You can tell a lot about a person by looking over the contents of his bookcase.  In Don Burgett’s case, you’d find a copy of Stand Where They Fought, Carlton Joyce’s story of the 1944 Normandy landing, wedged alongside the Holy Bible.

Dig a bit deeper in the well-stocked library in Burgett’s hand-built Howell bungalow and you’ll uncover four highly acclaimed volumes describing World War II from the eyes of the beholder; Currahee, The Road to Arnhem, Seven Roads to Hell and Beyond the Rhine.

The author of these books, which have been rated the equal of the best World War II chronicles ever written? Donald R. Burgett.

Burgett, who enlisted on his eighteenth birthday, has been acclaimed worldwide for his straightforward, from-the-guts style of storytelling.  Never mind that he didn’t finish high school until the age of 57, or that he comes from a proud blue-collar background; writing is an innate talent that he discovered, almost by accident, in 1967 when he wrote his first book at the urging of friends and relatives who wanted to see him preserve his remarkable memories as a paratrooper of the renowned 101 Airborne ‘Flying Eagles’.

“I didn’t know how well my writing would be received,” he says with a wry shrug.  “I didn’t think I knew what I was doing.  I just write the way I’d speak to you.”

At 84, Burgett remains active, vital and a storehouse of knowledge.  Having parachuted behind enemy lines in Normandy the day before the landings along with the original ‘Band of Brothers’, he went on to fight in three other major campaigns in Europe including Bastogne, part of the larger Battle of the Bulge.  During the course of this conflict, Burgett took a bullet to the hip, and due to the overworked medics, wound up operating on himself to remove it.  This is the breed of pluck that saw him through that battle, two others in which he was wounded, and ultimately, to  Berchtesgaden, Germany, where he was among the first Americans to occupy Hitler’s ‘Eagles Nest’ home.

“We were kids, barely twenty years old, so while the French were grabbing valuable souvenirs from the place, we raided the wine cellar.  They ended up with beautiful lamps and paintings; we wound up with headaches and empty schnapps bottles.”

Considering all he’d been through, the story is twice as remarkable when you consider that at the time, he wasn’t legally old enough to buy a beer back in the States.

Burgett speaks with unapologetic candor of his time overseas in World War II, sharing details of many times he was confronted, up close, with enemy combatants.  “It was a tough situation to be in, but I was well-trained.  Any ‘him or me’ moments I had, I was always made sure it was me that survived.”

Burgett did survive, and posterity can be grateful that he found his voice to preserve his memories.  Further stories from this remarkable hero can be viewed at



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