George Edward Burlage
U.S. Marine Corps
World War II POW, civic leader Burlage dies at 90
By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer DentonRC.com
George Edward Burlage, an American hero who survived the hell of a Japanese prison camp as a Marine in World War II and returned to Denton to lead a quiet life as a loving grandfather and community leader, died Sunday 30th November 2008 at Presbyterian Hospital of Denton after a brief illness.
He was 90 years old.
Burlage was a man who cared about his country, community and everyone in it, said his daughter, Georgianne Burlage.
Her father worked for the Federal Aviation Administration, she said, and served in every veterans group there was in Denton. He also was influential in getting the All-War Memorial built on the grounds of the Courthouse on the Square, she said.
“Anything he could do to help, he did,” Burlage said.
The elder Burlage was a child of the Great Depression, born April 7, 1918, in Visalia, Calif. After his graduation from Visalia High School in 1936, he worked for the National Youth Administration as a school bus driver to earn money to attend Visalia Junior College. After graduation from the college, Burlage enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1939 and was stationed at Cavite in the Philippines. Burlage was at Cavite when World War II started for the Americans in the Pacific. He was captured by Japanese forces after the Battle of Corregidor on May 6, 1942, and held as a prisoner of war by the Japanese for 40 months, working as a slave laborer in the Philippines and in the Mitsubishi coal mines in Japan. Burlage also was a survivor of the infamous “hell ships” that carried American prisoners of war from the Philippines to Japan after the American liberation of the Philippines in 1944. When Burlage was liberated from Japanese captivity in September 1945, he weighed 118 pounds.
Burlage did not speak about his time in captivity, his daughter said.
“He always said that was behind him. His whole life was ahead of him. That’s when he got married, went to college, got his family and started to give back,” she said.
George Burlage and his family moved to Denton in 1959, where he finished his undergraduate education in journalism at what is now the University of North Texas. He was the regional editor of the Denton Record-Chronicle from 1960-63. He became the public affairs officer for the Southwestern Region of the Federal Aviation Administration in 1963, retiring in 1983. He earned his Master of Arts degree in public administration from UNT in 1969. His thesis, which was on the planning and design of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, was used for many years as a model for the concept of local federalism.
A strong advocate of education, Burlage started an endowment at UNT, his daughter said.
“To him, going to college, that’s what had made him successful,” she said.
While Burlage’s daughter saw him as a veteran, teacher, community helper and father, her fondest memory of him comes from him as a grandfather.
“I divorced when my kids were young. He just took them in and helped me rear them,” she said. “He was so generous and just a wonderful grandfather.”