CLARENCE ELMER ANDERSON
Branch: U. S. Army
Status: Killed in action
Date of Service: WWI
Home Town: Winsor Township
1. Newspaper article on Private Anderson’s death 2. Clarence Anderson’s headstone in Somme American Cemetery, Bony, France.
Clarence Elmer Anderson was born to parents Charles (Carl) E. and Mary Anna Anderson in Polk County, Minnesota on August 21 of 1894. Charles, a farmer, had immigrated from Sweden in 1882 and Mary Anna from Norway in 1885. Both became naturalized citizens of the United States in 1899. They were married in 1890 and originally settled in Bygland, a township in Polk County near Grand Forks. Charles and Mary Anna moved to Winsor Township near Gonvick in 1894 where Charles built a dairy farm. Eight additional children were born to the family besides Clarence: Carl in February 1892, Ruby in 1897, Andrew in 1899, Burt in 1901, Dora in 1903, Myrtle in 1906, Violet in 1910 and Harold in December of 1914. The children all helped out on the farm.
On April 29, 1917 Clarence traveled to Grand Forks and enlisted in Company M, 1st Infantry Regiment, which was composed of a National Guard Unit from North Dakota. Company M was called into federal service for World War 1 on July 15, 1917. Along with other National Guard units from Idaho, Montana, Washington and Oregon Clarence’s unit composed the 41st Infantry Division. The Guard units trained at Camp Green, North Carolina.
Clarence and other members of the 41st were sent overseas on the troop ship SS Leviathan in December, 1917. The Leviathan was a former German vessel named the Vaterland which had the misfortune of being docked in Hoboken at the time war with Germany was declared. Its officers and men were sent to federal prisons and internment camps, along with the crews of 90 other German ships seized. The ship was put in prime condition and on December 15, 1917, she set sail on her first trip across the Atlantic. She had the 163rd and 164th Infantry aboard and headquarters of the 82nd Brigade under the command of Brigader General Edward Vellruth. There was a total of 7,254 troops aboard, among them young Clarence Anderson. The voyage was harrowing because parts of the Atlantic were rife with German U-boats. The ship picked up an escort of destroyers on December 23 and thus safely made it to drop anchor in the Mersey in Liverpool, England on Christmas Eve.
Clarence sent a letter to his parents from Paris on December 24, 1917. He said that the weather was still ideal and that much garden truck remained in the ground. “This greatly surprised me,” he wrote, “for I had expected to find the country gripped in winter much the same as was New Jersey.”(from where the Leviathan sailed.)
From Liverpool, the 41st was sent to France and designated a replacement division. It did not go to combat as a unit. The majority of its infantry personnel went to the 1st, 2nd, 32nd and 42nd Infantry Division where they served throughout the war. Clarence was sent to Company E, 26th Infantry which saw action at Aisne-Marne, Montdidier-Noyon, Ansauville (Lorraine) and Cantigny (Picardy).
An article in the Gonvick Banner on April 26, 2018 noted, “Clarence Anderson, son of Mr. and Mrs. C.E. Anderson of Winsor Township is one boy from Clearwater County known to have received his baptism of fire. His company has been associated with troops holding a sector on the western front and have encountered the Huns on more than one occasion. A member of his company had his hands blown off recently by a bomb which exploded as he was about to toss it into the enemy’s trench. The injured man is reported on is way home. Clarence has thus far escaped uninjured, and is in good health and is enjoying the excitement.”
In August of 1918, however, the Andersons received a letter from a Red Cross nurse at a French hospital. The letter stated that Clarence had sustained a wound in his right arm in the French-American drive along the Marne River. “He expects to be able to go back at the Huns stronger than ever within a short time,” the nurse wrote.
A few days later the Andersons received differing information in a letter from another of their sons in North Dakota, who had also received a letter from Clarence. Clarence told his brother that he had been felled with wounds in his shoulder, arm and leg when his company charged across “No Man’s Land” to throw the Huns back from their positions that threatened Paris. Clarence hadn’t wanted his parents to worry.
A week later, the Andersons received the telegram they had been dreading. “Deeply regret to inform you that Private C. E. Anderson, infantry is officially reported as killed in action, July 30.” Clarence was the first Clearwater County boy to fall while fighting in France under the Stars and Stripes.
The Andersons received another letter from the Red Cross nurse in October of 1918.
“My Dear Lady, You are the mother of one of the bravest boys America has had. I am the party who wrote to you and informed you of your son being wounded. I had full confidence in his recovery and from the spirit that your boy showed throughout I am sure that he was “right with the Lord.” For he had faith and patience in the Lord, and his recovery, to the end. The grit and spirit he showed shows that he has come from the finest stock that stands for all we are fighting for – heart and soul.”
“I was by your son’s side throughout his illness, taking care of him and seeing that all his wants were carried out for he asked for nothing and stood his pain silently – always. The nurses and doctor did all in their power to save his life. He was called into eternal life which I am sure he was well fitted for by a higher hand. In the short two weeks that I have known him, he proved to me just how good a person must be to be right with the Lord.”
“He passed away at noon on the 30th of July and his funeral was held at 2 o’clock p.m. August 1, 1918. It was attended by American boys who have been wounded and American Red Cross people. Above all, French mothers who have suffered, who have lost sons for the great cause were there. Two of the ladies, who did a great deal for your son while there was some hope, have enclosed their greatest sympathy. The minister named on one of the cards has been doctor, preacher and helper to your son to the last. If you should come to France, your sons remains are at the Havre cemetery lying at rest with his American comrades who have also given the greatest sacrifice for their country.”
Clarence was buried in Plot A, Row 19, Grave 5, Somme American Cemetery, Bony, France. He posthumously received the WWI Victory Medal.