Private Burl W. Ailey was assigned to the 262nd Infantry Regiment, 66th Division. The 66th Division was being transported from England to Cherbourg, France on 24 December 1944. Half of the Division was on board the SS Leopoldville, a Belgian passenger ship that had been converted to a troop transport. With Cherbourg in sight the Leopoldville was struck by a torpedo. 14 officers and 784 enlisted men were killed, the second largest loss from a troop ship sinking. Private Ailey was declared dead on 25 December 1944, and is listed on the Tablets of the Missing, Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-mer, France.
He never married.