Rank Insignia Previous Honoree ID Next Honoree ID

honoree image
First Name: Willis

Last Name: Burney

Birthplace: Santa Anna, TX, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: U.S. Army Air Forces (1941 - 1947)

Home of Record: Santa Anna, TX
Middle Name: Weldon

Date of Birth: 03 June 1917

Date of Death: 08 February 1942

Rank: Second Lieutenant

Years Served: 1941 - 1942
Willis Weldon Burney

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Willis Weldon Burney
Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Forces

Willis Weldon Burney was born on 3 June 1917 at Santa Anna, TX, the son of Louis Matthews and Maud Ora Page Burney.

He graduated from Santa Anna High School with the Class of 1935. In 1939, he received a BA degree from Texas Tech. He then enlisted as an Aviation Cadet in the U.S. Army Air Corps. After completion of training at Lowry Field, CO, and Salt Lake City, UT, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Corps in September 1941 with the rating of Bombardier.

On 16 January 1942, Second Lieutenant Willis Weldon Burney was serving with the 9th Bombardment Squadron, 7th Bombardment Group (Heavy), Tenth Air Force, Southwest Pacific Area, U.S. Army Air Forces.

On that day, 2LT Burney was serving as the Bombardier on a B-17E Flying Fortress bomber while participating in a bombing mission against Japanese shipping targets Manado, Celebes. The plane lost an engine during the bombing run but succeeded in destroying 1 large transport and damaging another. After leaving the target area the bombers were attacked by 15 enemy fighters. The ensuing aerial engagement lasted for 55 minutes and the cannon and machine gun fire so damaged his plane that a landing was made at Kendari. As repairs were being made, Japanese planes strafed the field almost continuously for 2 days. Three attempts were made to get the plane into the air, but all were unsuccessful. After learning of enemy infiltration in the area, the crew destroyed the plane to prevent its seizure, and they were flown to safety by another aircraft. 2LT Burney's courageous actions and extraordinary heroism during that period earned him the U.S. Army's second highest award for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross.

On 8 February 1942 nine B-17E bombers departed Malang, Java, to bomb a Japanese-occupied airport at Kendari on the Island of Celebes. While en route to the target, the formation of bombers was attacked by Japanese fighters over the Java Sea. 2LT Burney's and another plane were shot down and 2LT Burney was Killed in Action.

Medals, Awards and Badges

Distinguished Service Cross
Purple Heart
Air Medal
Army Good Conduct Medal
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Bombardier Badge

Distinguished Service Cross Citation (Synopsis)

Second Lieutenant (Air Corps) Willis W. Burney (ASN: 0-426112), United States Army Air Forces, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as member of the crew of a B-17 Heavy Bomber in the 9th Bombardment Squadron, 7th Bombardment Group (H), TENTH Air Force, while participating in a bombing mission on 16 January 1942, against enemy Japanese targets in the Southwest Pacific War Area. The personal courage and zealous devotion to duty displayed by Second Lieutenant Burney on this occasion, at the cost of his life, have upheld the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 10th Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces.

General Orders: Headquarters, South West Pacific Area, General Orders No. 34 (September 15, 1942)


Second Lieutenant Willis Weldon Burney's remains were never recovered. He is memorialized with his name inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila, Metro Manila, National Capital Region, Philippines.

Honoree ID: 128108   Created by: MHOH




Honoree Photos

honoree imagehonoree imagehonoree image

honoree imagehonoree image

honoree image