James Henry Burns – Major General, United States Army

James Henry Burns (1885-1972)

Born on September 13, 1885 in Pawling, New York.

Commissioned in the Field Artillery from West Point in 1908. Served at Vera Cruz in 1914. Duty in the Office of the Chief Ordnance Officer, American Epedionary Force in 1918.

Graduated from the Army Industrial College in 1926 and the Army War College in 1927. Ordnance Officer in the Philippine Department August 1932-August 1935. In the Office of the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army 1935-1936. Executive Officer to the Assistant Secretary of War, then the Undersecretary of War 1936-1942.

Major General in October 1940. Chief of the Army Ordnance Corps March 1942-September 1944.

Retired in December 1944. Decorations included two Distinguished Service Medals.

Died on November 27, 1972.

23 April 1942:

To one of the War Department's hottest spots, Chief of Ordnance, President Roosevelt last week appointed rock-jawed, twinkling Major General James Henry Burns.

As Harry Hopkins' munitions man on the United Nations High Command, General Burns had done a crackerjack job. He was a work horse in starting the infinitely complex Lend-Lease, has had a hand in distributing all military equipment to the Allies ever since. If anybody knows what and how much materiel each of the United Nations needs, General Burns is the man. He also knows the right people—which is very important in Washington.

Balding, white-crested General Burns now 56, started as a Field Artillery officer, has been in Ordnance most of the time since 1910. In World War I he was an explosives expert, made such a name as an administrator that he has been in executive jobs ever since. A genial Irishman who shoots golf in the yes. he can get along with almost anybody—also very important in Washington.

In wartime even more than peacetime, Ordnance is a tough and thankless assignment. Though armaments production is moving faster than ever before, such mammoth problems as priorities remain unsolved and unsolvable. Which come first—airplanes or tanks, anti-aircraft guns or artillery?

General Burns takes over Ordnance in June, when the four-year term of Major General Charles Macon Wesson expires. Under Brass Hat “Bull” Wesson, Army Ordnance had a mottled record. The start of World War II caught it without an outstanding tank design or artillery piece, and with its new soldier's helmet—to replace the neck-exposing World War I helmet—not yet in production. A year ago, most of official Washington still thought that Ordnance was bumbling and boggling, overdue for a shakeup. Since then it has done better, has brought in guns and tanks at a smart clip in recent months. Whatever remains of Ordnance's complacency—much of it the result of 20 years of peacetime's lack of appropriations and neglect—General Burns is expected to clear away.


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