High School Wall of Honor
Richard Harford Burr
Class of January, 1937
Died KIA; December 14, 1944
Research done by Rick Nehrling, class of 1963, and Claradell Shedd,
class of 1953.
|Richard was a member
of North High's class of January, 1937. His brother, William Glenn
Burr, was a member of North High's class of January, 1938. According
to the 1930 census, they were raised by Earl and Mae Reese who
lived at 702 Sheridan Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa. Both brothers
were killed in World War II.
At the start of World War II, Richard was the Company Commander
of the 21st Engineer Battalion, 21st Philippine Division in the
Philippines. This was a unit within the Philippine Department
(Philippine Garrison-The Battling Bastards of Bataan). The Philippine
Department was a regular U.S. Army unit comprised of US officers
and Filipino soldiers. Their mission was to defend the Philippine
Islands and train the Philippine Army.
In late 1941, Japan invaded the Philippines. Most of the Filipino
and US forces defending the country were rapidly overrun or forced
to retreat. The Philippine Department retreated to the Bataan
Peninsula. After a four-month stand in fighting the Japanese in
the Battle of Bataan, on April 9, 1942, Major General Edward P.
King, Jr. formally surrendered the remaining approximately 75,000
Filipino and US soldiers to the Japanese.
Richard Burr was among the 75,000 groops that surrendered to the
Japanese. On April 10, 1942, the Japanese forced Richard and all
of the other POW's to begin to march to Camp O'Donnell, a prison
camp that was 100 kilometers away. Out of the 75,000 POWs, approximately
10,000 perished and another 11,000 escaped. Approximately 54,000
POWs reached Camp O'Donnell. Richard Burr was among those POWs
who survived the Bataan Death March and reached Camp O'Donnell.
On June 6, 1942, the American POWs were evacuated in small groups
from Camp O'Donnell to another POW camp -- Cabanatuan. Richard
remained at Cabanatuan from June, 1942 until October, 1944. In
late October, 1944, he and other POWs were loaded onto trucks
and driven to Bilibid Prison in Manila, Philippines. In December,
1944, a number of Japanese transport ships that would be later
be referred to as "hellships" arrived in the Philippines.
The definition of a "hellship" is a ship with extremely
unpleasant living conditions and/or with a reputation for cruelty
among the crew. It also refers to ships used by the Japanese to
transport allied POWs to Japan. All of these ships flew the Japanese
flag, and none of the ships had any markings indicating that they
were used to transport POWs. Among the Japanese transport ships
was the Oryoku Maru that was going to transport POWs from Manila
On December 13, 1944, Richard and approximately 1618 other POWs
were marched from the Bilibid Prison through the streets of Manila
to Pier 7. During the day and early evening, all of these POWs
were loaded into several holds of the Oryoku Maru. Once loaded
with the POWs, the Oryoku Maru headed toward Japan.
On December 14, 1944, dive bombers from the American carrier USS
Hornet located the Oryoku Maru off of Subic Bay, Philippines.
Since the Oryoku Maru was flying a Japanese flag and was located
in enemy waters, the USS Hornet's dive bombers attacked the ship.
The Oryoku Maru was badly damaged during this attack. It was not
until some time later that the US learned that the Oryoku Maru
was transporting allied POWs to Japan.
It was reported that Richard Burr died sometime during December
14, 1944. It cannot be determined if Richard's death was caused
from his weakened physical condition after serving 2-1/2 years
as a Jpanese POW, or from mistreatment by his Japanese captors
aboard the Oryoku Maru, or from the attack by the US dive bombers.
On December 15, 1944, the Japanese and surviving POWs abandoned
the Oryoku Maru. Of the approximately 1600 allied POWs loaded
onto the Oryoku Maru on December 13th, only 600 were alive on
Richard's service number was 0-407971. His death was reported
as KIA, killed in action. At the time of his death, his rank was
Information obtained from the American Battle Monuments Commission
shows that he is listed on the Tablets of the Missing at Manila
American Cemetery, Manila, Philippines. Award is the Purple Heart
with an Oak Leaf Cluster. First Lieutenant. Service # 0-407971.
Bataan Death March
POWs in Death March
in Subic Bay
(activity below ship shows
POW's swimming to shore)
POWs in Sun Treatment
The above information was obtained
from the following:
(1) The World War II Honor List of Dead and Missing Army and
Army Air Forces Personnel were created by the War Department,
the Adjutant General's Office, Administrative Services Division,
Strength Accounting Branch. The original records are held at
the Modern Military records LICON, Textural Services Division
(NWCTM), National Archives at College Park, Maryland.
The documents contain the latest and most complete information
available of all Army and Army Air Force personnel who were
killed or died, or became and remained missing between the President's
declaration of unlimited national emergency on May 27, 1941,
and the cut-off date of this report, January 31, 1946. This
document includes both battle and nonbattle dead and missing.
The records are available online at http://www.archives.gov/.
The type of casualty is indicated by the following:
* KIA - Killed in Action. This
is an individual who was killed in action at the front, by enemy
action in the rear, or if a prisoner of war.
* DOW - Died of Wounds. This
is an individual was who wounded and later died.
* DOI - This is an individual
who suffered fatal battle injuries and died in a line of duty
*DNB - Died Nonbattle. This
is an individual who died in a line of duty death, such as from
sickness, homicide, suicide, or accidents outside of combat
*M - Missing. This is an individual
who is reported as missing and later was determined to be dead.
*FOD - Finding of Death. Findings
of death fall within Public Law 490 and its amendments and are
made when there is either conclusive proof that the person is
dead or equally overwhelming evidence that under the circumstances
the person could not have remained alive.
This document contains the names of those individuals
who died in the line of duty status. Those individuals who were
not in the line of duty at the time of their death are not listed
in this document.
(6) The Oryoku Maru roster can be found online
(2) The World War II Army Enlistment Records contain information
on more than nine million indivdual enlistments. These records
can be found online at http://www.archives.gov/.
(3) The American Battle Monuments Commission was established
in 1923 to commemorate the service, achievements, and sacrifice
of U.S. Armed Forces. There are 24 overseas cemeteries that
serve as the final resting places for almost 125,000 American
war dead. The serviceman and women are either buried at these
cemeteries or their names listed are on tablets of the missing
that memorialize these men and women and their sacrifice. These
records can be found online at http://www.abmc.gov/home.php.
(4) The story of the Oryoku Maru can be found online at http://www.oryokumaru.net.
(5) POW Resources regarding information on Camp O'Donnell can
be found online at http://www.mansell.com/pow_resources/camplists/Nagoya/kamioka_1/pase_1_diary.htm
(7) Information regarding the Bataan Death March can be found
online at http://home.pacbell.net/fbaldie/Battling_Bastards_of_Bataan.html.
(8) The comprehensive list of names
from North High's 1893-2018 graduation classes are from Claradell
Shedd's North Des Moines High School website. The names of North
High School graduates can be found online at: http://www.ndmhs.com/.
Richard Harford Burr's 1937 class page is: http://www.ndmhs.com/pages/yearclass1937(1997.60).html.
in action: December 14, 1944 while aboard Japanese "hellship"
Oryoku Maru which was transporting US POWs from the Philippines to Japan.
"You Raise Me Up"
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