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
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.