Minnesota's Greatest Generation

William L. Anderson: Last Letter from the U.S.

Many G.I.s grew restless when, after completing their training stateside, they waited for orders to ship out. William L. Anderson of Minneapolis shared his desire to get into battle, and what he hoped to achieve by fighting the Germans, in his last stateside letter home to his family before shipping out for Europe.

Letter Transcript

Fort Dix, New Jersey,

April 25, 1942

Well, Mom,

We're still here, but only for a very short time. Everybody is busy with the many details of moving an outfit from one station to another. Practice alerts are one of the vogues. You should see me when I have all my battle equipment on. I can't take a deep breath for fear of breaking a rib. I walk with short steps and with legs spread. I carry at least 150 pounds of assorted war material – everything from acrobatic spirits of ammonia to clumsy rubber overshoes. It's not bad for we will only have to walk a matter of a few squares (Philly for blocks).

You know, this may be the last letter I write from the United States for a long time. Startling – this fact. I really had never thought of this until I wrote these words. The actual embarkation didn't mean a thing to me – until now. I really do want to come home and parade through the confetti to the University of Minnesota. I know the United Nations will be victorious, and I feel I will be back. There is only one catch, however. This nation will be in a position to demand the terms of the peace that will be a lasting peace. Fair and lenient, with the ultimate aim of a United States of the World – this peace will be. I'd like to sit at this conference, so this peace would be fair to all. I can not help but think that the British will owe us an unpayable [sic] debt. Maybe we should make the British Isles another Hawaiian Isles. No – that's the extreme. May all peoples be freed of racial, religious, and social hatreds. May the meek survive this battle, so that all aggressive tendencies disappear. That's ungood [sic] also. The median is impossible to obtain, but may all factors of human personalities be equally distributed so that no individual, such as Hitler, controls the lives and wills of so many people. All that preceeds [sic] this is a jumbled attempt to explain what I would [like] to come back to.

It's Saturday night, here in New Jersey – a lovely night too. We're working on a seven day week now – and don't think the boys aren't complaining. They laugh – and in this laugh is a tone that I don't like. Quite frankly – I don't think much of Colonel Peterson. He doesn't make me feel confident in his ability and intelligence. Sometimes I wonder – as a matter of fact – I know this army's system of selecting and promoting officers produces the type they use as examples of what not to produce.

I still insist upon being insolent, conceited, and tactless in my thoughts and sometimes words. Even so these occasions are very frank in attitude – honest attempts to criticize systems or methods or types that to me are unsuitable for this army.

Do ask Roger to drop a line to me. May be he'll get caught up with the bookwork soon and will find time to drop a line. I am very interested in the youngest of the brothers Anderson.

I received my dog tags, and send my appreciation for your interest.

Necessarily, I must be vague in the letters I write home so don't misunderstand me. Names, dates, locations, and transportation facilities are strictly forbidden. They have made a few spot censors of the letters of the boys, and some of them have been reprimanded for having a loose pen. So, I will tell you all I can and may be a little more.

I wrote a letter to Ralph Goddard the other day. He is in the Canadian Army in England. He drives a truck in a "rec" (reconnaissance?) regiment. He wrote very little and all got past the censor.

Anything you want? Oh, ok – so will close with the hope that peace will come after I get into the battles. No kidding – I was almost shocked when I read a paper in which it was stated that German soldiers were deserting. I worry night and day that the war will be over before I get there.

From your soldier son with all his love,




Anderson, William L. William L. Anderson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society Manuscript Collection.