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War stories wanted; local, national efforts run on parallel track

Local veteran Ray Anderson submitted his story to the local Legion organization, and his essay has been posted to the national site.

A small news tip to the Journal led to a discovery: The American Legion wants veterans' war stories.

Legion Commander Ed Miller and member Larry Waters confirm that about a year ago, they started asking members to submit information about themselves and their service history.

Miller said one day after a funeral, it bothered him that the Legion has few details about some members, making it more difficult to honor their memory and service. Legion leadership agreed it would be great to have some of that information in a file.

Waters said at first submissions came slowly and not often. He thinks new membership efforts must have prompted more responses because recently he has received more than 100 submissions from local Legion members.

When he asked for the written histories to keep, he assured the members their information would only be used for the local post's purposes.

As it turns out, about two years ago the national organization began inviting any and all veterans to submit their stories online -- via the American Legion's national website -- under the program called In Your Own Words.

Legion webmaster Chris Bayliss said the organization began about two years ago asking veterans to submit their war stories. He said the stories are posted to the Legion site and will "live" there indefinitely.

Veterans of any age, era or military branch may submit their stories via the Legion's national website, where it will be posted after receipt. Veterans are encouraged to submit their stories online at the In Your Own Words portion of the website (link near the end of this story).

The local and national Legion representatives think the efforts parallel each other -- what veterans wrote for the local Legion could be submitted to the national site and vice versa.

Waters said he would be making members aware that they could send in their stories. The submissions he has received so far vary from a few lines about the veteran's military branch and years of deployment to many pages about their time spent at war.

Local man Ray Anderson summarized and submitted his war-experience story for the local Legion, "Ray Anderson's Eyewitness Account to WWII,:" then authorized it to be submitted to the national Legion for its website.

Click here to go to the Legion's national site:

Anderson's full essay is also attached as a .pdf document.

Excerpts from "Ray Anderson's Eyewitness Account to WWII":

Many people recognize 90-year-old Ray Anderson from his former job as a UW-River Falls professor of political science, his letters to the editor, time on the Pierce County board, membership in the local American Legion or passionate environmental stewardship.

He responded to the local American Legion Post's request for information by telling the story of his wartime experiences that included five invasions in the South Pacific.

Anderson enlisted in the U.S. Navy during 1943, his senior year in college. His writing expresses disdain for the racial segregation practices used then in both the military service and in Texas, near one of his training bases.

Anderson said his ship joined a task force of 700 others that sailed from Pearl Harbor for 38 days, bound to invade the island of Yap. His story says the ship stopped to resupply then headed out in a different direction than Yap, without any of the crew knowing why.

"All over the ship," his story says, "the scuttlebutt was that our objective had been changed and that we would invade the Philippine Islands instead."

Their suspicions proved correct as they geared up to capture the island of Leyte. As he and other crew members worked in four-hour rotating ships, he said the only war news they could get was from the deceptive and demoralizing radio announcer Tokyo Rose, who spoke only of blistering Japanese victories.

A typhoon two days before Anderson's ship arrived had helped Rangers seize the land areas surrounding the Pacific Gulf entry. He describes seeing nearly constant bombardment and hearing "terrific" noise....