Published In People in AFS

Burr, Carleton

* 1891/08/20† 1918/07/19

WWI driver
Noble & Greenough; Milton Acad; Harvard '13

Courtesy of the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs.

Indicator Details

Born August 20, 1891, in Milton, Massachusetts. Son of I. Tucker and Alice M. Peters Burr. Educated Noble and Greenough School, Boston, Milton Academy, and Harvard University, Class of 1913. Plattsburg Camp. Grenfell Mission. With Kidder, Peabody and Company and Paul Revere Trust Company. Joined American Field Service, February 12, 1916, attached Section Two, as Chef with Section Nine, August, 1916, to January 21, 1917. Returned to America. Enlisted U. S. Marine Corps, June. Commissioned Lieutenant, training at Quantico, Virginia, attached 6th Regiment Marines. Battallion Intelligence Officer. Gassed, Belleau Wood, June, 1918. Killed in action near Vierzy, July 19, 1918. Burial place unknown.

"Il ne faut pas être difficile, c'est la guerre," wrote Carleton Burr while an ambulance driver with the American Field Service; "This philosophy has actually already become a part of my existence, and I assure you that the constant rumble of artillery is more musical to my ear than the sordid drone of the ticker."

While in college he spent a summer with the Grenfell Mission in Newfoundland and Labrador, and after graduating from Harvard in 1913, made a hunting trip in the mountains of Wyoming. Returning to Boston in October, he was associated with several banking houses until 1916. In February, Carleton Burr turned his back on the "droning tickers" and joined the allied armies in France. He enlisted in the American Field Service going to Section Two, near Verdun, where he found the section in the midst of the terrific battle.

Carleton fitted at once into his place. He wished always for the most active work, "and the longer the hours the more he threw himself into the work, but in work or play he always added to his list of friends." "I have come not only to like him personally, which anyone would at first glance, but also to have real esteem for his abilities, and his qualities of mind and character," wrote the chief of the Service at this time, saying that he was "fitted by his tact and his unusual combination of gentleness, energy, and force to meet the very difficult task of handling a group of volunteers."

This, with his loyal service and fine spirit, led to Burr's selection in June as Chef of newly formed Section Nine. August saw them established in the Vosges where "Chubby" wrote of the seeming inactivity: "Patience in times such as this is the hardest virtue to acquire. Luckily nothing but solitary confinement can prevent the forming of friendships. . . ." "At every turn one finds a new situation, a new experience, staring one in the face, which no matter how impossible it may seem at first, can be overcome with a sense of humor." This was the philosophy with which Carleton met the life of the war --- and death.

Returning to America in February, 1917, Burr, after ,some months in business, enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was one of two hundred and fifty men accepted as officers out of four thousand applicants and was sent to Quantico, Virginia, for training. Only six weeks later "Chubby" was assigned a command and sent to France. General Catlin says: "Because of his initiative and daring he was made intelligence officer of the 1st Brigade and achieved some remarkable successes at patrol work." Burr had charge of the snipers which he called a "not particularly healthy duty," but the ability to laugh at ,dangers and discomforts never deserted him. Of his first "hitch" in the trenches he wrote: "Can you imagine living for twenty days in the upper berth of a Pullman, which is dripping water from the roof and is literally infested with rats? Everything, however, you take as a joke." Unconsciously, in speaking of his men, he shows how he had won their admiration and devotion, when he says "The enemy will never get me, for I have the most wonderful crew of youngsters to follow me. They would never leave me, dead or wounded, to the mercy of the Huns."

During the fighting at Belleau Wood in June "Chubby" was gassed and invalided to Angers. Upon leaving the hospital he marched in the parade in Paris on Bastille Day and rejoined his command July 18th, when the new offensive really began.

Next morning, leading his men in a successful wave of the big attack, Carleton Burr was struck in the side by a piece of shrapnel, and fell. "In the land he loved next to his own he will always lie, content that he could give his all to the greatest cause of the age."

  • Tribute from Memorial Volume of the American Field Service, 1921

WWI File

Cdt. Adjt. / Section Commander
Months of service
11, 1916-17
S.S.U. 2, S.S.U. 9
Home at time of enlistment
Boston, Mass., USA
Subsequent Service
2nd Lt. U.S. Marine C.

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