Oral History

Burnett Marshall Interview

Interviewee: Burnett Marshall
Interviewee: Joan Marshall Eads
Interviewee: Al Pearce
Interviewer: Zachary Newland
Indian Valley, Floyd County, Virginia

Various oral history recording media and period resources

  • 18-page transcript
  • 65-min. audio
  • interview digital video
  • catalog record
  • candid photos
  • WWII memorabilia scans
  • student short films, “Before the War,” “During WWII,” “Behind the Scenes”
  • published WWII DVD set, “From the Front Porch to the Front Lines”

Burnett Benton Marshall (1914-2012) describes WWII service as well as life on the family farm in Indian Valley. While away at work at Carter Coal Company in West Virginia, he was drafted into U.S. Army Infantry, August, 1943, assigned to a Combat Engineer’s Battalion and trained in building bridges and clearing minefields. After a year of specialized training with the new battalion, he shipped out to England. Marshall explains how to spot and disable landmines and the devastation he witnessed, noting, “I had a lot of close calls, and I was lucky.” During the Battle of the Bulge, he describes challenges in building a bridge over the Meuse River. He tells of the “Dragon’s Teeth” of the Seigfried Line and a German bunker that housed 10,000 troops hidden in central Vienna. Marshall also relates a conversation he had with General Dwight D. Eisenhower while on a hospital ship heading back to France. With the German surrender, Marshall’s unit shifted to occupational duties in Austria during his final winter in service.

Gold Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, mules, tractor, hay, pup tents, maneuvers, minefields, bridges, hospital, box car, probe, snow, fog, tents, barracks, interstate, ship, platoon, infantry, railroad, homeplace, Five Star General, sing, one-room school, Seigfried Line, dragon teeth, bunker, shock, M-1 rifle, ice, machine guns, river, carbine, swift water, tank, moonshine liquor, C-rations, K-rations, Christmas, creeks, corn, wheat, oats, soybeans, thrashing machine, cradle, plowed, rocks, cross ties, timbers, bombs, church, covered bridge, teacher, rock crusher
Bio Sketch

Burnett Benton Marshall, born June 21, 1914, was the youngest of nine children to Leander Elmon Marshall and Lucy Alverta Phillips, Indian Valley, Virginia.  He attended the new Greasy Creek one-room school, later leaving the family farm to work in West Virginia at Carter Coal Company.  Drafted into the U.S. Army in August, 1943, Marshall spent eighteen months of specialized training with the new battalion of Combat Engineers, and in wartime, saw service at the Battle of the Bulge where his unit disabled German Tellermine landmines and built bridges for river crossings.  After marriage, Burnett settled in Indian Valley and raised two daughters, and later, with a second marriage, he gained two stepsons.


The WWII-era interview series was directed by the Floyd Story Center at the Old Church Gallery, where the complete archives are held. The project was guided by a collaborative community-university-public school partnership with Radford University Sociology and Anthropology professor Dr. Melinda Bollar Wagner. Burnett Marshall’s WWII-era interview was conducted by members of the Roots with Wings project at Floyd County High School. Mr. Marshall’s daughter and step-son also generously took part in this interview at Hotel Floyd.  The nine-year WWII series, 2007-2015, was compiled into a DVD set and biographical booklet with thirty-eight student films. Generations will be enriched by the recordings of all who shared their memories. Thank you all.