WWI soldier from Livermore Falls featured in museum exhibit

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LIVERMORE FALLS — Lt. Col. Franklyn J. Burbank had already left a legacy with his military service and serving as the first commander of George Bunten Post 10 of the American Legion.

Now, with an exhibit at the Maine State Museum commemorating the 100th anniversary of World War I, Burbank’s story lives on for other generations.

Mike Luciano of Jay said he only has faint recollections of his grandfather, because Burbank passed away when Luciano was 4 years old in 1956. However, the stories of his war service made an impression on Luciano, an interest that grew when he recently discovered a chest of his grandfather’s mementos. He has found many photos and artifacts “and I’m still finding more.”

The Burbank family genealogy can be traced back to the Revolutionary War. Mike is the 12th generation. His son, Bryan, is the 13th.

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Bryan’s keen interest in history led to a history degree. His thesis was titled “Nemo’s Nightmare,” in which he recounted Burbank’s service to his country and his nightmarish World War I experience.

Nicknamed “Nemo” because of his diminutive size, Burbank was a giant in his accomplishments on the battlefield. He was awarded the U.S. Army’s second highest honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, for his role in leading the 103rd Infantry, 26th Division, Company C, or “Yankee” Division, in a decisive battle outside of Chateau-Thierry, France.

Luciano had been in contact with the Maine State Museum about having an exhibit  on the 100th anniversary of World War I.

“When I knew 1918 was coming up, I said, ‘Look, if you ever do a WWI exhibit, I’ve got some stuff. They said, ‘We’d like to see that chest.'”

Many photos were discovered from Burbank’s life. In one photo, he is shown with the American Legion band in front of the Riley Mansion in Livermore Falls. He was commander at Fort Devens in Massachusetts, as depicted in another photo.

Some of the pictures bring to light especially poignant sacrifices made by those who serve their country in the armed forces. In one photo, Burbank is shown with his first wife, Hazel, and their infant daughter Irvine. While he was overseas, although not engaged in combat, Hazel contracted pneumonia and passed away.

After being away for two years, he missed the reunion he prayed for by two months. Thus, Nemo’s nightmare continued even after the war’s end.

Luciano noted that in the chest was a rose wrapped in a tissue that his grandfather had intended for Hazel when he returned home.

After he returned home in 1919, Burbank married Florence Smith. He had two more daughters, Constance and Jean (Mike’s mother).

When the American Legion started in Livermore Falls, Burbank was its first commander.

“My mother always said that he disagreed with the requirement to be a veteran in the VFW,” Luciano said. “He felt that everyone who served even one day in the military should be able to be a member.”

Luciano is a member of the American Legion Post his grandfather commanded.

Within the American Legion, there was a more exclusive club, The Forty and Eight Club. The group met in a rail car designed to carry 40 men or eight horses, hence the name. Its purpose was two-fold: To raise money for charitable organizations and imbibe in alcohol. This was the period of Prohibition, making the club particularly sought after by veterans seeking suitable libation.

Luciano said Lt. Frank Bratton is writing a book about the 103rd Infantry. He mentioned to Bratton that he discovered a diary his grandfather had kept while in the trenches.

“Lt. Bratton said, ‘This is gold. It confirms what I’m trying to research,'” Luciano said.

To learn more about the exhibit commemorating Mainers and World War I at the Maine State Museum, contact the museum at 287-2301 or schedule a visit.

bmatulaitis@sunmediagroup.net

Lt. Col. Franklyn J. Burbank of Livermore Falls, a World War I veteran and the first commander of the George Bunten Post 10 of the American Legion. (Submitted photo)

Lt. Col. Franklyn J. Burbank, left, stands with the 103rd Infantry in front of what is now the Chuck Wagon Restaurant in Livermore Falls. (Submitted photo)

Lt. Col. Franklyn J. Burbank, front center, poses with other George Bunten Post 10 American Legion members in front of the Riley Mansion in Livermore Falls. (Submitted photo)

Lt. Col. Franklyn J. Burbank, in uniform, holds the hand of his daughter Jean. (Submitted photo)

A commendation for Captain Franklyn J. Burbank for playing a key role in the Battle of Verdun in WWI. (Submitted photo)

The Distinguished Service Cross was awarded to Lt. Col. Franklyn J. Burbank for his role in leading the 103rd Infantry, 26th Division, Company C in a decisive battle outside of Chateau-Thierry, France. (Submitted photo)

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