Early Life

Becoming a Paratrooper

Acceptance as a Platoon Leader

North Africa



Naples and Anzio


Bypassing the Normandy Invasion

Market Garden

Capturing the Nijmegen Bridge and Aftermath

Nijmegen Bridge Assault

German Border

Life on the Frontline

Battle of the Bulge

Segment stub for 10577


Eight Ball



After the bridge [Annotator’s Note: Nijmegen Bridge] was secured, T. Moffatt Burriss and his outfit were moved to a wooded area on the German border. It was called the Denhoven Woods [Annotator’s Note: spelling of this location could not be confirmed]. There had been a battle the night before. A lieutenant had wiped out a German company. Orders came down to hold the position. Burriss with his half a company dug in and the Krauts [Annotator’s Note: a derisive term used to refer to Germans during the war] fired an artillery barrage. The fire hit the trees and showered down shrapnel and splinters causing many casualties. The next day, Tiger tanks and a battalion of SS troops advanced on the Americans. The paratroopers had to withdraw to their secondary positions. One of the artillery bursts was directly over the foxhole used by the executive officer and a sergeant. The shrapnel put a large hole in the sergeant’s chest. Burriss ordered a man to take the noncom back. A Tiger tank fired and cut the uninjured man in half. While Burriss was withdrawing from his first position, a Tiger tank took aim on him. Burriss tripped on his raincoat and the tank round hit the man in front of him. The man disintegrated. Burriss made it back to the aid station where a shell penetrated the roof of the building. Burriss’ executive officer died shortly afterward by the concussion of the shell. Burriss told the man he would be alright, but he let out his last breath. Burriss’ exec died in his arms. A recent telephone call from Charles Snyder Colton [Annotator’s Note: surname spelling uncertain] inquired of Burriss as to whether he knew Lieutenant Charlie Snyder [Annotator’s Note: 2nd Lieutenant Charles J Snyder]. Burriss told the caller that Snyder was his company exec, his best friend, and he ultimately died in his arms in Holland. The younger man found Burriss through scanning the net and finding the book authored by Burriss about the 82nd Airborne [Annotator’s Note: Burriss wrote Strike and Hold: A Memoir of the 82nd Airborne in World War II]. Burriss was the only man in the world who knew exactly how the caller’s uncle died. Burriss receives several calls a month as a result of his book. After moving to the secondary position in the woods, the fight in the area was stabilized. Two days later, the company headquarters was established in a house. Upon examination of the property, Burriss found a bathtub that had a functional hot water heater supplying it. He was taking a long leisurely shower when he began to feel light headed. He opened the door to the next room and fell into it. He was out cold. After being revived, he decided to take a nap. While doing so, another officer threw his Musette Bag [Annotator’s Note: a small military shoulder bag for carrying sundry items such as rations, personal items or ammunition] next to Burriss’ head. After the bag was on the floor, the officer picked it up. A grenade fell out and in the process, the pin was pulled. As Burriss rolled away, the men in the room threw a wadded up blanket over the live grenade. Fortunately, no one was hurt but the lieutenant with the Musette Bag was amply chewed out for his misdeed by Burriss. The Krauts started firing rockets at the building. One hit the sidewalk and skidded against the door. The men quickly exited through the back. The bomb disposal unit disarmed it, but it was a dud. Burriss thanked the Lord for another day. In the morning, he almost committed suicide. Later, one of his officers almost killed him. Finally, the Krauts were after him. He had made it through another day.


T. Moffatt Burriss took out a couple Army Air Forces officers who had requested to see what life was like on the frontline with the idea of also possibly getting some souvenirs. While in route, they encountered dead Krauts and the pilot and other officer were startled by the sight. When they reached Burriss’ position, the airmen asked what they should do. Burriss told them to dig a foxhole. They had to borrow a shovel to do so. An enemy barrage came in and one of the officers was hit by a piece of shrapnel. In the morning, they were returning to an aid station when a Tiger tank took out a nearby 40mm anti-tank gun with its gunners right in front of them. The airmen never realized how bad it was. They commented that when they go on a bombing mission and return, they are able to take a shower and sleep on clean sheets. As they reached the aid station, a mortar round hit it and killed another man. They said that they formerly called the infantry dogfaces. They were committed to not only stop doing that but going to battle with anyone who did. Burriss wished he could talk to them now. He did not remember their names.


T. Moffatt Burriss and the 504th stayed in Holland as part of Operation Market Garden [Annotator’s Note: the Allied assault on the Netherlands in September 1944 that involved three airborne divisions and one army corps] for two months. The last month or so was just in a defensive position in a stalemated situation with the Germans. The unit was pulled out of there and sent back to France for R&R [Annotator’s Note: R&R—rest and recuperation]. The men thought they might have Christmas in Paris, but it did not work out that way. The Battle of the Bulge started on 16 December [Annotator’s Note: 1944] and that changed the plans totally. The 504th was loaded on trucks on the morning of the 18th and traveled into Belgium through knee deep snow. They ran head-on into the enemy leading armor and troops. A green American division had already been decimated by the Germans. The airborne held up the Germans. Patton [Annotator’s Note: General George S. Patton] arrived soon after. The 101st Airborne stopped the Germans at Bastogne. The Germans lined up American prisoners at Malmedy and mowed them down. That angered the men of the 504th big time. The most memorable thing about the battle was the fighting in freezing cold and knee deep snow. Burriss and his company ambushed a flak wagon and turned it on the enemy and killed many of them. The paratrooper company had been hidden up a road from the enemy weapon that was heading toward them. They held their fire until the weapon had passed and then opened fire on it. The Americans took it over and put it to use. During the Battle of the Bulge, the company walked all night long in the deep snow until they reached the town of Arzbach [Annotator’s Note: Germany]. Megellas [Annotator’s Note: James Megellas] and Burriss used their companies to wipe out quite a few Germans and their armor in a skirmish during the battle. There were about 100 enemy dead with only one American injured. It was a big win. On Christmas Day, Burriss ran into General Gavin [Annotator’s Note: Maj. Gen. James M. Gavin was in command of the 82nd Airborne Division.]. It was a bit west of Cologne with opposing forces on each side of the city. An enemy spotter was in a church steeple. As Burriss and General Gavin were talking, a shell hit close to them. Burriss admonished the General to be careful to which the commanding officer replied that he was not overly concerned. Afterward, Burriss commandeered an American tank and blew the tower and the enemy spotter away.


During the war, T. Moffatt Burriss encountered an individual nicknamed Eight Ball. Burriss first encountered him in Fort Benning jump training when the man was a staff sergeant. He was a good looking soldier with a beautiful body. The next time he saw him was overseas. He was a problem so he was a private assigned to a parachute maintenance company. His commander wanted to get rid of him. He called in the man, Scavo [Annotator’s Note: the spelling is uncertain]. He told him that supplies were short for 500 end caps for containers to carry machine guns and ammunition for the upcoming mission. He ordered Scavo to go all the way across Africa and get the caps. Eight Ball saluted and took off. He returned two days later with the caps. He had assumed the role of an officer and accomplished the task. He ended up jumping on the next mission. Two years later, he was in Burriss’ company after being in several companies. Eight Ball was sent to the front. He decided to dig his foxhole in a different location than ordered by his commander. He was corrected on that. After digging the hole, he lit up a cigarette which is not safe on the frontline. He was sent back to the CP for guard duty. The order was given that if he lit up a cigarette, he was to be shot. The next morning, a call came in over the sound powered phone. Word came in that a car was approaching. It was Scavo. He had taken off in the middle of the night and obtained the mayor’s car from the village to reconnoiter the situation. All seemed well he opined. He offered to return the car to the mayor, but Burriss told him to stand-down. Shortly thereafter, Burriss was contacted by another officer who had his own Eight Ball. He suggested that the two soldiers be sent out on a patrol to a hotspot by Burriss. He told the men to get a prisoner. Later that night, there was no sound. An adjacent unit said they saw two men checking communications lines. Instead, they were with a Dutch women and had stolen her valuables. Burriss was going to put them in the brig. Scavo was not on morning roll call. Another soldier said Scavo had wanted to go to England to see a girlfriend. The next morning, Scavo was at roll call. When asked where he had been, he finally acknowledged that he had flown to England. He was late returning because his plane was fogged in. He had hitched a ride on a plane after putting on his major’s leaves. Burriss had him for AWOL [Annotator’s Note: AWOL—absent without leave], grand larceny, impersonating an officer, plus other things. He was put in the brig. It was a fenced area. He was to only have a pup tent and water with bread. The next morning, he had funny books and candy. The sergeant was admonished not to allow that to happen. The next day, Burriss and his unit were loaded on trucks bound for Belgium [Annotator’s Note: for the Battle of the Bulge]. Burriss never saw Scavo again. He probably hitched a ride on a plane and returned to the States and ran for Congress. Burriss has been on the lookout for him, but Scavo never showed up for any reunions. The term Eight Ball refers to any soldier that screws up all the time.


T. Moffatt Burriss spent two and a half years overseas. The Waal River crossing [Annotator’s Note: during Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands in September 1944. The crossing was lead by Burriss with his company.] is referred to as one of (if not THE) most daring operations of the war by many writers and generals. The Bridge Too Far film was pretty good, even considering the liberties taken by Hollywood. Everything that Robert Redford did in the movie happened. The actions were accomplished by three different people. There was the battalion commander Major Cook [Annotator’s Note: Julian Cook], Lieutenant Rivers [Annotator’s Note: no given name was found for Lieutenant Rivers], and Burriss. The sniper on the bridge was shot by Rivers. Chewing out the individual was done by Burriss [Annotator’s Note: Lord Carrington was the British tank commander that did not proceed to Arnhem. Burriss threatened him with a Thompson submachine gun.] Redford received millions of dollars for having blanks fired at him. Burriss received much less pay for real bullets flying at him.

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