December 7, Marking the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entry into World War II and a new NCpedia biography: the first service person from Western North Carolina killed
Today marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on U.S. military installations at Pearl Harbor by the Japanese and the U.S.’s official entry into the war on December 8.
NCpedia recently published a new entry on a young gentleman from Yancey County named Weldon Burlison. At barely age 30, Burlison was the first reported World War II casualty from western North Carolina and one of the first reported service personnel from North Carolina who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 4, 1941. Burlison began his military service in the Marines in 1934 and served there for four years. Following an honorable discharge at the end of his tour in 1938, he immediately re-enlisted, this time in the Army Air Corps (today the U.S. Air Force). At the time of the attack, Burlison was stationed at Hickam Field at Pearl Harbor.
Weldon Burlison’s story, although the details we have are relatively few, came to NCpedia through the State Archives of North Carolina. The Archives’ military archivist, Matthew Peek, received a very small collection of materials about Burlison that included primarily a few newspaper articles and his obituary in the Yancey Record along with a few letters and postcards shared between Burlison and a friend, Elsie Edwards. One of the letters was written by Elsie Edwards just a day after the attack on Pearl Harbor and sends her heartbreaking hope that her friend is O.K. Burlison would of course never receive her letter, and it would take several weeks for the envelope and its contents to make it through the military mail, only to be returned to her marked “deceased.” Here is an excerpt from the NCpedia entry, including her heart-rending words:
On the morning of December 8, 1941, after hearing the news about Pearl Harbor and knowing where Burlison was stationed, Elsie Edward wrote a two-page, heart-breaking letter to him, hoping he is safe and alive. Elsie began her letter by saying “Of course I have a million things on my mind these days. Right now the uppermost thought is ‘I wonder if Snook is safe, if he’s really all right’.” After noting that Americans had abandoned plans for Christmas in order to pray for those military personnel at Pearl Harbor, Edwards wrote, “And let me tell you Weldon, I am one of your many friends who is praying for you!” She would finish writing the letter by 5 focusing on information related to previous correspondence, but finished her letter saying, “I don’t know of very much to say right now. I can’t even be sure you will receive this but I hope you do.”