A forgotten hero of WWI
Editor’s note: Almost always, there is a compelling story behind a military veteran. Some of these stories have been told, but many have not. Visiting military gravesites in Minneota, Ghent and Taunton cemeteries has piqued my interest in unfolding some of these stories. Periodically, we will tell some of these stories here. This story on Clarence W. Anderson was generated when local historian Daren Gislason brought in a large framed military certificate that was issued to Anderson after he was honorably discharged.
The white marble military marker situated near the main gate at Hope Lutheran Cemetery belongs to Clarence W. Anderson, who is buried next to many of his family members.
The gravestone is splashed with lichen that has accumulated since he was interred in 1940. But that doesn’t mar his proud military history.
Anderson was the son of Lewis and Elsie Anderson, who was born nine miles south of Minneota on Jan. 27, 1893. The family moved into town in 1911, and shortly after, Clarence became interested in carpentry and went to work for Pete Jokull.
When World War I was declared, Anderson enlisted in the U.S. Army on May 12, 1917, and served basic training at Jefferson Barracks in Missouri. After training at several camps in the United States, Anderson and others set sail for France.
During duty, Anderson received the rank of corporal on Jan. 3, 1918, and sergeant on Aug. 13, 1918.
Anderson was in the middle of many battles and was struck in his right leg during the Battle of Chateau-Theirry. The injury was not serious and Anderson was soon with his unit fighting again.
Anderson was awarded a Purple Heart after the war ended on Nov. 11, 1918.
Among the battles in 1918 Anderson fought in were the Toul Sector, Aisne Defensive, Chateau-Thierry, Aisne Offensive, Marbache Sector, St. Mihiel, Meuse Argonne (two separate battles a month apart).
Anderson’s final assignment was with the Second Engineers, Company A, a demobilization group.
Following the end of the war on Nov. 11, Anderson chose to remain in France for 10 months to help erect monuments on various battlefields to honor those American and French soldiers he fought with.
He was honorably discharged on Sept. 26, 1919.
Anderson, who never married, then returned to Minneota and for the next 15 years, he worked as a carpenter with the Amundson & Johnson Construction Co.
In 1934, at age 41, Anderson decided to enlist in the Civilian Conservation Corps at Fort Snelling and was initially stationed at Camden State Park until June 29, 1935. He was then transferred to Whitewater State Park in St. Charles in southeastern Minnesota where he was a carpentry foreman in a Civilian Conservation Corps camp.
Anderson lived in St. Charles the last seven years of his life. On Aug. 24, 1940, he became ill. An attending physician did not consider his illness serious, and he was not hospitalized. Two days later on Aug. 26, Anderson passed away.
His body was returned to Minneota and was buried with full military honors at Hope Lutheran Cemetery. Clarence Wilhelm Anderson was 47 years old.
Among others buried in the Anderson family plot are his parents, Lewis and Elsie, his sisters Ingeborg “Belle” Anderson, and Marie (Anderson) Kjorness and her husband Rongvold, and their daughter June (Kjorness) Pepper.