Louisa World War II veteran shares his Army experiences
The Central Virginian
By Paula Hawthorne
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Russell Anderson, 246 Coast Auxiliary, Battery BNinety-five-year-old Russell Anderson of Louisa credits a double hernia caused by lifting a 100-pound bag of potatoes with saving his life. Anderson served in the United States Army during World War II feeding the troops, first as a cook and later as an accomplished baker. Before his scheduled surgery to repair the hernias, Anderson’s entire company was sent to the Battle of the Bulge, where he said three-quarters of his platoon was killed.
As a member of “The Greatest Generation,” stories such as Anderson’s are being lost. The sights, sounds, triumphs and tragedies of this group vanish with each passing day. Like Anderson, young men and women of that era grew up during the hardship of the Great Depression, and many were mere teenagers who left high school to fight in one of the most destructive conflicts in history.
According to the Department of Defense, 1,235 Virginians died in combat, while 27 died in prison camps. More than 1,300 Virginians were wounded and 58 prisoners of war were released. While some fought overseas, others on the home front made material contributions to the war effort, for which the generation was also termed the G.I. Generation.
Not every soldier fought the battle on foreign soil. Many were fortunate enough to stay in the U.S. and contribute their services from home. Anderson is one of those lucky few. In 1940, at the age of 21, he volunteered to serve in the army. But 20 days before his enlistment was to end, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and Anderson found himself drafted into four additional years of service. He became part of the 246 Coast Auxiliary, Battery B, in Fort Story, Virginia near, Virginia Beach. One of his first duties was to patrol the beaches.
At the time, Anderson said the barracks and other facilities at Fort Story were under construction and had not been completed when they arrived. Soldiers slept in tents for three to four months until they officially began moving into the newly erected buildings in December. Anderson soon went from walking the beaches to cooking for the troops. He attended Mead Maryland Cook School to get the training he needed for his specialized duties. “I couldn’t even boil water,” Anderson said before he obtained his training.
After more than three years, Anderson was transferred in 1944 to Camp Chaffe, Arkansas, where Japanese and German prisoners were housed. That’s where he was when he developed the hernias from the infamous bag of potatoes. Following his surgery in 1945 , Anderson was shipped to Sheppard’s Field Air Force Base in Texas to recuperate. He was honorably discharged as a sergeant in November of 1945
At the time, Anderson said, he had a quarter in his pocket. After his discharge Anderson obtained work in bakeries, then began his own taxi service with a friend using in a converted 1936 Buick taxi. Anderson later purchased a 1947 Packard in which he offered cab service in as well. Three years later, Anderson borrowed $500 to buy his first Oliver tractor and established Anderson Excavate and Pavement in Washington, D.C.
Thirty years ago Anderson found his way to Louisa County and built a home on Oakland Road, which also was the site of the Netherlands Tavern. The Civil War era buff rebuilt the tavern, which has become a tourist attraction in the county. After many years of hard work, Anderson has now semi-retired. He enjoys giving the tours at the tavern. Anderson carries with him fond memories of the men he served with nearly 70 years ago and the ultimate sacrifices some of them made.