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T. Moffatt Burriss and the Crossing Previous Broadcasts

KQED World: Sun, May 26, 2013 -- 1:30 AM

Few know the privilege of being portrayed on the silver screen by Robert Redford, but that's exactly what happened to South Carolinian Moffatt Burriss. Major Cook, Redford's character in "A Bridge Too Far, " was based in part on Burriss' heroic actions during World War II. The 1977 film tells Hollywood's version of the failed attempt to capture several bridges in Operation Market Garden, the largest airborne operation in history. Burriss, now of Columbia, was a paratrooper from Anderson in the famed 82nd Airborne Division, and played a critical role in the crossing of the Waal River in Nijmegen, Holland. In their attempt to take the bridge, Burriss and his men were forced to cross the swift river in canvas boats with few paddles. Some were forced to use the butts of their guns to row, leaving them even more vulnerable to attack by the Germans who were easily picking off the soldiers. Burriss, and fellow paratrooper Roy Hanna, of Pinehurst, NC, talk about their harrowing experiences, and their feelings of exasperation when, after finally securing the bridge, the British wouldn't move down the road and rescue their own paratroopers trapped behind enemy lines at Arnhem. The program also portrays Burriss' return to Nijmegan in 2010 for the 65th anniversary of the battle. To commemorate the occasion, Burriss, four days shy of his 90th birthday, parachuted out of an airplane in tandem with a female Dutch paratrooper. During the visit, he also came face to face with the British commander who refused to move.

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