Barber County Kansas

The Barber County Index, March 25, 1943.

Capt. Howard Burns Simpson Killed in North Africa

Letter Received Tuesday Confirms News of Death

Announcement of the death of the first Medicine Lodge soldier to be killed over-seas was made last Wednesday when the war department wired Mrs. Elizabeth Simpson, county clerk, that her son, Capt. Howard Burns Simpson, 25, had been killed in action.

The telegram containing news of the tragedy read as follows:

"With deep regret we wish to inform you your son Howard Burns was killed in action on January 29."

Confirmation of the wire was received in a letter from the war department by Mrs. Simpson on Tuesday. However, due to censorship no definite information could be given as to how and where Captain Simpson met his death.

Captain Simpson was a member of the United States air corps and had been serving as a pilot in Africa for several months. He joined the army after his graduation from Wichita University and rose rapidly in the service, attaining the rank of captain several months ago.

Captain Simpson is known to practically every resident in Medicine Lodge and many others in different sections of the county. He was born and raised here, graduating from the Medicine Lodge high school with the class of 1935. In high school he was an outstanding athlete and added to this reputation when he continued his education at Wichita University where he was all conference tackle on the football team. He graduated form Wichita University with the class of 1940 and since that time has been a member of the U. S. Army.

Donald Simpson, other son of Mrs. Simpson arrived here Friday from Cheyenne Wells, Colo., to be with his mother. Other relatives who were here included Mrs. Melvin Cohoe, Hazelton; Miss Phyllis Burgess, Wichita; Mrs. Karl Skhlar, Kiowa; and Mr. and Mrs. K. L. Burgess and Billie, Kiowa.

Killed In Action

The tragedies and heartbreaks of this war were brought home to Medicine Lodge last week probably more forcefully by the message that Capt. Burns Simpson had been killed in action in Africa than by anything that can and will happen to this community as a whole.

We are not attempting to say that Burns was more dear to his loved ones than any other son is to the parents in this community. Far from that. God knows that he is only one of the many brave heroes who will give up his life for the cause of freedom and to their relatives will go the deepest sympathy of the entire city. But because Burns was so well known, because the whole town had followed with intense interest his career in aviation, because he was one of the most popular boys ever to hail from Medicine Lodge and because he was the first boy from here to be killed in action, the news of his death numbed and choked this town to a degree that we have never witnessed anywhere.

We know there is nothing we can say to assuage the aching pain in the hearts of his mother and other dear ones. We only set down these words as a tribute from one who deemed himself fortunate to know him slightly and as one who has heard so many splendid things to the credit of this fine upstanding young man that fragments of them surely should be repeated here.

Burns Simpson had a lot to live for.

He had the love of a wonderful mother, the love of a talented and beautiful young lady to whom he was engaged to be married, the happy comradeship of many young friends and the highest respect and admiration of all who knew him, both young and old.

Yet he gave up all these and more for his country. He gave all a man can give of courage, guts, gallantry, the will to fight ....and keep on fighting....everything. His life.

There is not a single person who ever knew Burns who does not know that he died fighting and that he must have taken plenty of the members of the enemy's armed forces down with him. Everyone knows that Burns acquitted himself with the highest sort of distinction in this war, bringing honor to his flag and country. Knowing Burns it could not have been otherwise. What a fierce pride his dear ones must have in this young man. What esteem he must be held in by the entire community.

Here at home we have had the gauntlet thrown down to all who remain. We must meet this challenge. We are as patriotic - as capable of sacrifice as anybody. Now nothing must stop us from proving it. Many are not being asked to give their lives as this young man did nor even endanger them. All that is being asked of the majority is to do their part on the home front. Buy bonds so that all the Burns Simpsons, the other soldiers, the sailors and the marines will have the planes, machine guns, bombs, bullets, torpedoes, tanks and ships and every other weapon they need to give the enemy the bellyful of steel they have coming to them. Raise food and more food no matter what the cost in time and labor so that the members of our armed forces will not be fighting on empty stomachs. Stop trivial wrangling over working conditions, profits and careers. Burns Simpson and the other Medicine Lodge boys who will surely follow him to their graves will give up their lives for your home, your children, your future and your freedom.

By our actions at home we must demonstrate that their deaths will not be a futile sacrifice.

Barber County Index, March 2, 1944.


In an impressive formal retreat ceremony at the Pratt Amy Air Field Saturday, Capt. Simpson was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. The presentation was made to the soldier's mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Simpson, by the commanding officer.

The award was given for Captain Simpson's heroic action in reforming and leading a formation of American planes in a raid against Sousse, North Africa, after the lead ship had been shot down and although Captain Simpson's bomber already was severely damaged.

In addition to the Distinguished Flying Cross, Captain Simpson had also been awarded the Purple Heart and Air Medal.


Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above news article to this web site!

Last Updated:  

Return to Barber County Home page