World War II hero to parachute again in Holland

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- You have seen Columbia's T. Moffatt Burriss before. But he looked like Robert Redford.

On Sept. 17, 1944, Burriss, a battle-hardened 24-year-old in the 82nd Airborne Division, jumped into Holland in the largest airborne invasion in the history of warfare — World War II’s Operation Market-Garden.

So prominent was Burriss’ role in the operation — which liberated parts of Holland but ultimately failed to reach Germany — that Redford played him in the movie “A Bridge Too Far.”

Burriss will return to Holland this week. On Friday, four days shy of his 90th birthday, he will jump once again to commemorate the operation’s 65th anniversary.

Burriss, who also jumped at 75 for the 50th anniversary commemoration, chuckled when asked if he was nervous.

“No. Not at all. If I was nervous, I wouldn’t do it,” he said. “It’ll be fun. A renewed experience for me.”

Burriss will be jumping with a group of Dutch World War II re-enactors called Pathfinder Holland. The one disappointment, Burriss said, is the group would only let him jump tandem — strapped to a female jumper.

“I would rather go solo,” he growled.

Friday’s jump is part of a three-day commemoration in Nijmegen, Holland. Burriss and a 28-person entourage will attend, including three sons and a daughter and three of their spouses, seven grandchildren, eight friends, an ETV film crew and a newspaper reporter.

During the festivities, he and other veterans of the operation will be honored by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.

“It’s great,” Burriss said. “I don’t recall getting the royal treatment before.”

Burriss is scheduled to speak after the award presentation.

“For the queen to come here (to Nijmegen) to celebrate this is pretty remarkable,” said Anton van Ensbergen, one of the Pathfinders and an organizer of the event. “But Moffatt can only talk for 2½ minutes. I worry about that.

“I’ve heard him talk before.”

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