Private 1st Class Lawrence J. Anderson (1919–1944)

Lawrence J. Anderson obituary from an unknown paper (Courtesy of Janice Tunell)
ResidencesOccupations
Born in New Jersey, raised in Pennsylvania, moved to Delaware as an adultWorker for General Chemical, later career soldier
BranchService Number
U.S. Army12012293
TheatersUnit
Mediterranean, EuropeanCompany “K,” 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division
AwardsCampaigns/Battles
Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman Badge (presumed)Operation Torch, Tunisia, Sicily, Normandy

Early Life & Family

Lauritz Anderson was born in Camden, New Jersey on June 27, 1919, the son of Lauritz and Julia (née Barns or Barnes) Anderson.  Both father and son changed their names to Lawrence by 1930.  The elder Anderson, a rigger, had immigrated from Norway and Julia Anderson from Austria-Hungary.  The Andersons were recorded living in Camden on the 1920 census, but a newspaper clipping (paper and date unknown, from his wife’s collection) stated that the Anderson family moved to Chester, Pennsylvania when he was three.  Lawrence had an older brother who appeared on the 1920 census but not the 1930 census, suggesting he may have died in the interim.  He had two younger sisters, Frances and Helen.  Anderson was nicknamed Larry.  According to one of his service documents, he was Protestant.

The newspaper clipping stated that:

He lived for 15 years in Buckman Village before moving to [316 Clayton Street].  He was a member of the Resurrection Church and attend[ed] Resurrection School.  He worked for a time at General Chemical Company before enlisting in the Army 1940, when he was 21.


Stateside Service & Mediterranean Theater

Anderson had moved to 404 West Seventh Street in Wilmington, Delaware by October 16, 1940, when he registered for the draft.  At the time, he was unemployed.  He was described as standing six feet tall and weighing 170 lbs., with brown hair and eyes. 

Not long after, Anderson volunteered for the U.S. Army.  According to his Individual Deceased Personnel File (I.D.P.F.), Anderson joined the military on November 7, 1940.  A November 8, 1940 Journal-Every Evening article stated that he “enlisted for service in the army at the Delaware recruiting district, postoffice [sic] building” and would initially be assigned to the Medical Department at Fort DuPont, Delaware.  However, at some point he transferred to the Infantry Branch.

Anderson’s wife Charlotte in the late 1930s or early 1940s (Courtesy of Janice Tunell)

Anderson married Charlotte Elizabeth Stegnerski (apparently working as both a hairdresser and operator at the time) in Brandywine Hundred, Wilmington, Delaware on May 3, 1942.  The couple did not have children.

Only limited details are certain about Anderson’s military career.  He went overseas sometime in 1942.  It is entirely possible that at that time, he was already with his last unit: Company “K,” 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division.  The regiment shipped out from the New York Port of Embarkation aboard the R.M.S. Queen Mary on August 1, 1942, arriving in the United Kingdom six days later.  In mid-October 1942, the regiment shipped out for the Mediterranean Theater, with 3rd Battalion (including Company “K”) aboard the British transport Duchess of Bedford.

On November 8, 1942, during Operation Torch, the 16th Infantry Regiment landed in Oran, Algeria, brushing aside resistance from the Axis-aligned Vichy French forces there.  General Orders No. 35, Headquarters 1st Infantry Division (dated December 26, 1942) stated that Company “K” was “cited for outstanding performance of duty in action” for a November 9, 1942 action at Saint Cloud, Algeria “against a superior enemy force”.

Anderson’s I.D.P.F. includes a copy of a telegram from the Adjutant General to Anderson’s wife dated December 15, 1942 stating:

REFERENCE MY TELEGRAM NO[V]EMBER 27 AM GRATIFIED TO INFORM YOU THE COMMANDING GENERAL WESTERN EUROPEAN AREA HAS REPORTED THAT YOUR HUSBAND PRIVATE LAWRENCE J ANDERSON PREVIOUSLY REPORTED MISSING WAS FOUND AND HAS RETURNED TO DUTY

War Department telegram stating that Anderson had returned to duty after going M.I.A. in North Africa (National Archives)

The telegram would seem to imply that Private Anderson had been reported missing during Operation Torch.  A 1944 telegram pertaining to Anderson from his wife’s collection has “Africa, Tunisia, [Sicily]” jotted down on the back.  Similarly, the newspaper clipping from his wife’s collection stated that Anderson “was a veteran of the North African campaign and participated in the invasion of Sicily.”  That’s consistent with the history of the 1st Infantry Division, which fought in Algeria, Tunisia, and Sicily.  The 16th Infantry Regiment participated in the amphibious assault at Gela, Sicily beginning early on July 10, 1943. 


1st Infantry Division soldiers in England waiting to ship out for the Normandy invasion (Official U.S. Army Signal Corps photo, National Archives)

D-Day in Normandy

After the Sicily campaign, the 16th Infantry Regiment shipped out from Augusta, Sicily on October 21, 1943 aboard the British transport Maloja.  The regiment arrived back in the United Kingdom on November 5, 1943.  Soon after, the men began to train for the invasion of France, scheduled for the following spring.  Unlike other American infantry divisions scheduled to land on D-Day, the Big Red One had both combat and amphibious experience.

Peter Caddick-Adams wrote in his book Sand & Steel: The D-Day Invasions and the Liberation of France:

The primary importance of Omaha was in the fact that it lay between Utah and Gold Beaches — fourteen miles as the crow flies to the former, sixteen to the latter.  Linking up with both would be a critical phase in the success of Overlord.  […]  The quickest of overviews indicates just three platoon-sized resistance nests on the coast capable of interfering with the landings at Utah.  The same computation for the five miles of Omaha indicates a much greater density: fourteen equivalent strongpoints, admittedly some unfinished on 6 June, which is why further postponement of D-Day would have spelled disaster.

Prior to D-Day in Normandy, Anderson had been promoted to private 1st class.  If he wasn’t already, Private 1st Class Anderson was serving with Company “K,” 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division by June 1, 1944, when his battalion boarded the British transport H.M.S. Empire Anvil at Weymouth.  The ship set sail on June 5, 1944.

The H-Hour was 0630 hours on June 6, 1944.  M4s from the 741st Tank Battalion preceded were supposed to land first, followed by four companies from the 16th Infantry Regiment scheduled to hit the beach at precisely 0631 hours.  Private 1st Class Anderson’s Company “K” was assigned to land precisely 30 minutes into the invasion.  The timetable didn’t stay intact for long.  Landing craft carrying Company “I” (scheduled in the first wave of infantry) made a navigational error.  Lieutenant Colonel Charles Horner, commanding 3rd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, ordered Company “K” to land early.  

Affected by strong currents, the company landed in sector Fox Red under intense machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire.  The survivors sheltered sought shelter under a cliff, where the company commander and executive officer were both killed by mortar fire; the next officer who took charge of the company was killed by enemy rifle fire soon after.

In his book The Dead and Those About to Die: D-Day: The Big Red One at Omaha Beach, John C. McManus wrote that “Clearly the cliff offered only temporary shelter.”  The was one escape route for what remained of Company “K,” McManus explained:

Only the right, where the cliff gave way to an embankment, incremental bluffs, and a small draw known as Exit F-1, offered any hope. This route would place them directly in the line of fire from [German stronghold] WN-60, but there was no other way forward.

Slowly, all across Omaha Beach, small groups of soldiers advanced—often with the support of what armor had made it to the beach as well as destroyers offshore—and overcame the German positions on the bluffs one by one.  The survivors of Company “K” helped overcome WN-60 and open the draw.

Telegram to Charlotte Anderson notifying her that her husband had been killed in action (Courtesy of Janice Tunell)

Private 1st Class Anderson was killed in action sometime on D-Day.  According to the digitized hospital admission card under his service number, he was struck in the neck by fragments from an artillery shell.

Private 1st Class Anderson was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal, the latter per General Orders No. 113, Headquarters 1st U.S. Infantry Division, dated June 26, 1945.  The citation stated:

For heroic achievement in connection with military operations against the enemy in the vicinity of Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France, 6 June 1944.  Despite intense enemy machine-gun, mortar, and artillery fire, Private Anderson courageously remained exposed to the barrage and, until mortally wounded, fearlessly assisted in moving valuable equipment ashore.  Private Anderson’s heroic actions and self-sacrificing devotion to duty contributed immeasurably to the success of the invasion.

On June 13, 1944, Private 1st Class Anderson was buried at the American St. Laurent Cemetery (Plot D, Row 5, Grave 99).  After the war, families were given the option of either returning their loved ones’ bodies to the United States or having them buried in a permanent military cemetery abroad.  On March 31, 1947, Anderson’s widow signed a form requesting that his body remain abroad.  Private 1st Class Anderson’s body was disinterred on October 10, 1947 and reburied in a permanent grave (Plot I, Row 25, Grave 13) at the same cemetery on November 25, 1948.  The cemetery is now known as the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

Private 1st Class Anderson’s headstone at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial (Courtesy of Janice Tunell)

Anderson’s wife Charlotte (1918–2000) remarried and was widowed two more times.  She married Harry Ivan Darr (1888–1958) in Alexandria, Virginia on October 8, 1953.  After Darr’s death, she married William Charles Walls (1917–1991) in Delaware County, Pennsylvania on May 29, 1962.

Charlotte’s friend and neighbor Janice Tunell recalls a story from the last week of Charlotte’s life.  Janice joked with Charlotte that three husbands would be waiting for her in heaven, asking her: “Which one are you going to choose?”

Janice recalls that Charlotte gave it some thought and then answered: “It would have to be Larry because I didn’t get to spend much time with him.”


Acknowledgments

Special thanks to Janice Tunell for providing the photos and documents which accompany this piece. 

Lawrence J. Anderson Gold Star citation (Courtesy of Janice Tunell)

Bibliography

Delaware Marriages. Bureau of Vital Statistics, Hall of Records, Dover, Delaware.  https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/61368/images/TH-267-12696-22474-48

“Charlotte E. ‘Tess’ Walls.”  The News Journal, December 13, 2000.  Pg. B6.  https://www.newspapers.com/clip/67184555/lawrence-j-anderson-widow-obit/

“Charlotte Elizabeth Stegnerski.”  U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936–2007.  Ancestry.com.   https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/23342193:60901?tid=13004207&pid=27581943471

“Charlotte Elizabeth ‘Tess’ Stegnerski Walls.”  Find a Grave.  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/34662712/charlotte-elizabeth-walls

“General Orders No. 35, Headquarters 1st Infantry Division.” December 26, 1942 and “General Orders No. 113, Headquarters 1st U.S. Infantry Division.”  June 26, 1945.  First Division Museum website.  https://firstdivisionmuseum.nmtvault.com/jsp/PsImageViewer.jsp?doc_id=5d51b39f-52d3-4177-b65e-30b812011812%2Fiwfd0000%2F20141124%2F00000159&pg_seq=1317

Goldberg, Herbert.  “History Medical Detachment 16th Infantry 1st US Infantry Division United States Army November 1940 to May 1945.”  Dated July 14, 1945.  First Division Museum website.  https://firstdivisionmuseum.nmtvault.com/jsp/PsImageViewer.jsp?doc_id=5d51b39f-52d3-4177-b65e-30b812011812%2Fiwfd0000%2F20141124%2F00000420

Headstone Inscription and Interment Records for U.S. Military Cemeteries on Foreign Soil, 1942–1949. Records of the American Battle Monuments Commission, 1918–ca. 1995. Record Group 117. The National Archives at Washington, D.C.  https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/9170/images/42861_647350_0535-01456

Lawrence J. Anderson Individual Deceased Personnel File.  National Archives.

McManus, John C.  The Dead and Those About to Die: D-Day: The Big Red One at Omaha Beach.  Dutton Caliber, 2019.

“PFC. Lawrence J. Anderson.”  Newspaper clipping from an unknown paper (probably the area of Chester, Pennsylvania), circa 1944.  Courtesy of Janice Tunell.

“Seven Are Enlisted For Service in Army.”  Journal-Every Evening, November 8, 1940.  Pg. 7.  https://www.newspapers.com/clip/67182306/lawrence-j-anderson/

Tunell, Janice.  Phone interview on January 24, 2021 and correspondence on January 24, January 31, and March 20, 2021.

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920.  National Archives and Records Administration at Washington, D.C.  https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6061/images/4313316-00312

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930.  National Archives and Records Administration at Washington, D.C.  https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4639360_00960

U.S. WWII Hospital Admission Card Files, 1942-1954. Record Group 112, Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army), 1775–1994.  National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/record/704056902/u-s-wwii-hospital-admission-card-files-1942-1954-blank

Virginia, Marriages, 1936-2014.  Virginia Department of Health, Richmond, Virginia.  https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/9279/images/43067_162028006054_0586-00030

World War II Veterans Compensation Applications.  Record Group 19, Series 19.92, Records of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/3147/images/41226_2421406274_0714-03097

WWII Draft Registration Cards for Delaware, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947.  Record Group 147, Records of the Selective Service System.  National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2238/images/44003_09_00001-00129


Last updated on May 28, 2021

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