Janesville veteran to be honored by Saipan government

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Friday, June 13, 2014

JANESVILLE—Local retired schoolteacher and Navy veteran Robert Burke will be honored by the Saipan government Sunday for his role in the nation's liberation.

The island of Saipan is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its freedom from Japanese control won by the American Marines and Army during a three-week battle in World War II.

The government has invited any military personnel who helped free the island to participate in its freedom celebration. Burke is one of three surviving veterans attending as an honored guest.

Burke worked on the Navy supply base on Saipan as an electrician petty officer third class from 1945 to 1946. He helped maintain the 20 generators on the base.

Burke didn't fight the Japanese when U.S. soldiers stormed the island, but he witnessed the battle first-hand.

“I saw the Marines using flamethrowers and heard rifle fire at time 24 hours a day,” Burke wrote to The Gazette. “I saw enemy casualties along the roadside.”

Burke has been invited to join the governor of Saipan in the reviewing stand for the celebration parade and will give a speech at the commemoration dinner.

Master Sgt. James Burke, Robert's eldest son, also will attend. For the past 16 years, James has served as senior Army instructor of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps Program at Kagmen High School on Saipan.

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