Walter Anderson

Staff Sergeant Walter Anderson of Murdo, South Dakota

World War II Hero

In Memory of
U.S. Army Staff Sergeant
Walter Julian Anderson
Murdo, South Dakota
Jones County
October 19, 1917 – February 4, 1944
Killed in Action at Kwajalein, Marshall Islands

Walter Julian Anderson

Walter Julian Anderson was born October 19, 1917 to Peter A. and Ida Anderson at their farm seven miles north of Draper, South Dakota. He was the youngest of seven children. Walter attended eight years of country school and graduated from Murdo High School in 1936. While Walter was in school, “he was active in all school activities, was a good student, athlete, and singer.” Before he entered the service, Walter “was actively engaged in farming.”

Walter enlisted in the army on March 21, 1941, at Ft. Snelling, Minnesota; he did his basic training at Camp Roberts in California and from there went to Camp San Luis Obispo, California. At the time war was declared, Sgt. Anderson “performed guard duty at San Diego and Los Angeles, on the Mexican border, and at Shasta Dam.” In the fall of 1942, Sgt. Anderson was sent to Fort Ord, California, and had a brief furlough at home in May of 1943.  Then in July, as member of the 184th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, Sgt. Anderson commenced service outside of the continental United States when he took part in the Alaskan Aleutian Campaign at Kiska.

Following his active duty in the Aleutians, Sgt. Anderson and the rest of the 184th
Infantry were sent to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, “to train in jungle warfare techniques.” While there, Walter took the Army Ranger course.  In late January of 1944, the 184th was shipped to Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands to take part in the amphibious assault landings.  The Invasion began on February 1, 1944, and Staff Sergeant Walter Anderson, platoon leader in Company G, was killed on the morning of February 4, 1944, when the “Japanese launched a counter attack against the 184th and Walter died as a result of Japanese rifle fire.” Before his death, S/Sgt.  Anderson had become platoon commander because of the heavy casualties of key officers during the assault.  As a result of his leadership, he was recommended for the Bronze Star Medal. In addition to his Purple Heart, which was awarded posthumously in 1944, S/Sgt. Anderson’s family received the Bronze Star in July of 1999 after a 55-year delay.

Walter Anderson was initially buried on the island of Kwajalein, but his remains were later moved to Plot C, Row 1, Grave 042, at the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Honolulu, Hawaii.

Walter Julian Anderson

This entry was respectfully submitted by Tyler Bruckner, 11th grader at Stevens High School, Rapid City, South Dakota, May 1, 2002.  Information for this entry was provided by James E. Anderson, Eureka, South Dakota, an application for a SD veteran’s bonus payment, the Daily Republic, 3/1/44 issue, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

Visited Uncle Walter's grave at the beautiful Punchbowl Cemetery in Hawaii last week.  I saluted him and said a prayer. Next to Walter's Grave is the grave of an Unknown Soldier.

The memorial structure has murals of the battles.  This is the island where Walter died.

The cemetery is beautiful.  

Paul and Andy and Anderson, California

Paul Gakle is the tall man in center with Andy to the far right, Hawaii 1943

In these last few days after our contact I went back to the story I had written about “Andy” (Walter Anderson) and read through it. I had to laugh at a particular interview I had done with Paul Gakle about him and Andy. Paul Gakle was one of the original Company G men from Chico, California, that was inducted into full-time Federal Service, with the mobilization of the 184th on March 3rd of 1941.

This particular story picked up around the summer of 1942 when the Company was patrolling the bridges and tunnels through the Mt. Shasta, California area from sabotage, along the vital North-South Railway system that ran through the towns of Dunsmuir to Redding. At one point some of the men were entitled to go to the Shasta County Fair that was held in the small town of Anderson, California, just south of Redding.

Paul, who was also one of the biggest comedians of the Company went to the Fair taking Andy with him. Through the day and conversing with many people, and a few beers, the two soldiers had convinced the City Council that Andy was one of the originals related to the Elias Anderson family, of whom the town was named after, little did they know he was just a farm boy from Murdo, South Dakota. Anyway, by the time the two soldiers were getting ready to leave, and with a few more beers, the Council wanted to give Andy the Key to the City.

From left to right Owen C. “Pop” Jones, Paul Gakle, and Walter Anderson
Photos and story provided by Scott Brooke

Thanks for the great story, Scott. Scott is writing a book about the unit.

Video of Awards Ceremony

Walt Anderson's Nephew Jim Anderson and Congressman John Thune Awarding Medals

APO 7, c /O Postmaster
San Francisco, California
20 February 1944

Mr. & Mrs. Peter. Anderson
Murdo, South Dakota

Dear Mr. & Mrs. P. Anderson:

Words are inadequate in trying to express the feelings of the officers and men of this organization over the death of your son, Walter Anderson. Early in this training phase Walter was singled out as an outstanding noncommissioned officer, and was assigned the duties of Platoon Sgt. over numerous senior Sgts. Such an assignment meant that Walter was second in command of thirty-eight men. While serving in such a capacity the men in his platoon soon realized and appreciated his fine qualities, namely, fairness, coolness, and a great deal of common sense.

During the operation S/Sgt. Anderson became platoon commander, again in which capacity he skillfully led his men. For above action I have recommended that S/Sgt. Anderson be awarded the Bronze Star. Walter was struck by rifle fire and died shortly afterward. Please feel free to call upon me for additional information you may desire. Military restrictions are such that any information you may desire concerning grave locations, dispostions of remains, effects, and other related matters will be furnished by the Quartermaster General.

You have the deepest sympathy of the men and officers of this organization in your bereavement.

Yours most sincerely

Capt. Infantry


Murdo, S. D
December 20, 1991

Dear Craig:

Walt graduated from Murdo High School in 1936, during the worst of the big depression. It was next to impossible to get a job but he worked for Edna and Helmer Liffengren most of the time until 1940.

He was one of the first volunteers for service and left from Murdo in January 1941. Basic Training in Camp Roberts in California, later in Fort Ord, CA. His outfits stormed ashore on an island in the Aleutions, Alaska sometime before 1943, but the Japanese had all left so they went on to Hawaii.

Walt was a very good all around athlete so he was picked to take Ranger training while there. A very tough course, so they say. The Navy had shelled the small island of Kwajelein, about a mile wide and two deep for days until not a tree was standing but when the infantry went in there were still enemy in underground bunkers who came out and shot 3 or 4 hundred of our men. Walt was one of them, on February 4, 1944. His body was buried nearby until the war was over. With the parents request, he is buried in the National Cemetery in Hawaii, the very beautiful Punch Bowl. We were there in 1974.

Paul Anderson (Brother of Walter Anderson, uncle to Louise Liffengren Hullinger)