate. Lipton took part in the attack on the 88's at Brecourt Manor. Bill Guarnere began his reputation for sheer guttiness. A real cool customer in a firefight.

Burr also started to write his memories of Easy Company just before he passed away in 1983 He titled this piece “One Last Look Back”:

'W' Company, in September of 1942, was a tent city on the grassy slope of a hill just below the regimental medical processing facility. The squad tents, as brand new as the citizen soldiers who occupied them, were aligned to form a company street, but W Company was a company in name only. It served as the regiment's in-and-out processing machine, and it was a fast train in both directions. The incoming volunteers (mostly draftees, some enlistees, but all volunteers for parachute training) were frantically busy from morning to night...drawing clothing and equipment, filling out forms, falling in for meals, marching to examinations, etc.

The train was moving much too fast to jump from it and there was never, to my knowledge, a single disciplinary action among the thousand of "in-processes". Few lasting friendships were made during this period, but I made one which was destined to be one of the strongest of my life, one which ended only with the death of my first "Army buddy" in a foxhole near Bastogne in January, 1945. His name was Warren "Skippy" Muck, an upstate New Yorker of great charm and wit, who drew people to him like a magnet.

Quiet, unassuming, totally "real", his strength was revealed in combat, where his 2nd platoon mortar section earned a fearsome reputation as Easy Company's most effective heavy weapons element. Skippy was a happy guy, and those who knew him basked in the warmth of that happiness and were happy too. His closest friend, and, inevitably one of mine, was Don Malarkey, another warm, friendly and happy-go-lucky individual who likewise rose to the top of my list.”

After the war, Burr remained in the Army Reserves, reaching the rank of Lieutentant Colonel. The last two decades of his life were spent working for the CIA, with his two most significant assignments as a case officer in S.E. Asia during the secret war in Laos, and later back in the U.S. as the liaison officer to the elite Delta Force. Burr married, had three children and remained close to his comrades in Easy Company until he passed away, always maintaining they were the best group of soldiers he ever fought with as a career soldier.

My dad was wounded by a scrapnel in Carentan on June 12, 1942 and also wounded  on January 13, 1945 in the attack on Foy. His separation papers say slightly wounded but he was shot through the knee and had to go to the hospital. Frank Perconte told me they went together.

This story came to life with the help of his daughter Susan.

Veteran's personal medals
European Theatre (arrowhead)
European Theatre (arrowhead)
Bronze Star
Bronze Star
American Campaign
American Campaign
Purple Heart (2)
Purple Heart (2)

Veteran's personal file

506th Parachute Infantry Regiment

  • Presidential Unit Citation
    images/patches/Presidential-citation-us.png
    Presidential Citation

    Robert Burr Smith (on the right) together with his friend Don G. Malarkey...
    Robert Burr Smith (on the right) together with his friend Don G. Malarkey...
    The famous long distance marches of Easy Company Robert is the paratrooper on the right.
    The famous long distance marches of Easy Company Robert is the paratrooper on the right.
    Robert Burr Smith
    Robert Burr Smith
    Robert Burr Smith posing for a picture
    Robert Burr Smith posing for a picture
    The training for the Airborne was tough.
    The training for the Airborne was tough.
    • 7 January 1983
    • Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery San Diego, California, USA
    • T. C-134

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