Burris’ first shot at action came in 1943, when his unit were in Morocco to prepare for the invasion of Sicily. Tragically, while Burris was in North Africa, his wife Louisa had a baby who died within minutes. Of the impending combat, Burris said, “I was determined to do what I could to defeat Hitler and return to my grieving wife.”
But the jump into Sicily in July 1943 did not go to plan. Burriss’ plane was met by intense anti-aircraft flak and consequently missed the intended drop spot. As a result, Burriss ended up some 55 miles away from his target area with just two comrades. In the event, the three of them found and teamed up with a British unit.
In October, Burriss and his comrades were able to march into Naples without opposition. They took a welcome seven-day break from operations, but the fighting didn’t end there. Burriss’ unit was then sent to fight the enemy in the mountains, a grueling task in the winter months. Next up came an amphibious landing at Anzio.