DELOS H. BURKS|
44th Bombardment Group,
66th Bomb Squadron
World War II Memories
I was a navigator in the 66th Sqdn. Of the 44th Bomb Group (H) at Barksdale Field, flying anti-submarine patrol in the Gulf of Mexico, mostly at night for ten-plus hour missions from some two months. The unit went to Will Rogers Field, Oklahoma and while preparing for the European Theater, my squadron commander was then Major Al Key, a famous pilot from Meridian, Mississippi. I was on his crew as squadron navigator. I was TWX'd back to Barksdale in late August 1942 as a ground school instructor for the Martin B., 26 bombardiers and navigators, teaching some navigation to the bombardiers, also some radio navigation.
I had been a high school teacher and coach from 1938 to 1941, and I have to assume that experience on my records was solely responsible for my being removed from the 44th Group.
I had flown anti-submarine patrols with William H. Brandon, then a 1st Lt. In the 66th Squadron. I knew others who were on the Ploesti raid.
You may know about the Key brothers from Meridian, Ms. Who kept their plane, the "Ole Miss" in the air some 30-odd days in the mid-30's breaking the world's endurance record. The plane is in the Smithsonian Institute. Colonel Key served 12 years as Mayor of Meridian, MS after his retirement from the Air Force. I read about some of his ETO exploits in B-17s and often wondered why he left the 44th and the Liberators.
I was credited with 34 air combat missions, a few air medals, unit citation, and a half-dozen battle stars during the last year of World War II.
I stayed in the Air Reserve as a Major (1946), later promoted to Lt. Col., had assignments as an AFROTC professor, staff judge advocate, and while a member of the State Attorney General's Staff I was recruited to the staff of the Mississippi Air National Guard, a colonel. Later I became the assistant state adjutant general for air and got a star. On retirement at age 60, I received a second star. The age 60 pay is splendid (33 year's longevity). I'm also retired from the state of Mississippi as the Deputy Attorney General with 31 years of public service, which included schoolteacher, WWII years, eight years in the State House of Representatives, and 13 years with the Attorney General. I returned to private practice ?? years ago and working like I did when I was young.
My wife and I live on a cattle and timber farm. We reared three children, all doing well, and there are seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Following is a newspaper article out of the The Clarion-Ledger, a Jackson Daily News, dated Sunday, August 14, 1966.
After 21 Years
VETERAN VIEWS "THE BOMB" AS
NECESSARY TO END WAR
By Jean Culbertson
Clarion-Ledger Staff Writer
"I believe it was the right decision."
This is the earnest, considered opinion of Col. Delos H. Burks, 21 years after the Bomb ended the war with Japan.
From the vantagepoint of V-J Day Anniversary, the Air Guard legal officer declares, "I was of the opinion then - and still am - that it was the proper step to shorten the war against the fanatical Japanese war lords."
He believes that President Harry S. Truman, who made the final decision, "saw his duty and did it." I believe it was the right decision.
"There are perhaps a million of us alive today who might have lost our lives if it hadn't been for the A-Bomb to shorten the war."
He quotes General George C. Marshall, who told Truman that if the "new weapon" was as successful as predicted, it would save from a quarter million to a million American lives.
This, according to Burks, was while Marshall was top commander, attending the Potsdam Conference shortly before the first bomb fell on Hiroshima.
"We were already moving north," says Burks, who was stationed at Clark Air Force Base near Manila on V-J Day.
A captain in the Air Force who'd already been recommended for promotion to major he was navigator in an air-sea rescue unit flying several different planes including an army version of the old PBY.
But there were lots of other kinds of troops at Clark, "The whole Pacific operation was a combined effort."
Several thousand were based there when the news came, and some had already moved out. Burks left late for Okinawa.
Flew Missions. Actual "invasion of Honshu, the Japanese mainland, was scheduled one, November." He explains. Burks flew air combat missions on August 1, 2, 3, and 5. The Bomb hit Hiroshima August 6.
It was customary to rotate air crews out after 35 missions, "but we didn't' count on it." Burks flew his 33rd before The Bomb, one more after the attack on Nagasaki, August 9.
"At that time, we were flying the China Sea and the China Coast, cutting the Jap shipping lanes.
"It was part of a broad program of softening up," he explains, "of Japanese shipping and harbors, from Saigon north."
"My outfit rescued 700 different fliers," Burks counts up, "in the last year of the war." After V-J Day, they had some of the work of getting the prisoners out and to hospitals.
"Every type of fighter and bomber and Navy plane was in the assault," Burks recalls. "We were in the late stages of breaking the Japanese war effort. A lot of strikes went on before the bomb dropped and a lot afterwards, before they finally threw in the sponge."
"We were looking way down the road," says the war veteran. "Honshu on 1 November and the next invasion on 1 March, and the fellas used to say 'Golden Gate in 1948'."
Pure Rumor. Yes, Burks remembers, they had heard something about a "secret weapon," but it was "pure rumor." He recalls that the Alamogardo, N. Mex. Test blasts had been held, midst considerable speculation, some weeks before.
"Inter-service rivalry was perhaps a good thing for the country," Burks believes, and morale was high. "We'd moved all the way from Australia to within fighter range of Japan."
"The German surrender was a most encouraging sign," he adds. "But we had no idea it was nearly over."
Burks is big on the reserves for a real sense of security in conflict "hot or cold."
"It's always been and is continuing to be the backbone of the American military preparedness program. For the funds expended, it'' the greatest investment Congress makes toward supplementing our military power."
Active Reserve. When the fighting airman was discharged in 1946, he stayed in the active reserve - right up until State Adj. Gen. W. G. Johnson asked for him as legal staff officer for the Air National Guard.
In that capacity, he has distinguished himself. In April he received the Mississippi Magnolia Medal with a citation which reads, "Demonstrating unique perception and an intense awareness of the needs of the Mississippi National Guard. Colonel Burks worked unceasingly with his fellow officers to revise the Mississippi Code and develop a uniform system for the administration of military justice in the Mississippi National Guard."
Burks is a lawyer who served two term sin the state legislature, representing Pearl River County and now is employed in he attorney general's office. He's married and is the father of three children, two married.
Though it's been 20 years since he hung up his uniform, except as a weekend warrior, the former navigator still has the bearing of a military man. He also has a cold clear memory of what happened.
THE GHOST FROM VALLEY FORGE
I had a dream the other night that I didn't understand,
A figure walking through the mist, with a flintlock in his hand.
His clothes were torn and dirty, as he stood there by my bed,
He removed his three-cornered hat and speaking softly said:
"We fought a revolution to secure our liberty,
We wrote the Constitution, as a shield from tyranny.
For future generations, this legacy we gave,
In this, the land of the free and the home of the brave.
The freedoms we secured for you, we hoped you'd always keep,
But tyrants labored endlessly while your parents were asleep.
Your freedoms gone - your courage lost - you're no more than a slave,
Living in this land of the free and the home of the brave.
You buy permits to travel, and permits to own a gun,
Permits to start a business, or to build a place for one.
On land that you believe you own, you pay a yearly rent,
And you have no voice in choosing just how the money's spent.
Your children must attend a school that doesn't educate.
Your moral values can't be taught, according to the state.
You read about the current "news" in a very biased press,
You pay a tax you do not owe, to please the IRS.
Your money is no longer made of silver nor of gold,
You trade your wealth for paper, so life can be controlled.
You pay for crimes that make our Nation turn from God to shame,
You've taken Satan's number, as you've traded-in your name.
You've given government control to those who do you harm,
So they can padlock churches, and steal the family farm.
And keep our country deep in debt, put men of God in jail,
Harass your fellow countrymen while corrupted courts prevail.
Your public servants don't uphold the solemn oath they've sworn,
Your daughters visit doctors so children won't be born.
Your leaders ship artillery and guns to foreign shores,
And send your sons to slaughter, fighting other people's wars.
Can you regain your Freedom for which we fought and died?
Or don't you have the courage, or the faith to stand with pride?
Are there no more values for which you'll fight to save?
Or do you wish your children to live in fear and be enslaved?
Sons of this Republic, arise and take a stand!
Defend the Constitution, the Supreme Law of the Land!
Preserve our Republic, and each God-given right!
And pray to God to keep the Torch of Freedom burning bright!"
As I awoke he vanished, into the mist from whence he came,
His words were true, we are not free, and we have ourselves to blame.
For even now as tyrants trample each God-given right,
We only watch and tremble too afraid to stand and fight.
If he stood by your bedside in a dream while you're asleep,
And wondered what remains of your rights he fought to keep,
What would be your answer if he called you from his grave?
Is this still the land of the free and the home of the brave?