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Holliston Native Finally Returning from World War II

by Chris Cain
March 6, 2019

1LT Burleigh Curtis died while on a bombing mission over France on 13 June 1944.  Closure for Burleigh’s living relatives will come on June 25, 2019 – just over 75 years after his death - when his physical remains will be transported to Portland, Maine.  He will be interred on his family’s homestead with a private service. 

The report of 1LT Curtis’ recovered remains appeared recently on local television outlets.  American Legion Commander Stephen Bradford made arrangements for the Holliston Reporter to speak with Burleigh’s sister, Madelyn Klose, who now lives in New Hampshire.  At age 94 Mrs. Klose is as sharp as a tack and shared freely of her family memories and the upcoming return of her brother’s physical remains.

Burleigh was the 3rd child of 5 in his family – 3 boys (all 3 served in WW2) and 2 girls.  The family moved to Holliston in 1930 from the family homestead in Windham, ME so that their dad could find work during the depression.  Madelyn fondly remembers their family meals around a large oak table – even down to who sat where.  Being the first girl after three boys, Madelyn was a tomboy who enjoyed being with her brothers.  All five children graduated from Holliston High School.

Burleigh married his high school sweetheart. She is still alive and lives out west.  Burleigh’s oldest brother, Bob, who lives in California, will celebrate his 100th birthday this spring.  Don’t tell anyone but Madelyn has a very special gift that she will hand deliver to Bob, “even it’s my final mission.”

Burleigh enlisted to fly fighters in the war.  He had not taken advanced math in high school which was a requirement for aviators - he was in the business track.  So he commuted from Holliston to a school in Boston to learn the math needed to be a pilot.  His effort paid off when he earned his wings.

Below is an excerpt from Rickard, J (4 April 2016), 362nd Fighter Group (USAAF), http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/362nd_Fighter_Group.html

“On D-Day the group provided a fighter escort for the transport groups dropping paratroops on the western flank of the beachhead. It was then used for close support of the armies fighting in Normandy and during the breakout into the rest of France.

It was during one of the close support missions, having taken off from his base in Headcorn, England, that 1LT Curtis’ plane crashed in a farmer’s field.  It is possible that his plane was hit by a bomb from another plane in his formation.  Mrs. Klose shared that the plane nosedived deep into the field.  When it was safe to approach the wreckage, the farmer’s son retrieved some remains strewn on the earth, made a small coffin and buried them on the farm.

Mrs. Klose shared a remarkable coincidence between 1LT Curtis’ first name and the site of his crash.  Burleigh comes from two Scottish words – burl; knotty tree and lea; meadow.  The farmer’s field / meadow was surrounded by knotty trees.

The Curtis family was contacted about 3 years ago by archeologists working to recover WW2 artifacts.  Just before last Christmas the confirmation came that indeed 1LT Curtis’ remains had been recovered – including his two dog tags.  About two weeks ago a representative from the US military visited Mrs. Klose (as the family’s representative) to share volumes of information chronicling all the work that had been done to identify the remains.

Mrs. Klose has mixed emotions: sadness as the reality of her brother’s loss comes home, and great pride that he died to keep our nation and the world a better place.

Legion Commander Steve Bradford indicated that Holliston’s Post 47 will have a ceremony to remember 1LT Burleigh E. Curtis.  Details will be published as soon as they are available

 

 

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Comments (2)

Burleigh Curtis was the Class Vice President of the Class of 1939 and Dorrance White was the Class Treasurer of the Class of 1939. Both joined the Army Air Force. Burleigh died June 13, 1944. Dorrance died July 8, 1944.

- Carol | 3/8/19 1:01 PM

Fascinating-thanks so much for covering this, Chris!

- Pat Fuller | 3/7/19 1:47 PM

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