Tag Archives: William J. Anderson

Veterans in the Family–William J. Anderson

Seabee William J. Anderson

I have listed all the veterans in my family as I find them.  Please pay tribute to them here. (You will also find the names of the people in the family picture below by clicking on that link.) However, I must admit, I have many more veterans to add that I have discovered the in the past year. Those include Charles Morgan, son of my great-great grandfather and his first wife, who fought in the Civil War for the North.

Now I would like to focus on one particular World War II veteran, now deceased, my uncle William J. Anderson.

Bill and Sarah Anderson 1942 or 1943

Bill and Sarah Anderson, August 1943 in Killbuck, Ohio

World War II Family 1942 or 1943

World War II Family August 1943 gathered in Killbuck Ohio home of Guy and Vera Anderson. William J. Anderson is seated on the right hand side in his Navy blues.


Uncle Bill served in the United States Navy as a “SeaBee”–C.B., Construction Battalion, in the islands of the South Pacific roughly between 1943 and 1946. In 1942 or 1943 he and other relatives gathered at the home of my Grandmother and Grandfather Vera and Guy Anderson in Killbuck, Ohio. He was probably at the end of his initial training period and would be shipped out to the Pacific in December 1943.

William J. Anderson Change of Address Card

Not only does this give me some interesting information about Uncle Bill, but it also highlights when my own family moved from Ames Iowa to Chicago Illinois during the war.

As for William J. Anderson, we learn that in December 1943,  he is with the 12th Specialists Battalion,  Company B-2. He holds the rank of EM 3/C, and his ship is in the Pacific–fleet post office San Francisco.  What does all that mean?

For one thing, it means that the nagging question I had as a five- and six-year-old was finally going to be answered.  We never knew where my uncles and cousin were in the Pacific. Once one of them sent us a souvenir book with pictures and maps showing Pacific islands, and I was convinced (having read too many Bobsey Twins mysteries) that they were sending us a secret code through the book to tell us where they were. I puzzled over it throughout the war, but never learned their locations.

Part way through the war, the Navy created Special Construction Battalions (also called Seabee Specials) for stevedores and longshoremen who unloaded ships in battle zones.  According to a history of the Seabees, the 12th Specialists were trained initially at Camp Peary in Virginia for three weeks and then in Port Hueme in California for six weeks before being shipped out in 1943, arriving in January 1944 at the Russell Islands in the Pacific. After unloading ships in the Russels for sixteen months, the 12th Spec. Battalion left its base and arrived in Okinawa on May 21, 1945. [Okinawa

Seabees emblem.

Seabees emblem.

William J. Anderson Dog Tag

I recently found Uncle Bill’s dog tags, and then saw this picture of him wearing the dog tag as he stood on a tropical island.

I have not been able to find what the meaning is of the serial number. If you know how to decode Navy serial numbers, please let me know.  If you are looking to decode an army serial number, Amy Johnson Crow comes to the rescue here.   However, I did learn that the “O” is for blood type, and the T 6/43 means he got a tetanus shot in June, 1943. I am not sure why he is USNR (Navy Reserve).

History of the 12th Special Battalion

Uncle Bill’s cheerful demeanor hints that this was probably the first post in the Russels, because the next post was not a piece of cake. Okinawa saw the most ferocious fighting in the Pacific, and the 12th was still there when the Japanese surrendered  in August 1945. [See a later post with a letter he writes from the Solomon Islands.]

From Wikipedia: “Between the American landing on 1 April and 25 May, seven major kamikaze attacks were attempted, involving more than 1,500 planes.”

The Seabees arrived at a most unwelcoming time of year, as Wikipedia graphically describes.

“By the end of May, monsoon rains which turned contested hills and roads into a morass exacerbated both the tactical and medical situations. The ground advance began to resemble a World War I battlefield as troops became mired in mud and flooded roads greatly inhibited evacuation of wounded to the rear. Troops lived on a field sodden by rain, part garbage dump and part graveyard. Unburied Japanese and American bodies decayed, sank in the mud, and became part of a noxious stew. Anyone sliding down the greasy slopes could easily find their pockets full of maggots at the end of the journey

You can see a film of the battle of Okinawa at the History website.

It is probably just as well that we did not know he was on Okinawa. We worried enough just listening to the radio news of the war, and seeing the newsreels that followed the features at the movie theater and reading screaming headlines. Had we known he was on Okinawa during that horrible battle, I don’t know how we would have coped. For that matter, I don’t know how HE coped, but he seemed to come through just fine.

William J. Anderson Life Details

The Rank on the change of Address card is EM 3/C, which means Electrician’s Mate, third Class.  While I know that Uncle Bill was proficient at fixing electrical things after the war, he was also handy at a great many chores.  His stories of the war, on a par with the tales in Catch 22,  indicated that he spent more time making deals with incoming ships to get good whiskey and special food for his commanding officer than working on wiring. But the Navy does not have a ranking for Finagling Deal Maker.

William J. Anderson would have been thirty-eight years old when he shipped off to a Pacific Island. That seems old for a warrior, but I read in a history of the Seabees that the average enlisted age of those construction battalion workers was thirty-seven. They were paid $140 a month, which made them one of the highest paid groups in the military.

Military life was not entirely foreign to Uncle Bill, as I described in this story about him in post-WWI civilian camp.

My other uncle, Herbert Anderson, was also a Seabee, as was my cousin, Robert Anderson.

They all came home safe after World War II, although Robert Anderson stayed in the Navy as a career.

I thank them all for their enormous contribution to our Nation during World War II.


How I am Related

Vera Marie Kaser Badertscher is the daughter of

Harriette Anderson Kaser, who is the sister of

William J. Anderson

Uncle Bill Runs Away: William J. Anderson

William J. Anderson (1905-1975)

Ben and Nettie Anderson

Portion of Guy and Vera Family 1909 . Dr. William Stout is holding 2 1/2-year-old Harriette and 3 1/2-year-old Bill Anderson.

We’re back in 1909 once again as  the extended family of Guy and Vera Anderson (Bill Anderson’s parents) gather at their farm house outside Killbuck, Ohio on a warm May day.  The little boy, eldest son of Doc Stout’s youngest daughter, was named for his two grandfathers. William for Dr. William Stout and J. for his father’s father, Joseph J. Anderson. No, his middle name was not Joseph. It was just ‘J.’  Mother said she thought that although her parents wanted to honor both their fathers, they were reluctant to give little Bill the name of a man who had died so young, so they gave him just the initial. Since the Anderson line is a long succession of Josephs and Johns, that works quite well.

Here’s another picture of the three children taken about the same time as the big family picture–maybe even the same day. I have no doubt that the adorable hat my mother is wearing came from Node Nelson’s hat shop, which we caught a glimpse of here. And Uncle Bill is already demonstrating the fashion sense that we see on him later.

The three children about seven years before this story.

The three Anderson children, Harriette looking worried, Hebert just trying to stay upright in his long dress and Bill and Bill looking tough and defiant.

Bill Anderson, 8th Grade, 1918

Doug Hodgeson and Bill Anderson, 8th Grade, 1918

As I have mentioned before, my mother, Harriette, worshiped Bill, her older brother, and followed him everywhere, even insisting on being allowed to attend the same class that he was in at school.  Harriette was the scholar in the family, delighting in reading and exploring all kinds of subjects, but Bill–not so much. I can imagine that his favorite class was recess, and his favorite activities had to do with DOING, not studying.

When Bill dropped out of school after 10th grade, his parents sent him to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, Citizen’s Military Training Camp, created by the federal government for young adults after the close of WWI. Here he is in his uniform.

Bill Anderson1921

Bill Anderson, a cadet at Ft. Knox, 1921 at the age of 16 or 17.

From an early age he had mechanical skills.  He was one of the first people in Killbuck to build a radio when the early radio kits came out. In case that did not impress you, let me point out that radios were a BIG DEAL. The 1930 census even counted households with radios. Later in life one of Uncle Bill’s many jobs was repairing radios, T.V.s, and anything electrical. He could fix anything connected with mechanics, including plumbing.

As a girl, I was impressed with his sense of derring-do.  I asked him once if he was not afraid of working on electricity in a house without turning off the power. And he scoffed. Once he was piloting a small airplane, and wanted to take me up for a flight. Although I loved my Uncle Bill, I screamed bloody murder when he tried to put me on the plane, until he gave up. Clearly, I did not inherit his fearlessness.

In 1923, when Harriette was 17, and Bill was 18, the family moved to Columbus, Ohio. Harriette had just graduated and wanted to study medicine to follow in the footsteps of her grandfather Doc Stout.  Guy and Vera supported her going to college, and thought that the men in the family could get better jobs in the capitol city, and save money by not having to pay for outside housing and food for the new Ohio State University student.

However, jobs were harder to find than they imagined.  Vera took a job at a hospital, but quit after one day because she could not stand the sight of the sick people. Harriette seems to be the only one who thrived in their new location, going to Ohio State Football games and dating a handsome pre-med student. Bill, however, became despondent at not being able to find work.

One morning, Vera and Guy came downstairs to find a piece of paper folded up like a small envelope. On the outside was the formal address:

L.G. Anderson

1353 Wesely

Columbus, Ohio

Bill Anderson note to parents 1924

Bill Anderson note to parents 1924

Inside, was a polite note that shook up my grandmother so much, that she, who tended not to keep anything, kept the note in her desk all her life. (Or perhaps she was more amused than shaken.)

(I inserted periods but left the original spelling.)

Dear mother and dad

I am not coming home to night. I am leaving for California. don’t worry about me for we have blenty of money. lyle got cash from his sister and with what I got we will have enuff. I will wright in a day or so and tell you how we are coming. please don’t worry

your son

Wm Anderson

I couldn’t find eny work so there is not mutch yuce staying here.

A dapper Bill Anderson

A dapper Bill Anderson

Somewhere along the line, Bill had met Sarah Warner and they became an item. My mother believed that they met on this occasion when the family gathered on the porch of Hattie Morgan’s house in Killbuck. That would indicate that Mother was friends with Sarah and had invited her to her home in Killbuck.

Family, 1920's Killbuck, Ohio

Family, 1920’s Killbuck, Ohio. The man on the left looks to me like Herbert, next is Sarah, then my mother, Harriette, and Vera Anderson. Behind them on a chair is Hattie Morgan Stout with two sisters of Doc Stout. I am assuming that Bill Anderson took the picture.


William J. Anderson

This picture of Bill Anderson would have been taken about the time he and Sarah married, when he was 19.

I have no idea exactly when (or even if) Bill took off for California, but he could not have stayed long, because on September 15, 1924, he took out a marriage license to marry Sarah Warner and they were married the same day. At the time in Ohio, persons under 21 years old (unless the woman was pregnant) were required to have parental consent for marriage.  That explains why both Bill and Sarah claimed to be twenty-one on their marriage license application, although she was twenty and he had just turned nineteen the day before.

It is entirely possible that “leaving for California” was a cover story for his going to Madison County, Ohio, where Sarah lived, and where they were married. Bill Anderson played the angles all his life.

With his good looks, sense of style, and ability to get what he wanted out of life, I believe William J. Anderson would have made a very good con man–if he had only learned to spell.

Information about William J. Anderson and  comes from personal knowledge, and from death records, obituaries, census records and marriage records obtained from Ancestry.com; and from the recorded recollections and photo albums of my mother, Harriette V. Anderson Kaser (1906-2003). You can learn more about the history of Ft. Knox Kentucky at this website.

This has been a weekly post in the 52 Ancestors/52 Weeks Project started by Amy Johnson Crow at “No Story too Small.” Check out her weekly recap showing the list of participants for some ripping good stories.

Pearl Harbor Day and Ration Book Threaten Christmas Cookies

PEARL HARBOR DAY: DECEMBER 7 Two days from now we mark Pearl Harbor Day. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, it changed the way Americans lived. And it made many changes in our family. Here are three men in uniform at Guy and Vera Anderson’s home in Killbuck, Ohio.

World War II Vets

Herbert and Bill Anderson and Frank Fair 1942

Men all over the country flocked to recruiting stations. Above is a picture taken in 1942 of part of our family’s contribution to the war.  My uncles Herbert Guy Anderson and William J. Anderson joined the Navy and were assigned to the Seabees. Both of them served in the Pacific, on small islands that we had never heard of before, and couldn’t find because their letters were heavily censored and we couldn’t get the name.s They liked to say that although the Marines claimed to be the first ashore on Pacific islands, the Seabees were there first, building the landing sites and airstrips.

The third man in the photo is my cousin Frank Fair, who was a pilot for the Army Air Force. The picture below shows another cousin, Donovan Anderson, grand-nephew of my grandfather, who joined the Coast Guard.  Not pictured is my cousin Robert Anderson, who also joined the Navy.  He and his father had at least one reunion in Hawaii during the war! Bob was actually too young to enlist–but that’s a story for another day.

Donovan Anderson

Donovan Anderson Late 1940’s Coast Guard

We were fortunate that all of these family members returned from the war with no physical damage.


On a less serious note, our Christmas Cookies were in danger because sugar was rationed, with the use of ration cards.

The life of civilians was affected by Pearl Harbor Day, too.  My mother and father and a three-year-old me lived in New Philadelphia, Ohio.  Dad had lost the sight in one eye as a child, plus he had a hernia, which was cause for his draft board to excuse him from service. But wanting to play his part, he walked the streets at night as an Air Raid Warden–watching for any light seeping out of windows during blackouts.  Even in New Philadelphia, Ohio, people were being careful that the Japanese or the Germans would not be able to drop bombs on their town because of someone carelessly leaving a light shining up to alert the bombers.

Perhaps the biggest change in daily life because of Pearl Harbor Day and subsequent events,  revolved around food.  I will devote an entire article (or maybe two) to that subject in the future, but for now, I wanted to share this World War II ration  book with you.

World War II Ration Book

World War II Ration Book

Mother went down to the Ration Registrars office on May 5, 1942 and got ration books for each family member–even the 3-year-old.  She signed for this one that is in my father’s name. There are three stamps left.

She also signed for one for me, Vera Marie Kaser, described as 3’2″, 34 lb., Brown eyes, Brown hair, 3 years old.

I learned from the Ames Iowa website (no longer current), that the ration books I have were the first issued after Pearl Harbor Day, and they were for sugar.

On the back of my ration book is a notation in pencil in my mother’s hand, “15 and 16 canning sugar” and  another pencil notation in someone else’s hand, “6-2-42 20#”. There is also a typewritten note, “8-25-42-19# second half canning allotment.”

On the back of Paul Kaser’s ration book, the typed notation says “8-25-42 – 29# second half canning allotment.” (that doesn’t mean 29# of sugar, it means stamp #29 was used.) At any rate, even with rationed sugar, the Christmas cookies and birthday cakes kept coming out of the oven, despite Pearl Harbor Day.