Isadore Burdine’s World War II Memories
The following article comes from interviews with residents at the Concord Deaconess and has been put into a book titled, “Memories of World War II.”
While at the University of Michigan I was in the Reserve Officer Training Corps. I graduated with a degree in chemistry. At that time, the United States government asked chemistry majors to go to Tufts University where, for two to three days per week, we studied the safe handling of bomb materials. We studied theories, learning about the materials’ volatility, detonation, explosiveness, and then how to make bombs
With my Jewish heritage, as a child I had learned to speak Yiddish in my family. In college, I had also studied German. This was a valuable skill in the Armed Forces. When I entered the Army, I began basic training as a Buck Private in the 28th Division at Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania My training continued in Southern states, including Georgia where I earned the ranks of Second and First Lieutenant under our excellent Colonel Eaton. I also trained for the artillery brigade in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
As time passed, I earned the rank of Major. The Adjunct General ordered me to go to Washington, D.C. to join the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Our headquarters were located in the Watergate Building, which had been a brewery prior to becoming our offices. Although I was not in Europe, the work we did was very important to the success of the war effort. (The OSS was sometimes referred to by its nickname “Operatives, Spies and Saboteurs.”)
President Roosevelt had appointed World War I Veteran, Colonel William J. Donovan, as the Coordinator of Information (COI), a new post created in July 1941 in an effort to improve our military intelligence. In June 1942 the OSS was officially formed under the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with Colonel Donovan at the helm. It was a distinguished honor to be called to serve with others in this key agency.
One function of the OSS was to train soldiers to handle, assemble and shoot guns in various war conditions such as darkness. We prepared them to go overseas for combat in covert operations. It is interesting to note that we trained women in the use of close combat techniques in preparation for overseas assignments as well. Most of our trainees were being sent into resistance movements in countries that had been overrun by the Axis powers, countries like France and Greece.
With another officer, I served as an officer at a training camp in Ceylon where we slept in barshas. We trained students from Thailand to go behind the Japanese lines. We trained them to do so via submarines, aircraft and parachute insertions. I served with the famous “Wild Bill” Donovan who came to our Ceylon Training Camp. I also traveled with him to various training camps. Later, I also served as an Officer in a Training Camp in Rangoon, India.
The Thai government appreciated our work. They decorated me with their government emblem which was a silver airplane. The United States also awarded me the Bronze Star. I feel proud of our efforts.
The OSS played a significant role in the allied victory. In many articles, authors agree that the present day Central Intelligence Agency or CIA owes its existence to what the OSS was able to accomplish throughout World War II.
1 month after I returned home, I married and later began a business with my wife, Ada, in Brookline. My son, Malcolm, and his family live in Acton. In recent years, I have lived at Rivercrest.
For more information contact Dick Krug, director of Veteran Services for the town of Concord, located at 105 Everett Street. He can be reached at 978-318-3038 or by email.