RADIOMAN FIRST CLASS ROBERT ARTHUR BURT JR., U.S. NAVY

October 27, 1918 (Bridgeport, CT) – October 26, 1989 (Seattle WA); 70 years old
Married Barbara Bassett (1920-2002) on December 2, 1945 in Norwalk, CT
    — Barbara divorced and remarried to Chester B. Price
Married Arlene G. Nicol (1929-2014) on December 16, 1966 in Seattle, WA
Local address: 2 Pershing Street, Norwalk
Enlisted on: December 14, 1938
Serial number 4026989
USS Honolulu (CL-48)


Held in Japanese POW Camp Branch #2 (Kawasaki) Tokyo Bay Area 35-139.


From The Norwalk Hour June 1, 1942

Robert A. Burt Jr., son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert A. Burt of 2 Pershing Street, a Radioman Second Class in the U.S. Navy, is listed among the missing following the loss of the Philippines. “Bobby,” as he was known best by his numerous friends here, enlisted in the U.S. Navy about five years ago, following his graduation from Norwalk High School. He is now 23 years of age. After training at Newport, Rhode Island, Burt entered the Naval Radio School on the Pacific coast and then was assigned to sea duty. He spent most of his time in the Orient, serving on several ships including the aircraft carrier Langley, which was sunk in the Java Sea. Shortly before the Japanese attack on Hawaii and the Philippines, Burt was stationed at the Cavite Naval Base near Manila. His parents have not heard from him since the early part of December. Since the naval personnel were evacuated from Cavite to Corregidor Island at the first of the year, it is believed that Burt was among the group. Mr. and Mrs. Burt made every effort to communicate with their son through the Navy and Red Cross before the fall of Corregidor. It is assumed that he was among those captured by the Japanese when that island base fell a month ago. “Bobby” was a star member of the Norwalk High School basketball team when he attended school.


From The Norwalk Hour January 5, 1943

ROBERT A BURT JR, IS PRISONER OF JAPS IN FAR EAST CAMP

First word of their son, Robert A. Burt Jr., U.S. Navy Radioman Second Class, came to Mr. and Mrs. Robert A. Burt of 2 Pershing Street, today, inf the form of a letter from the U.S. Navy Department, reporting that their son “is being held as a prisoner of war at the Taiwan Camp.” Whether this camp is in Japan or the Philippines is not indicated. For the past year, the family has had no word from their son other than the report of the U.S. Navy Department some months ago, stating that the youth was “missing in action.” The Navy Department in its letter to Mr. and Mrs. Burt report that news of the Norwalker was received through an official cable gram from the International Red Cross in Tokyo. “Bobby,” as he was known best by his numerous friends here, enlisted in the U.S. Navy about five years ago, following his graduation from Norwalk High School. He is now 23 years of age. After training at Newport, Rhode Island, Burt entered the Naval Radio School on the Pacific coast and then was assigned to sea duty. He spent most of his time in the Orient, serving on several ships including the aircraft carrier Langley, which was sunk in the Java Sea. He was stationed also on a cruiser for some time. Shortly before the Japanese attack on Hawaii and the Philippines, Burt was stationed at the Cavite Naval Base, near Manila. The Naval personnel were evacuated from Cavite to Corregidor Island at the start of 1942, but it is not known by the family whether their son was captured there or Cavite. Burt was a well-known athlete in school and with various clubs around the city. He has a sister, Doris, a stenographer at the South Norwalk Trust Company. The letter was signed by Rear Admiral Randall Jacobs of the U.S. Navy, which received its information from the International Red Cross. The letter was as follows:

The Navy Department is in receipt of an official cable gram from the International Red Cross in Tokyo stating that your son, Robert Arthur Burt Jr., is being held as a prisoner of war at the Taiwan Camp. All future inquiries regarding his welfare should be addressed to Prisoners of Wear Information Bureau, Office of Provost Marshal General, War Department, Washington, D.C. which agency informs this office that to date, no arrangement has been made for the repatriation of those listed in the cablegram. The Bureau sincerely appreciates your anxiety and will promptly inform you of any information regarding your son.”


From The Norwalk Hour July 10, 1943

Robert A. Burt Jr., U.S. Navy Radioman Second Class and the son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert A. Burt of 2 Pershing Street, who has been a Jap Prisoner since early in January 1943, has been transferred to a new prison camp according to word received by his parents from the International Red Cross. “Bobby” was held at the Taiwan Camp, but has now been transferred to a prisoner camp in Tokyo, Japan. His address is now: Robert Arthur Burt Jr., Radioman 2c, (864), Am. POW, Branch Prisoner Camp, Tokyo, Japan, New York, New York.


From The Norwalk Hour March 24, 1944

“I am carrying on and hope that you are doing the same,” writes Robert Arthur Burt, Petty Officer First Class in the U.S. Navy, who is a Japanese prisoner of war, to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Arthur Burt Sr., of 2 Pershing Street, in a letter dated August 26, 1943, and received last week. Commenting on his physical condition, he writes, “I look the same but am a little thinner.” Petty Officer Burt also writes that he has received no mail from parents or friends for more than nine months. His mother says that mail has been sent her son regularly and is evidently being withheld. She also says that prisoners of war are permitted to write home only four times a year and that she anticipates hearing from him in the latter part of June. The Burts received worried of their son’s capture as “a prisoner of war at the Taiwan Camp” in January, 1943.


From The Norwalk Hour May 18, 1944

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Arthur Burt Sr., of 2 Pershing Street, through the Norwalk Chapter of the Red Cross, have received a copy of an intercepted broadcast from Japan made by their son, U.S. Navy Petty Officer First Class Robert Arthur Burt Jr., who is a Jap prisoner of war. The broadcast was as follows:

Hello Mom and Dad, the rest of the family and all my friends. I am broadcasting from Japan and hoping that you are well and healthy. I am doing as well as can be expected. I have received letters from you Mom, Doris, Barbara, Peggy and a few other friends. It was sure swell folks of you to keep writing. I hop you heard a broadcast made last June by a (CPO Army 6) which mentioned my name. In regard to your question if I knew anything about James Dunne, I have not seen or heard of him. You have my permission to increase my allotment if the department will take this broadcast as an official message. Doris, congratulations on your engagement, I hope to attend your wedding. The pictures of Grandma’s golden wedding party were sure swell. Keep the pictures coming if you can. You don’t know how much I appreciate them. Keep the chin up, sure hope to repay these kindnesses. The following friends are here with me and send their love and best wishes to their families: Chief Petty Officer Lorand Whitmore to Mrs. Lorand Whitmore, 3601 Central Avenue, San Diego, California; Chief Petty Officer Arlie Sinks to Mrs. Viola Sinks of 903 North Monroe Street, Marion Illinois; Chief Petty Officer James Orr to Mrs. J.J. Orr, Route 3, Rossville, Georgia.”

This broadcast supplements previous official report received from the International Red Cross.


From The Norwalk Hour October 11, 1945

BOBBY BURT HAS CLOSE ESCAPES FROM BOMBS
Norwalker, Released Prisoner of Japs, Describes Our Planes Plastering Tokyo, Sinking Aircraft Carrier

Close escapes from American bombings while confined as a Japanese prisoner of war were described by Robert A. Burt Jr., Radioman First Class, in a letter received yesterday by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert A. Burt of 2 Pershing Street. The letter was written on October 4 as “Bobby” was enroute to the United States. A previous message to his folks written from Guam on September 26 was the first word they had of his safety after being a captive of the Japs for three and a half years. “Bobby” left Guam on September 27 on a ship bound for San Francisco. He told his folks he would mail the letter if the ship reached Hawaii and there is every indication that the vessel did stop there and that “Bobby” is now nearing the United States. Mr. and Mrs. Burt, who have not seen their son in six years and seven months, sent a telegram to be delivered to him on arrival in San Francisco. It is expected that as soon as “Bobby” reaches the U.S. he will telephone his folks. Also waiting anxiously is a special friend, Miss Barbara Bassett of North Main Street, a nurse in the local physician’s office. She and “Bobby” were school chums. In his most recent letter, “Bobby” told his parents of two close calls he had in Japan when American bombers attacked areas in which he was held captive. The first close call was in Tokyo. When the U.S. bombers swarmed over the city, “Bobby” and other American prisoner dove into irrigation ditches on the outskirts of the camp. Despite the discomforts of lying in a cold, wet and muddy ditch “Bobby” said the planes dropped plenty of incendiary bombs and it was a real thrill for him to see Tokyo in flames for he knew that the end of the war was then in sight. His next close call was when he was transferred to Yokohama to work on a Jap aircraft carrier. The U.S. planes gave enough warning for the prisoners to race off the carrier and to safety on shore before the big bombers came in and planted a couple of block busters right in the middle of the ship. The explosion and fire sank the carrier, which was another thrill for “Bobby” as he knew the end of his internment was still close. “Bobby” finally was transferred to a pig iron mill in Northern Japan where he was finally freed by the mid-August cessation of hostilities. The Burts and Miss Bassett are patiently waiting for the phone call from San Francisco – telling of his safe arrival in the United States.


From The Norwalk Hour October 29, 1945

BURT RETAINS SENSE OF HUMOR
Nips Couldn’t Understand How Prisoners Could Laugh and Joke

Chief Radioman Robert A. Burg Jr., of 2 Pershing Street has yet to collect his back pay from the Navy for the three and a half years which he spent as a prisoner of war of the Japs. When he does collect it, he will salt the money away for the future. “Bobby” tells of the fun of the internees got in beating the Nips in baseball, how much letters were welcomed and how the packages from home and the Red Cross parcels were rifled by the Japs in the closing installment of his exclusive interview with The Norwalk Hour. “I wouldn’t take a million dollars for my experiences, yet I wouldn’t go through them again for 10 million dollars,” Bobby Burt declares. Yet, the Norwalk lad who was interned as a prisoner of war longer than any other lad from this city, shows no effects of his ordeal. He is calm, cool, no trace of nervousness, looks to be in excellent health, has hiss sense of humor, is not bitter and has taken his experiences in stride. He is the same solid, substantial boy who played hard, clean sports for Norwalk High School a decade ago. That he survived the hardships, his early sickness at Cabanatuan, the severe weather, the bombings and his final job in the carbon blast furnaces of the pig iron mill in northern Japan shows that he is made of sterner stuff that was characteristic of Marica and enabled this country to win against the Axis. Bobby is a real fighting man of our great Navy. He is a man that Norwalk and the U.S.A. can be proud to salute. He took the harsh treatment and orders of the Japanese – unwilling, yet realizing that he had to do a lot of these things to survive. “We had to bow to the sun, salute the Nips, do a lot of senseless things, but we made up for it by disobeying every order given us whenever the Opportunity presented itself,” Chief Burt told. “The Nips couldn’t understand how we could laugh, joke and sing. It helped our morale and puzzled them. We heckled and yelled our dislikes, too. We went as far as we dared without provoking extra punishment on individuals or on the camp. To help pass the time away, we even put on camp shows with song and dance numbers, using what little clothing we had to dress up. We got a big lift out of those shows. The flies and mosquitoes were bad in Yokohama. The fleas were bad everywhere. We were able to get rid of the lice by washing, but for the most part, we did not have any soap. We stole soap as well as food, at every opportunity we got, from the Nips. We never had any beds or cots to sleep on. We had raised platforms on the floor, like you see in pictures of Jap homes. Cigarettes were scarce but we got a fair break on them. During our first year as prisoners, we had a few cigarettes, but the second year, the Mitsubishi Company issued us about three a day. Civilians were getting seven cigarettes a day then. The tobacco situation became worse and cigarettes were far and few between. The civilians were almost as badly off. Mail was a great boon to us. All told, I got 110 letters at Yokohama. The letters averaged five3 months and 18 days to reach me. One package from mother came in. There were 80 items listed but only 27 were left when the package reached me. The Nips rifled our packages all the time. I had six Red Cross parcels, five from the American Red Cross and one from the British. During the past winter, I had three and a third parcels – we shared alike in the Red Cross distribution. The Red Cross did manage to get us books and other reading material. The British brought in a lot of reading materials with them. Outgoing mail was limited. We were able to send three or four cards a year and three letters. My mother received all but one I sent.” Bobby chuckled as he told of playing baseball. “The Japs are great lovers of baseball and we organized a team in prison. We played among ourselves a bit, but the real fun was in playing the Nips. As bad as some of us were, we always managed to beat them. That helped us a lot and kept our spirits up. Bobby broadcast from Yokohama once. This report was heard all over the Pacific and parts of North America. He told his folks he was well and mentioned the names of several other Americans who were wit him. His parents had about 100 letters from civilians and those in the armed forces who relayed the message. His name was mentioned in another broadcast and this also produced a deluge of mail for Mr. and Mrs. Burt. When he was bombed out in Cavite, Chief Burt lost all of his personal possessions, including his wrist watch, books, pictures and clothing. He had his wallet which he was able to retain in all his travels. While many of the internees kept diaries, Bobby didn’t have paper enough, but he did manage to keep a few notes. “Would you like to go back over the route your traveled from Cavite to Sendai, as a tourist, to see the places where you worked and lived,” Bobby was asked. “No sir, I have no desire to ever go to Japan again,” he emphatically said. “I saw enough of Japan and the Nips to last me for the rest of my life. Bobby has some unfinished business to attend to one of these days. He will drop in at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and collect his back money. Bobby has not been brought up to date on the money due him for his three and a half years as an internee. When he was given his 90-day furlough, he received the customary two-month’s pay. In the meantime, yeomen and storekeepers will have figured out what will prove to be a neat little nest egg – which Bobby will stow away in Victory Bonds for the future. Chief Burt has a world of memories. He, like millions of other Americans, are hoping and praying that no one else will have to go through what he and the thousands of other servicemen and civilians did in the past four years.


Buried in Floral Hills Cemetery, 409 Filbert Road, Lynnwood, WA; Evergreen Garden Section


Published by jeffd1121

USAF retiree. Veteran advocate. Committed to telling the stories of those who died while in the service of the country during wartime.

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