Burton Christenson

Burton Paul Christenson
Nickname(s) -"Pat"
Born (1922-08-24)August 24, 1922
Oakland, California, United States
Died December 30, 1998(1998-12-30) (aged 76)
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1942-1945
Rank Technical Sergeant
Unit Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment,
101st Airborne Division

World War II

Spouse(s) Mary Jo Bonham
Relations - Gary Van Linge (nephew)
- Chris Christenson (son)
- Tim Christenson (son)

Technical Sergeant Burton Paul Christenson (August 24, 1922 – December 30, 1998[1]) was a non-commissioned officer with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army during World War II. Christenson was portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers by Michael Fassbender. Christenson's life story was featured in the 2010 book A Company of Heroes: Personal Memories about the Real Band of Brothers and the Legacy They Left Us.


Christenson graduated from Castlemont, a high school in Oakland and worked for the Pacific Telephone company before he enlisted at the age of twenty.[2]

Military service

Christenson was one of the 140 original Toccoa men of Easy Company. He was trained in Toccoa, Georgia under Captain Herbert Sobel. Christensen was physically tough. He was one of the top five scorers in physical competition in Toccoa.[3] While Christenson was very athletic, he was also very artistic. He never studied art formally, but he loved to draw. He even carried with him a sketch pad to war.[4] He also could play piano and sing. He and fellow Easy Company members Carl Sawosko and Coburn Johnson used to sing with a guitar during service.[5]

Christenson was a machine gunner and made his first combat jump in June 6, 1944 into Normandy as part of the Operation Overlord. He was on the same plane as Richard D. Winters and jumped right after him.[6] He lost much of his equipment during the jump. He crashed down an apple trunk and landed on an apple orchard.[7] Christenson quickly found his assistant gunner, Private Woodrow Robbins, and almost shot him, because Robbins failed to respond to the password and cricket challenge.[8] He spent the rest of the Normandy campaign as a grenadier.[9]

Christenson made another jump into the Netherlands for Operation Market Garden in September 17, 1944. He was the squad leader. Christenson wrote extensively about the battle in Nuenen. When Easy Company was entering Nuenen, Christenson saw two Germans come out of a window and move across a roof. He pointed his submachine gun at them but the gun did not fire. He had to field-strip the gun right there.[10] Christenson also fought in the action to defend the Island. In the Netherlands campaign, fellow Easy Company members Robert Van Klinken and William Dukemen were killed, and Christenson was shaken up greatly.[11]

Christenson also fought in Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. Like many of the men there, Christenson was sleep-deprived and exhausted. Once, he heard shrapnel coming in during an artillery attack, but was too exhausted even to move his arm, and his arm was hit. He did not want a Purple Heart for the wound because he thought that compared to the death of his friends, the wound was nothing.[12] Later, he was evacuated to a hospital due to a frozen foot.[13]

Christenson returned to his unit for occupation duties in Germany and Austria. He stayed with it until the end of the war, and attained the position of Technical Sergeant.[12]

Later life and Death

Christenson returned to the States in Fall 1945.[12] He married Mary Jo Bonham in 1947, and had three sons.[14] He returned to the phone company and worked there until his retirement in 1977. He rose to the management, but hated the new role, so he decided to go back into the field with a cut in pay.[15] Christenson started one of the first public gymnasiums in Oakland,[14] and also did professional landscaping on the side from 1967-1987.[16]

Mary died in 1997 of liver cancer, and Christenson was devastated by her death. His health also started to deteriorate. He had aneurysm, a ministroke and colon cancer, which he recovered from.[17] Then he was discovered to have lung cancer, and refused surgery because he might end up on a ventilator.[18] He died on December 30, 1998.

Band of Brothers

Christenson was portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers by Michael Fassbender. Much of his role is omitted in the miniseries. For example, Christenson makes no appearance in either of the Normandy episodes, "Day of Days" and "Carentan", despite being on the same aircraft as Winters.

He is shown however briefly in the aircraft lighting a man's cigarette in "Day of Days" and is not credited at all in the episode "Replacements". He does however appear in several scenes in the episode "The Breaking Point".

In the first episode of the miniseries, Currahee, Christenson was shown drinking water from his canteen against order during a night march and was punished by Captain Sobel. Christenson's family doubted if it happened, as Christenson was physically tough. Later they asked his comrades about this, and their replies were 'Not to Christenson'.[19]


  1. Brotheron
  2. p.72, Brotherton
  3. p.30, Winters
  4. Burton "Pat" Christenson's Perspective on Art Archived December 2, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. p.71, Brotherton
  6. p.74, Brotherton
  7. p.75, Brotherton
  8. Chapter 5, Ambrose
  9. p.76, Brotherton
  10. p.79, Brotherton
  11. p.82, Brotherton
  12. 1 2 3 p.85, Brotherton
  13. p.84, Brotherton
  14. 1 2 p.86, Brotherton
  15. p.87, Brotherton
  16. p.86-87, Brotherton
  17. p.88, Brotherton
  18. p.89, Brotherton
  19. p.72. Brotherton


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