Fingerlakes Times, Geneva, NY. Sunday December 9th. 2001.
Born in New London, Conn., Burling moved to New York City's East Side with his mother when his parents separated. In sixth grade, he was accepted into a church run co-operative school in Maine, where he stayed until his mother pulled him out at the end of his sophomore year because she needed him to help support the family at home.
Although he never finished high school, Burling won an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., after WW1 when academy officials offered 100 appointments for enlisted men who could pass a special entrance exam. The going was tough the first year because of his lack of formal education, but Burling worked hard and graduated in June 1925 in the top 12% of his class.
President Calvin Coolidge addressed the graduating class and handed Burling his diploma. In 1926 he entered the Naval Reserves. He was called to active duty and accepted his commission in October 1940, a year before the attack on Pearl Harbour. He was assigned to the USS West Point, whose mission was to ferry British and Canadian troops to various parts of the world. The ship was two days out of Cape Town, South Africa, when news of the attack on Pearl Harbour came.
Burling remembers unloading 20,000 troops in Singapore and docking near a power station, which he thought was a dangerous spot. His ship never got hit, but the ship next to theirs "had her entire bow blown off." In "The Soldier, the Sailor and the Singer," Burling tells how he later found out that "the Japanese Commander had a gentlemen's agreement that the Japanese would not bomb the power station. They agreed for it to go to the winner intact."
|Burling also used his time aboard ship during the war to "survey for a future wife." Two companies of Army nurses were onboard, and Burling-a real ladies` man-dated women from both companies. He kept a notebook with their names, addresses and, where possible, phone numbers. After the war, he married Jennie Calhoon, an Army Captain and nurse from Penn Yan, and they moved to Massachusetts.
Burling encouraged Jennie to further her education, and she earned a bachelor`s degree in education in 1964. Burling also returned to school and earned a master`s degree in 1960, about the same time he retired after 33 years with New England Telephone. He then began a second career teaching at a variety of levels and also was a school psychologist and guidance counselor. He taught for five years in Massachusetts before he, as he says, "retired for good."
It is very sad to write that this fine gentleman has passed away -April 2003. His contribution to the memories of the West Point story has been most valued.
Condolences are sent to the many people who knew him, especially Dodie West who greatly assisted Cmdr. Burling to present his story.
Welcome all visitors to the S.S. Australis Website, which has now been online since 1998!
I will continue to update the site if I receive a new story, or if you have interesting photos taken on the ship during your voyage on either the southbound, northbound, or on one of the South Pacific cruises. We used to do those trips several times a year from Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland (New Zealand).
I am deeply moved by the interest and wonderful contributions from the numerous passengers and crew over many years.
A HUGE THANK YOU
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