|Born in Rhode Island, lived in Hawaii, Virginia, and Delaware||Unemployed (recent college graduate)|
|U.S. Army||Enlisted 11034334 / Officer O-1057334|
|European||Company “F,” 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division|
|Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman Badge||Colmar Pocket|
Author’s note: This article reworks some text pertaining to the Colmar Pocket previously published in my article about Private 1st Class John Frame.
Early Life & Family
James Robert Anderson was born in Newport, Rhode Island on November 29, 1920. He was the son of Sam Williams Anderson (1890–1958) and Willie Wray Anderson (née Robinson, 1896–1997). Both of his parents were born in South Carolina and married there on August 19, 1917 (four days after Sam was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army Coast Artillery Corps). Sam Anderson was a career U.S. Army officer who served in the 28th Division during World War I. He retired on April 30, 1943 at the grade of lieutenant colonel. James had a younger sister Mary Frances, (1927–2008). Census records from 1930 and 1940 indicate that James’s maternal grandmother Alice F. Robinson also lived with the family at least during those times. According to his Individual Deceased Personnel File (I.D.P.F.), Anderson was Protestant.
Sam Anderson was stationed at Fort Adams, Rhode Island when James was born; due to the elder Anderson’s military career, the family moved frequently. The Andersons were recorded again on the census on April 7, 1930 living at Fort Kamehameha, Hawaii (located near Pearl Harbor). Census records indicate that the family was living in Newark, Delaware as of April 1, 1935. The Anderson family was recorded again on April 5, 1940, now living at Fort Monroe, Virginia.
When he registered for the draft on February 16, 1942, James R. Anderson was living at the Kappa Sigma fraternity house in Williamsburg, Virginia and attending the College of William & Mary. (His father had also been a member of Kappa Sigma while attending Davidson College.) He was described as standing five feet, nine inches tall and weighing 140 lbs., with brown hair and eyes.
After graduating from college, Anderson briefly returned to Delaware, where his parents had also moved. His address was 227 Orchard Road in Newark when he joined the U.S. Army.
Military Training, Marriage, and Journey Overseas
While stationed at Camp Davis, Lieutenant Anderson married Trubie Benton Weeks in Conway, South Carolina on November 21, 1943. A December 12, 1943 article in The News and Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina) stated: “The bride wore an ensemble of black and white with white accessories. Her corsage was of rosebuds […] She has been employed in defense work in Wilmington for the past year.” The couple briefly lived in Wilmington, North Carolina before Lieutenant Anderson’s next transfer.
James R. Anderson enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army in Massachusetts on or around October 1, 1942 and began his training at Camp Edwards on Cape Cod. Like his father, he was originally a member of the Coast Artillery Corps. He was assigned to the antiaircraft artillery, which had a training center at Camp Edwards. By mid-1943, Anderson had been promoted to corporal and was stationed at Camp Davis, North Carolina (another antiaircraft artillery training center), where he attended Officer Candidate School (O.C.S.). Anderson was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant on July 15, 1943.
A newspaper clipping from his wife’s collection (date and paper unknown) stated that Anderson was an instructor at Camp Davis “but was transferred to the infantry at Camp Blanding, Fla.” According to a statement by his father, Lieutenant Anderson was also stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia as well as Camp Blanding.
Lieutenant Anderson’s last stateside post was Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. A letter he sent his wife from Fort Meade on September 10, 1944 stated he would be shipping out shortly. According to his father, Anderson went overseas to Northern Ireland in September 1944, eventually moving to England and then France.
A V-mail dated October 2, 1944 that Lieutenant Anderson wrote to his wife stated:
I am safe and sound somewhere in England. We had an interesting and enjoyable trip across the pond. I have visited quite a bit of both England and Scotland. The countryside is beautiful (particular Scotland’s) and the people give the Yanks a warm welcome; they seem mighty glad to see us. I am in fine shape and continue to gain weight. It is pretty cold here, but I live in a small hut instead of a tent. The main thing bothering me is how terribly I miss you, Sweetheart. It seems ages since we parted, but you’ve been in my thoughts the whole time. Please take care of yourself and try not to work about me. Write soon, Darling, and know that
I love you,
The Colmar Pocket
As of October 16, 1944, 2nd Lieutenant Anderson was still in England with a unit identified only as Infantry Company “L” (which could not have been part of his final regiment, which was already on the continent). Anderson’s father wrote that he fought in the “Battle of the Bulge and others unknown to his family”. On an unknown date, 2nd Lieutenant Anderson joined his last unit: Company “F,” 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. The 3rd Infantry Division had fought in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy before landing in Southern France on August 15, 1944. However, the 3rd Infantry Division did not participate in the Battle of the Bulge.
Theoretically, Lieutenant Anderson could have fought in the Battle of the Bulge with another unit in December 1944 and then transferred to the 3rd Infantry Division in the last days of his life. However, it is quite likely that Anderson’s father was told inaccurate information. Furthermore, as the largest battle on the Western Front at that point, the Battle of the Bulge may have overshadowed events happening to the south, including the Colmar Pocket fighting that Lieutenant Anderson certainly participated in.
After taking Strasbourg in November 1944, the 3rd Infantry Division was ordered to respond to another German threat in mid-December. John C. McManus wrote in his book, American Courage, American Carnage:
To the south of Strasbourg, the Germans had forged another bulge west of the Rhine in Alsace, a concentric ring of German-held territory commonly referred to as the “Colmar Pocket,” after the Alsatian city that constituted the center of gravity, if not quite the center point, of the pocket.
According to the book History Of The Third Infantry Division In World War II (edited by Donald G. Taggart), on “December 23, the 15th Infantry launched an attack against the two towns of Bennwihr and Sigolsheim, as the first step in securing a more stable line of defense” since they were “the last two towns of any size between that part of our line and the key city of Colmar”. It appears that 2nd Lieutenant Anderson’s battalion, (2nd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment) was in reserve for the beginning of the action, since it was not mentioned in the division history between December 23–25, 1944.
Bennwihr, France fell on Christmas Day, but too late for the men of the 15th Infantry Regiment to enjoy “The roast turkey, creamed potatoes, and other supplementary items which the Division Quartermaster had received for the Yule dinner”. The regiment began attacking Sigolsheim, France on the morning of December 26, 1944, this time including some companies from 2nd Lieutenant Anderson’s battalion. However, Company “F” was not mentioned in the account of the battle in the division history, so the extent of their participation is unclear. Sigolsheim was secured on December 27, 1944.
According to 2nd Lieutenant’s Anderson Individual Deceased Personnel File (I.D.P.F.), he was killed by a shell fragment to the back of the head while in the vicinity of Sigolsheim on December 27, 1944. A digitized copy of a hospital admission card (which also served as casualty records, since the cards were filled out even when the soldier died before reaching the hospital) also stated that Anderson was killed by an artillery shell during the month of December 1944.
During his career, 2nd Lieutenant Anderson earned the Purple Heart and the Combat Infantryman Badge. He was initially buried at the U.S. Military Cemetery Epinal on March 9, 1945 (Plot 3C, Row 17, Grave 7468). After the war, his body was returned to the United States and buried at Arlington National Cemetery on July 25, 1949 (Section 34, Grave 1847).
On June 21, 1949, while hospitalized at Fitzsimons General Hospital in Colorado, Lieutenant Colonel Anderson wrote to the Quartermaster General requesting that space be reserved at Arlington so that parents and son would one day be buried together. Colonel R.G. Amlong of the Memorial Division replied on July 11, 1949 expressing his regret that he was unable to comply with the request due to space limitations. Remarkably, despite the request being officially turned down, when Colonel Anderson died in 1958, he was indeed buried next to his son, as was Willie Wray Anderson after her death in 1997.
Lieutenant Anderson’s widow Trubie (1919–1992) remarried in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 1946 to Watson A. Thomas (1923–2002), with whom she raised four children. She named one of her sons James Robert Thomas, but it was only after her death that he learned of his namesake.
One minor discrepancy I came across is that Anderson’s digitized enlistment data card recorded him as joining the U.S. Army at Camp Edwards, Massachusetts on October 1, 1942. The Individual Military Service Record filled out by Lieutenant Colonel Anderson in 1949 stated that his son enlisted at Camp Devens, Massachusetts on October 2, 1942 before training at Camp Edwards, Massachusetts. He gave his branch as Anti-aircraft [artillery], which technically was part of the Coast Artillery Corps at the time.
James Anderson’s parents were still at Fort Monroe when he registered for the draft on February 16, 1942 but had moved to 227 Orchard Road in Newark by July 22, 1943, per an article in The Newark Post. According to the State of Delaware Individual Military Service Record form filled out by Lieutenant Colonel Anderson in 1949, James was living at the same address when he entered the U.S. Army, so I feel fairly certain that the entire family relocated there sometime in 1942. Although James R. Anderson is known to have lived in Delaware in both 1935 and 1942, it is not clear how many years he spent living there in total.
Date of Death
Curiously, Lieutenant Colonel Anderson wrote that 2nd Lieutenant Anderson was killed in action at Colmar on January 4, 1945. Since hospital admission card date supported the earlier date of December 27, 1944 that I gave that as his date of death in the article. Furthermore, Lieutenant Anderson’s battalion was in combat on December 27, 1944 (although I have been unable to confirm his company’s participation), whereas the division history implied that January 4, 1945 was a quiet day. The division history only mentioned that day that “The 15th Infantry, which had occupied the extreme left of the Division front, moved to the extreme right, putting out troops deeper into the heights of the Vosges.”
Interestingly, the burial report in his I.D.P.F. originally gave his date of death as January 4, 1945, but that was crossed out and December 27, 1944 written it. That’s consistent with the place of death in the report, recorded as being the vicinity of Siglosheim, France. It also may explain why Anderson’s father supplied the later date.
Special thanks to the Thomas family for items from Anderson’s widow’s collection and to the Newark History Museum for the use of their photo.
Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/25249440:60901?indiv=1&tid=&pid=&queryId=f223b9891a8f39aba5af2bc3e674276c&usePUB=true&_phsrc=OJf94&_phstart=successSource
Anderson, Sam W. James Robert Anderson Individual Military Service Record, June 5, 1949. Record Group 1325-003-053, Record of Delawareans Who Died in World War II. Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. https://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15323coll6/id/17507/rec/1
“Anderson-Weeks.” The News and Observer, December 12, 1943. Pg. 21. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/67939661/wedding-of-james-r-anderson-to-trubie/
Anderson, Willie W. Letter to the Delaware Public Archives Commission dated July 8, 1949. Record Group 1325-003-053, Record of Delawareans Who Died in World War II. Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. https://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15323coll6/id/17509
County Marriage Records. South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/61450/images/48233_554623-00252
“Deaths.” The Evening Sentinel, November 4, 1958. Pg. 6. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/67928610/sam-williams-anderson-obituary/
District of Columbia Marriages. Clerk of the Superior Court, Records Office, Washington D.C. https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=61404&h=262414&ssrc=pt&tid=70121226&pid=42483059861&usePUB=true
Interment Control Forms, 1928–1962. Record Group 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774–1985. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2590/images/40479_2421406260_0450-00821, https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2590/images/40479_2421406260_0450-02766
James R. Anderson Individual Deceased Personnel File. National Archives.
“Lieut. Anderson Slain In Combat.” Newspaper clipping from unidentified paper in the collection of Trubie Thomas, circa 1945. Courtesy of the Thomas family.
“Local Boys Finish OCS.” The Newark Post, July 22, 1943. Pg. 1. https://udspace.udel.edu/bitstream/handle/19716/18885/np_034_24b.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
“Mary F. Farrington.” The Washington Post, June 12, 2008. https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/washingtonpost/obituary.aspx?pid=111390156
Official Army Register, 1 January 1944. The Adjutant General’s Office, Washington, D.C., 1944. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2345/images/40014_1821100517_0651-01066
“Robinson-Anderson Marriage.” Keowee Courier, August 22, 1917. Pg. 8. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/67929701/sam-w-andersonwillie-wray-robinson/
Silverman, Lowell. “Private 1st Class John Frame (1915–1945).” https://delawarewwiifallen.com/2021/05/28/private-1st-class-john-frame/
Taggart, Donald G. (Ed.). History Of The Third Infantry Division In World War II. Infantry Journal Press, Washington, D.C., 1947. https://archive.org/details/HistoryOfTheThirdID/mode/2up
United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6061/images/4384995_01170
United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4661342_00498
United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/M-T0627-04259-00283
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/703833574/u-s-wwii-hospital-admission-card-files-1942-1954-blank
V-mail from 2nd Lieutenant James R. Anderson to Trubie Anderson, dated October 2, 1944. Courtesy of the Thomas family.
World War II Army Enlistment Records. Record Group 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/record/83373383/world-war-ii-army-enlistment-records-james-r-anderson
WWII Draft Registration Cards for Virginia, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947. Record Group 147, Records of the Selective Service System. National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2238/images/44044_05_00003-00816
Last updated on June 2, 2021
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