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  • Andy Adams

24 Year Old Sailor Laid to Rest...

John E. Anderson was a Motor Machinist 1st Class killed

John E. Anderson was a Motor Machinist 1st Class killed in action while making a beachhead landing. He is finally being laid to rest in his hometown of Willmar, MN this weekend. What makes this sailor's homecoming especially significant is that he was killed on a Normandy beach on June 6, 1944. Joh was listed as KIA and lost at sea for 72 years.

His remains have been interred in the American cemetery in Normandy, France listed in a grave marked "Unknown X-91." He will be laid next to his parents in a cemetery in Willmar. This is a good reminder of what we remember on Memorial Day.

The effort to recover Mr. Anderson was spear-headed by his nephew, now 77:

One of Don Franklin’s memories from his boyhood in Willmar, Minn., is riding in the basket of his uncle John E. Anderson’s bicycle.

Franklin, now 77 and living in Pittsburgh, went on to exchange letters with his uncle, but didn’t get to know him because Anderson died on the beaches of Normandy, the only casualty of a German munition that struck his ship on June 6, 1944 — D-Day.

Anderson, a 24-year-old motor machinist’s mate in the Navy, was alone in the vessel’s boiler room and died instantly, according to reports. His family initially was told by the military that his remains had been recovered but would stay overseas until the war ended. Later they were told his remains had washed out to sea.

Finally, last week, after years of investigating and pushing both French and American governments, Franklin’s work was rewarded by DNA testing: His uncle’s remains had been buried in an unmarked grave in France.

Franklin said he feels joy at being able to bring closure to something that had been up in the air in the family for decades. Anderson was the only son and youngest child of Swedish immigrants Oscar and Anna Anderson of Willmar.

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