His story is featured in the National World War II Museum’s Campaigns of Courage pavilion in New Orleans.
As a company commander in the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Burriss participated in one of the war’s truly heroic actions. Operation Market-Garden was designed to seize a bridge over the lower Rhine at Arnhem in Holland. Burriss and his company quickly captured their initial objective. Next, they were ordered to cross the wide Waal River in a near-suicidal attempt to capture the critical Nijmegen Bridge by attacking from both ends at once. In collapsible, canvas-sided boats, Burriss and his men set out in broad daylight and under German guns. Losing half of his men, Burriss finally reached the north shore where he rallied the survivors. In the face of long odds and withering fire, the paratroopers scaled the dike and captured the north end of the bridge. At dusk, British tanks began to rumble across, in a frantic dash to reach British paratroopers desperately fighting in Arnhem against overwhelming German armor.
After crossing the bridge, the lead tank was disabled by a German 88 mm gun, bringing the column to a halt. Out came the teapots.
The captain commanding the tanks would not proceed without orders from his superiors. Using colorful language, Burriss objected, cocking his tommy gun and putting it to his ally’s head. “I’ve just sacrificed half of my company in the face of dozens of guns, and you won’t move because of one gun.” The tank commander dropped down into his tank and locked the hatch. The tanks were still there 24 hours later, and the surviving British paratroopers at Arnhem were forced to surrender.
Burriss was awarded the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars, Purple Heart, three presidential unit citations, French Fourragere, Belgium Fourragere and Dutch Lanyard.
From 1950 to 1990, he served as president of Burriss Construction Company. Burriss resides in Lexington.