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Paul T. Burton was born and spent his early life in Magnolia, Arkansas, which he left during the Great Depression to work at various jobs, including in New York City, to fund his study at Rhodes Preparatory School and New York University. In the late 1930s, Burton became a pioneer aviator and took flying lessons at Floyd Bennett Field, New York City, before running his own flying school in Flushing, Long Island.
Early in the Second World War, Burton worked as a flight instructor at the No. 1 Bombing and Gunnery School, Royal Canadian Air Force, at Jarvis, where he later became a Commander. When the United States entered the war, Burton took an equivalent rank in the United States Army Air Corps, where he became a B-24 instructor and later served as the first Squadron Commander of the 565th Squadron, 389th Bomb Group, Hethel.
Paul Burton's brother, Weldon K. Burton, served as a Group Operations Officer in the 15th Air Force. He was lost in action over the Northern Adriatic. Paul Burton's wife was Mrs Katherine L. Burton (née O'Shea) also known as 'Renee' and his Grandmother, Mrs Susie Smith of Magnolia, Arkansas, had 10 grandsons, including Paul and Weldon Burton, as well as three grandsons-in-law, on military service during the Second World War.
On his 20th mission, 22 April 1944, Lt Col Burton was flying as Command Pilot with Cpt. Willard Stotter (pilot), Lt Myron Gins (bombardier) and their crew on the B-24 'Round Trip Ticket'. Their aircraft was shot down when flak struck an engine near Dortmund, Germany.
The crew included: Lt Col Paul T Burton (commanding officer); Capt. Willard P Stotter (pilot); 1st Lt Gordon J Baber (co-pilot); 1st Lt John E. Powell (navigator); 1st Lt Myron Gins (bombardier); T/Sgt Albert A Arendt (radio operator); T/Sgt Lewis Bagwell (top-turret gunner); S/Sgt Michael S Saniuk (ball-turret gunner); S/Sgt Lee T Parker POW (right-waist gunner); S/Sgt Dudley Burr (left-waist gunner) and S/Sgt Harvey T Belcher (tail-gunner). The crew were taken as Prisoners of War and most were eventually held at Luft Stalag III. Maj. John Berger is listed in the 389th Bomb Group rosters as a flight surgeon . (Sources for crew list: <http://freepages.military.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~hfhm/Roster/g_names.htm> and MC 376/691).
All crew members were made Prisoners of War and most were eventually held at Stalag Luft III. However, Burton escaped with Col Ken R. Martin, a Commander of a P-51 fighter group, during an evacuation march from Nurnberg, to a camp at Moosburg, which began on 3 April 1945. They walked over 120 miles over 12 nights to safety. Col Paul T. Burton was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal, both with oak leaf clusters. He was also awarded the Purple Heart and the Croix de Guerre.
Paul T. Burton later wrote a book, 'Escape from Terror', about his experiences. The draft of his book, 'Escape from Terror', forms part of these records and is entitled 'Terrorflieger'. It is dedicated to his brother Maj. Weldon K. Burton, Group Operations Officer, 15th Air Force, lost in action over the Northern Adriatic and his cousin, Maj. Lawrence E. Jarnegin, Anti-Submarine pilot killed in action over the Bay of Biscay.
Col Paul T. Burton (retired) died on 4 September 2008 at Hot Springs.