Library News
Rare WWII-era Military Newspapers Gifted
October 3, 2016

This summer, Elizabeth Burlison Grob and her son, Henry, hand-delivered 20 issues of Skyrider, a military newspaper published by the 327th Glider Regiment of the famed 101st Airborne Division after the Second World War. The issues, despite being about 70 years old, are in excellent condition.

“There is no record of this newspaper in either WorldCat or ArchiveGrid. It’s not even listed in the printed catalog to the famous Dougherty collection of military newspapers,” said Celestina Savonius-Wroth, head of the History, Philosophy and Newspaper Library. “The issues are very likely unique.”

And, it turns out, Skyrider has strong ties to Illinois. The officer in charge of the newspaper, David G. Burlison, was Elizabeth’s father and Henry’s grandfather. While as a student in the early 1940s here on the Urbana-Champaign campus, David wrote for the school’s newspaper, the Daily Illini and was a member of the varsity wrestling team. As a Daily Illini reporter, he penned several articles about the University Library and its librarians. He graduated with his bachelor’s degree in the fall of 1943.

After the Second World War ended, the glider regiment was stationed in Berchtesgaden, Germany. The regimental commander wanted to keep his men busy and so, due to David’s newspaper background, he was selected to organize the fledgling newspaper. His first task was to identify men to staff the newspaper and make assignments. The first newspaper was published in July of 1945. The newspapers contained articles about athletic competitions and other topics of interest. David is mentioned in the 4-NOV-45 edition, page 4, in an article titled, “Now It Can Be Told” and in the 18-NOV-45 edition, page 8, in an article titled, “The Skyrider Staff Says Farwell”.

The Illinois connection goes back even further. David’s father was William L. Burlison, a professor of agronomy at Illinois and head of the department for more than 30 years during the first half of the 20th century. His papers, including correspondence, clippings, photos, programs, publications, and scrapbooks, reside in the University Archives (go.library.illinois.edu/williamburlison).

David’s daughter, Elizabeth, holds her bachelor’s degree (LAS ’82) and a master’s degree (MLS ’85) both from Illinois. “We are very proud of our long connection to the University,” said Elizabeth. “The University of Illinois Library is the ideal location to preserve and make available the newspaper issues.”

Henry just graduated from Illinois this year with his bachelor’s degree in political science. He is pursuing his master’s degree at the School of Information Sciences. Henry’s sister, Cordelia, also attends the University of Illinois and is studying political science.

“The Library is pleased to have Skyrider as part of our collection,” said Savonius-Wroth. “It seems fitting for them to have a permanent home here at Illinois along with Professor Burlison’s papers.”

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