LINDSTROM, Minn. (WCCO) — With a familiar chorus, a crowd of well-wishers celebrated Art Anderson’s 100th birthday.
But the moment that brought much applause and smiles, was to a life that nearly ended so many, many years ago.
“I was 22 years old,” Anderson says.
Anderson had just been drafted into the Army in the early years of World War Two. He did his basic training in Texas and shipped to England aboard the Queen Mary.
That’s where he received his orders and was eventually assigned as a replacement infantryman to the 34th Infantry Division in North Africa.
“It was hard for a little old Minnesota boy that only walked across fields here with a .22 rifle and then you get over there in Africa and someone’s trying to kill you,” recalls Anderson.
After defeating Rommel in North Africa in May 1943, Anderson and his fellow Red Bulls were sent to Italy.
Bluntly, Anderson stated, “I only lasted three months in Italy.”
The battles were intense and casualties were horrific.
Anderson pauses and says with emotion, “I lost a few buddies in Italy — and a few in Africa, yup.”
Anderson remembers a soldier from Texas who shared a photograph of his five-year-old son. Just a short while later the same soldier was shot down on the battlefield. Anderson and a medic danced through a hail of German machine-gun bullets to save his buddy’s life.
When he was asked where that kind of courage comes from, Anderson quickly replies, “you don’t have any, you don’t have any. You’re scared to hell and scared to death.”
For that moment of pure heroism and valor, Anderson received the Silver Star. Not long after, on November 4th, 1943 — a German mortar got Art.
Without pause, Anderson remembers vividly, “it felt like someone hit me in the chest with a baseball bat, that’s what it felt like you know.”
Shrapnel lodged in his left eye, requiring removal. But while he sacrificed an eye — he nearly lost his life.
Had it not been for a thick little book that he carried in his uniform’s left front pocket.
“I put the Bible right there,” Art said.
He was saved by the New Testament Bible that was sent to him during basic training by his hometown church.
Anderson picks it up and points to what had obviously been the only thing keeping the metal shards from penetrating his heart.
With a gentle smile, Art says, “you can see the shrapnel marks, you can see the holes there.”
Each Veteran’s Day since he pauses and gives thanks to all those who have served. But when asked if he has any regrets from his years of service in World War Two, Anderson quickly responds, “I haven’t regretted it but I wouldn’t want to do it over again.”
As for his secret to longevity, Anderson says bluntly he doesn’t have any secrets. Instead, displays two crossed fingers and adds he has a Manhattan at the day’s end.
Then, without hesitation, points to the heavens and added, “the man up there, he’s in charge, That’s all I can say.”