Conflict Period:
World War II 1
Army 1
1921 1
Missouri 1

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Personal Details

Harlan D Burton 1
Level of Education: Grammar school 1
Marital Status: Single, with dependents 1
1921 1
Missouri 1
Place: Pettis County, Missouri 1

World War II 1

Army 1
Enlistment Date:
05 Aug 1942 1
Army Branch:
Branch Immaterial - Warrant Officers, USA 1
Army Component:
Selectees (Enlisted Men) 1
Army Serial Number:
37375829 1
Enlistment Place:
Jefferson Barracks Missouri 1
Enlistment Term:
Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law 1
Source of Army Personnel:
Civil Life 1
Sales clerks 1
Race or Ethnicity:
White 1
Source Information:
Box Number: 1205 1
Film Reel Number: 4.115 1

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Burton, Harlan D., SSgt Fallen           Last Rank
Staff Sergeant Last Primary AFSC/MOS
M 0611-Aerial Gunner Last Unit
1943-1943, M 0611, Bomb Units/511th Bomb Squadron Service Years
1942 - 1943
Home State
Missouri   Year of Birth
1921 Home Town
Sedalia Last Address
RAF Station Polebrook, England Casualty Date
Nov 03, 1943   Cause
Hostile, Died while Missing Reason
Air Loss, Crash - Sea Location
Germany Conflict
World War II Location of Interment
Not Specified Wall Coordinates
Not Specified
Official Badges

Unofficial Badges

Additional Information

Last Known Activity
Harlan D. Burton was born on August 25, 1921 in Sedalia, Missouri. He was the son of Ollie and Euba Burton, and had 4 siblings. He attended Broadway Elementry School before going to Smith-Cotton Junior-Senior High School in May, 1936. At age 16, he became a truck driver, hauling cattle for his father from Sedalia to St. Louis. On December 20, 1941, he married Verna Louise Newton.

He was inducted into the Army on August 5, 1942 (one account gives this date as the 19th) at Jefferson Barracks in St. Lois, Missouri. His first assignment was Las Vegas, Nevada. Subsequent assignments led him to Salt Lake City, Utah; Blythe, California; Casper, Wyoming; and Salina, Kansas.

Burton was assigned to the 351st Bomb Group and reported to Polebrook, England in early 1943. Here, he was assigned to a combat crew of the 511th Bomb Squadron. Alternating as waist gunner and ball turret gunner, he flew 25 missions from June 22 to November 3, 1943. On November 3, the crew was tasked for the mission to bomb submarine pens and facilities at Wilhelmshaven, Germany.

During the bomb run, enemy fighters attacked the formation. A lower squadron B-17 pilot was shot through the head, and his aircraft pitched up, colliding with the aircraft in which Burton was flying. The mid-air collision severely damaged the aircraft, and as it dropped out of formation, it was attacked by three German fighters. The waist gunners shot down two of them, and just as Burton disposed of the third one, the B-17 exploded. Spinning downward, it crashed in the sea off Mellum Island, North of Wilhelmshaven.

Six of the crew survived and were taken prisoner by the Germans. The Germans eventually recovered three bodies which they identified as the pilot, co-pilot, and engineer. Burton's body was never recovered. His name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Cemetery at Margraten, Holland.

In May, 1944, Burton's status was changed from MIA to KIA. In 1952, a committee attempted to verify Burton was indeed dead. German records and local stories led them to the conclusion that the body was non-recoverable, and Burton was declared dead in 1953.

He is remembered on a World War II memorial in Pettis County, Missouri.

NOTE: In the "Screwball" crew photo, SSgt Burton is front row, right.


Harlan D. Burton's initial assignment was to B-17E #42-29843, nicknamed "Screwball," assigned to the 351st Bomb Group. He subsequently flew his last mission on B-17F #42-29852, nicknamed "Fireball," assigned to the 511th Bomb Squadron.

NOTE: Most of the aircraft incorporated the name "Ball" into the aircraft name, in honor of Major Clinton F. Ball, the unit's first commander. Notable examples included "Screwball," "Fireball," "Lucille Ball," and "Eight Ball."

Missing Air Crew Report 1160 and mission loading lists gives the crew as:

1 Lt Elmer J. Nardi p
2 Lt Harold C. Bergman c-p
2 Lt Orlyn E. Master nav
2 Lt Bradley E. Squires bomb
TSgt Frank Swica eng/tt gun
TSgt Ganusheau S. Wade r/o
SSgt Harlan D. Burton btg
SSgt John J. Yarush lwg
SSgt Donald D. Happold rwg
SSgt Henry C. Gates tail gun

Lt Nardi was recovered and is buried in Oak Mound Cemetery in Heraldsburg, California. Lt Bergman is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at Margraten, Holland, and TSgt Swica is buried in Ardennes American Cemetery in France. As stated, Burton's body was never found.

The remaining six members of the crew were taken prisoner.

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Original "Screwball"... more Burton, Harlan D., SSgt
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"Fireball" more Burton, Harlan D., SSgt
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Ribbon Bar  


  Unit Assignments   1942-1942, United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) 1942-1942, M 0611, Aerial Gunnery School 1942-1943, M 0611, Bomb Units/351st Bomb Group 1943-1943, M 0611, Bomb Units/511th Bomb Squadron2 My Aircraft/Missiles   1943-1943, B-17 Flying Fortress Combat and Operations History     1943-1943 World War II/Missions/Operations/Various Missions over Germany 1943 (1943)        


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