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This is a contributing entry for Remembering WWI in Norfolk and only appears as part of that tour.Learn More.

The story of Robert Anderson is one that is not often talked about when discussing the men who served in World War I. Anderson never saw combat, having arrived in France just 2 days before the armistice, but he did see its destructive capacity. What he says horrified him and he was not happy with what he experienced.


When Americans discuss or remember wars we often like to talk about the more romantic aspects like personal heroism and courage, or the feeling after a great victory. What is often over looked are the more brutal aspects of war like the carnage and destruction that is inflicted. For Robert Anderson this was the only side of war that he saw.

Anderson was born on December 28th, 1893 in Norfolk Virginia. He lived and average life, getting married and working at the Ford factory downtown. However, his life was altered when the United States entered World War I and he was thrust into the artillery service. This would have been a blessing for married man who would want to avoid the meatgrinder that was trench warfare. In his position Anderson would have been miles back from the front line and often out of harms way.

He however, arrived in France on November 9th, 1918, just two days until the end of the fighting. Although the fighting had ended, many in the allied camp did not trust the Germans and so troop that had just arrived were still being sent to the front in order to defend against an imaginary German offensive. Robert Anderson was one of those troops and when he arrived he was appalled by what he saw. There was utter devastation in a part of France that 4 years before had been picturesque farm county. This was a jarring experience for Anderson who soon soured to the idea of military service.

After the war he returned to the Norfolk area and began working at the Buick factory instead of Ford. He never forgot how awful the war was and he hoped that the United States would never send young men off to such a sight again.