Skip to main content

Frederick Cullen Burton papers

Identifier: MS-028

Content Description

The Frederick Cullen Burton papers consists primarily of material from his military service in World War II, including correspondence home, his diary, military documents and photographs.

The Correspondence series consists mostly of letters written by Frederick Burton to family and friends while he was in the service. The letters are quite engaging and convey Burton’s thoughts and feelings about the war. In the miscellaneous section there are letters from Guiseppe Stefoni to Burton’s parents. Stefoni had befriended Burton during his time in Italy and after Burton’s death he corresponded with his parents. The section also contains letters of condolence to his parents from various friends and family written at the time of Burton’s death.

The Diary series contains a diary written by Burton while he was at war. Robert R. Calhoon described it best in his transcription of the diary as “not simply a record of training and battle experiences; he discloses in a tightly-written narrative his very deeply-held beliefs and opinions on army life, death, the beauty of the literature and music he so loved, economic justice, women, the officer hierarchy, and other matters of lasting import.”

The Manuscripts series consists of Burton’s writings. It contains poems, stories and essays. Much of the material is untitled and undated. Three items that were titled are a journal entry labeled “on train to Toronto” and two poems “A Punny Tale” and “Troopship.”

The Military Documents series includes Burton’s discharge papers charges, personal documents that were held by the military censors until they were deemed harmless, Pay Records, Clearance Certificates that stated Burton was clear of debt, and Special Orders.

The Photographs seem to have been taken when Burton served in Italy. There are pictures of some of the people he met, examples of the destructions of war, other service men, Rome and the Mountains. Included is a photo of Guiseppe Stefoni that was enclosed in one of his letters. There are also negatives of photographs Burton took when he served with the RCAF in Canada.

The Printed Materials series includes Military booklets collected during Burton’s time in the Army, newspaper clippings of Burtons Obituary, Ernie Pyle’s war column and other miscellaneous clippings from USD and war news.

The Scholastic Documents consist of the grades from Platte High School and a USD report card, a transcript from the registrar’s office, and an English test.

The Typescripts contain a booklet complied by Robert R. Calhoon. He transcribed Burton’s hand written diary and some of the letters that are contained in this collection. Especially interesting is the certificate of death, which tells the details of Burton’s death. This series includes are poems, essays and stories. The Phi Eta Sigma Picnic and the undated essays seem to have been written while he was at the University and read like newspaper stories. Some of the short stories seem to be written during the war, because “The Eight Ball” is written on Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Alabama letterhead. This series also includes Burton's life story written by Lilah Pengra.


  • Creation: 1933 - 1949


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research with one restriction. Burton's life story in the typescript series may be read but not copied. Researchers are advised to contact the Archives and Special Collections prior to visiting. Advance notice may be needed to retrieve items for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers must obtain a signed Permission to Publish Form if they wish to reproduce, broadcast, or otherwise disseminate information from published and unpublished works held by ASC. Permission to reproduce, broadcast, or otherwise disseminate information materials from ASC does not constitute permission from the holder of copyright or literary rights. The researcher is responsible for securing permission from the copyright holder to publish or reproduce content from materials found in the collections.

Biographical / Historical

Frederick Cullen Burton was born March 4, 1919 to Goldie P. and Fred Louis Burton in Academy, South Dakota. Burton attended Platte High School and graduated in 1936. He then went on to major in Journalism at the University of South Dakota from 1939-41 and was a talented bassoonist and writer. Although war was repugnant to him, Burton felt strongly that it was his duty to fight. Not willing to wait until the United States entered World War II, Burton joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in Winnipeg, Manitoba in September of 1941. He served as an aircraftsman on the ground crew. When the United States entered the war, Burton was discharged from the Canadian Air Force and promptly joined the US Infantry. He attended officer’s training in Fort Benning, GA and earned the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. In September of 1943, he was sent overseaes and fought in Italy and France, as a part of 36th Infantry Division. Burton was awarded the Bronze Star for action in Cassino, Italy. Sometime after this he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant. Burton also received the Oak Leaf Cluster and a posthumous Purple Heart. He was killed during a patrol in Gries, France on January 24, 1945. He is buried at the United States Military Cemetery in Epinal, France.


0.5 Linear Feet (1 document box)

Language of Materials



The Frederick Cullen Burton papers consists primarily of material from his military service in World War II, including correspondence home, his diary, military documents and photographs.


This collection is divided in to eight series: Correspondence, Diaries, Manuscripts, Military Documents, Photographs, Printed Materials, Scholastic Documents and Typescripts.

Frederick Cullen Burton papers
Anne Hinseth
2000 July
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the USD Archives and Special Collections Repository