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John E. Anderson has returned home

For Willmar native John Emanuel Anderson, the return to Kandiyohi County has taken more than 72 years.The remains of Motor Machinist Mate 1st Class John E. Anderson were returned to Willmar Thursday evening just in time for Memorial Day Weekend. ...

For Willmar native John Emanuel Anderson, the return to Kandiyohi County has taken more than 72 years.
The remains of Motor Machinist Mate 1st Class John E. Anderson were returned to Willmar Thursday evening just in time for Memorial Day Weekend. As the hearse carried his remains to Willmar Thursday night, people gathered in respect in every town along U.S. Highway 12.
Willmar has another chance to remember Anderson at a memorial service at 1 p.m. today at the Willmar’s War Memorial Auditorium.  A committal service with full military honors will follow at Fairview Cemetery.
Anderson’s return is an answer for his family and Willmar as he was reported lost at sea on the Landing Craft Tank ship, LCT 30, during  the Normandy Invasion on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
An official report reads: “LCT #30 after discharging its load and attempting to retract, was hit by an enemy shell which exploded amidship directly in the engine room, knocking out all engines and flooding the engine room. Enemy 88mm shells and machine-gun bullets riddle the bulkheads and the ship was abandoned. Attempts are being made to salvage the craft. One man, Anderson, John Emanuel, 638 30 08, Mommlc, USNR., was killed.”
He was only 24.
Military records noted the disposition of his body as “nonrecoverable.”
Anderson’s family back in Willmar never knew what became of his remains.
His parents, Oscar and Anna Anderson, who lived at 925 Sixth Street West, died never knowing what became of their son’s body. They heard differing stories from military officials.
His three sisters, Esther (Robert) Franklin, Marian (Reuben) Bengtson and Alice (Sydney) Johnson, also likely wondered what became of their younger brother’s body.
We now know, Anderson’s remains were somehow unidentified and later interred in the Normandy American Military Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France.
The grave marker read simply “Unknown X-91.”
But John E. Anderson was not forgotten by his family, his community or his country.
On Sept. 14,1962, an application for an upright marble headstone for a “non-recoverable deceased member” was filed by the American Legion Post 167 in Willmar. The marker remembering John E. Anderson was later installed in Fairview Cemetery in Willmar.
In 2009, Ted Darcy of Virginia and Brian Siddall of New York discovered some evidence that Anderson’s remains were possibly in the “Unknown X-91” grave.
Then family members and Jon Linstrand of Willmar went to work gathering more evidence in order to get the military to disinter the body in the “Unknown X-91” grave and conduct genetic testing.
Anderson’s sister, Esther Franklin, submitted a sample of her DNA in case the genetic testing process would ever be conducted.  She has since died.
The first two requests for disinterment were rejected, but the family persevered. Esther’s son, Don Franklin, submitted a third request in January 2015 and it was finally approved. The body known as Unknown X-91 was disinterred in October 2015 and later identified as John E. Anderson, .
Anderson was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously. He had served in the campaigns in North Africa and Italy before embarking on the Normandy Invasion.
Members of the Anderson family, community members, fellow veterans and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar will gather for a memorial service today.
This Memorial Day Weekend is a suitable time to remember this Navy sailor upon his return.
John E. Anderson served with “honor, courage, commitment.”
He and his sacrifice have not been forgotten.
This native son has returned home to Willmar to rest in peace.

Kelly Boldan has been editor of West Central Tribune and Wctrib.com in Willmar, Minnesota, since October 2001. He joined Forum Communications Co. in November 1998 as editor of the Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer.
Boldan can be reached via email: editor@wctrib.com or telephone: 320-214-4331.
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