Minnesota's Greatest Generation

William L. Anderson: The Moon Over the Mountain

Fighting men stationed around the world during the war had a wide variety of experiences. William L. Anderson of Minneapolis recorded many of his experiences, ranging from the routine of life in camp to the horrors witnessed in combat, in his letters home. The following letter, sent from North Africa, describes a peaceful moment shared with his company while watching a movie in camp.

Letter Transcript


July 18, 1943

My dear Mom,

As I begin to write the bugler blows "Recall" with a jump ending. This particular bugler always ends his calls with a bit of syncopation. It's got to be almost part of the battalion. He's the best of the buglers, and we always know by the ending of the call that Pete's on duty. And the G-I's smile when they hear Pete blow.

It's eleven-thirty by the bugle, and that means we're through for the day. Seista [sic] time after dinner, but it's too hot to sleep, and by now I'm about a year ahead on sleeping.

This life I've been leading lately has the effect on me of wanting to get up and go. We move into a new bivouac area, and two days later I'm hoping we will move soon. Maybe you call it wanderlust. Whatever it is I got it, and I hope we get going soon. Not that I'm anxious to go back into action. Anyway I'm getting tired of sitting around doing nothing.

Where do we go from here?" is the question on everybody's lips. I haven't the slightest idea that isn't pure speculation.

I enjoyed an experience last night. You see, each evening we have a movie. The projector is small, and reels have to be changed. It was during the changing of reels that this incident occurred. We were sitting on the side of a hill. Across the valley the hills looked midnight black against the star filled sky. Between each reel the operator plays a recording. He happened to play "When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain" sung by Kate Smith. As she began to sing, the sky behind the opposite hill brightened. I thought it was a flare, but I soon realized it was the moon. The new moon, big and so bright that shadows were noticeable a long way off. We were not paying much attention to the song, until the moon began to climb from behind the hills into the sky. Just a curved sliver noticeable at first, and in about five minutes the moon looked as if it were resting on the hill. Between the reels there is the usual hum and buzz of conversation, but last night it was missing; all the G-Is were watching the moon come over the mountain. Then, way over on the opposite side of the audience some of the boys began to sing. Soon all the boys were singing. They were not singing loud, but rather in a slow tempo and half subdued voices about a thousand soldiers sang "When the Moon Comes over the Mountain." There was no leader. There didn't need to be, for when spontaneous song come from the soldiers it's really good music. We, I and a thousand others, sang the chorus twice; and then there was [sic] a few moments of complete silence. The third reel began suddenly it seemed; and the spell of the song was gone.

Such conversation I [sic] giving, and I can't sing a note. Honestly, Mom, all the boys kid me about the way I sing. "It isn't good," they tell me. I believe them. I guess when we go to church again, you'll have to have your right elbow in Dad's ribs and your left in mine. You won't mind will you?

Well, Mom, that's all for a while.

Your letter and Dad's of June 25 arrived yesterday. Why don't you spend the summer in Duluth? I like it there in the summertime.

This is the fourth letter, and I'm right on the bubble.

More later –

All my love,




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