It's been a long time coming, but Stephen Burbage of Monon finally got his Purple Heart he earned in 1944 this past week.
Burbage from Monon entered the army at the age of 18 and after training he shipped out in May 1944 to Naples, Italy. His boat was part of a 200-ship convoy that left Newport News, VA.
One of his experiences was meeting fellow Hoosier Ernie Pyle, the famous war correspondent, when he went ashore at Anzio Beach.
Burbage said Pyle was just sitting at an old typewriter catching up on some stories when he saw him. He was able to shake his hand and greet him as a fellow Hoosier.
His unit was sent from Anzio to Rome, then for amphibious training for a month in Salerno and Naples. Finally he was among the infantry divisions headed toward battle. "We came ashore at St. maxime, France." Burbage said, "I was carrying a B.A.R. and had an assistant and ammo carrier along with me on the assault wave."
He says he still remembers when his best buddy stepped on a "wooden shoe" mine and lost his foot. Steve said he stayed with his buddy until the medics arrived. "That was the Second D-Day in France, August 15, 1944."
Burbage said, "As his unit walked through France, upon entering each town the first thing they would do was to blow up the church steeples, as they were usually housed snipers.
On September 1, 1944 his platoon engaged the 17th German Army at Montelemar, France. Burbage was on outpost duty and wiped out a 12-man German paratroop patrol to save his fellow soldiers. For this action he was awarded the Bronze Star.
His unit walked on in miserable conditions and Burbage almost got to the Rhine River.
He said that due to the weather, he got trench foot and spent nearly six weeks in a hospital in Bar LeDuc, near Nancy, France. While he was hospitalized, his entire platoon got wiped out.
After leaving the hospital, he was placed with the military police for a while. He saw duty at Orly Field near Paris and also in Germany, Austria and Belgium.
At Grenoble, France he was injured when a truck he was in was pushed off the road by a U.S. tank. Fellow soldiers were killed and he was pinned under the truck.
He was honorably discharged November 3, 1945.
He had fought in seven battles during the war.
Burbage said, "We lost some good men over there. The good Lord protected me."
After returning home, he worked for the Monon, L & N and CSX railroad and retired after 30 years in 1986.