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I recently read the popular book, Unbroken, and I was again amazed by what Tom Brokaw rightly called my grandparents’ generation: the Greatest Generation.  They had to go through challenges like the Great Depression and World War II and rebuild our nation.  The values they had as a whole and their work ethic and courage is something that we should never let die and I hope to share the positives aspects of the legacy of the people in that generation with my children.

As I reflected on the Greatest Generation, I thought I would reach out to a World War II Veteran I know, love, admire, and respect greatly–my Grandpa Anderson.

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Nephi Anderson in World War II.

My grandfather, Nephi Jay Anderson, was a very young man and at the age of 18 was called to serve in World War II.  He describes his experience with being called to the War in his own words:

Knowing that I would soon be drafted into the service, I received a health and comfort blessing on the 10th of January, 1944 by Patriarch Charles Woodbury…This blessing was a big comfort and guide to me, especially through the discouraging times and temptations through my army experiences.  I am thankful for the admonishing that it gave with a promise that if I kept myself clean and pure and lived the Word of Wisdom, I would go to the service and return in safety and that I would fulfill my mission upon the earth. (Nephi Anderson Life History, pg 29-30)

He was sent to basic training for a few months of training and was in the company that was assigned to be sent over seas and replace those in the heat of battle.  While he was in basic training, he wondered how his blessing was going to be fulfilled that he would return safely because he was projected to be in the heat of battle.  He described how back in those days during boot camp they would use live fire in training as they crawled through the mud with real machine gun bullets flying over their heads.  He witnessed comrades who panicked and looked up and were killed on the spot.  It was a very stressful time for him not only for the rigors of preparing for battle and wondering if he was going to live, but trying to keep his LDS, or Mormon standards while many of the soldiers tried to trick him into drinking and in his words “chasing wild women”.

Right at the end of his boot camp, he received orders that he and a handful of others had been selected to stay for additional training and he was going become a radio operator.  This was a 9 week course that kept him back from being sent over to the front lines of war.  This proved to be what helped fulfill the prophecy given in the blessing that he would be safe during the war.  More than 1/2 of his comrades who were in his original company were killed in battle.

In fact, his cousin, Phil Finlinson, was killed during the Battle for Iwo Jima.  A description of Phil, written by his brother, Paul, to honor his memory is included below:

Phil Finlinson

Phil Finlinson

In the Fall of 1943, Phil was looking forward to his final year at Delta High School.  After playing quarterback on their undefeated football team as a Junior, he was anticipating another great year of football, basketball, track and other school activities.  He was also serving as the school’s Studentbody Vice-President…

But at this time, Uncle Sam had a different idea.  World War II was raging heavily…On October 4th, 1943, the US Government requested Phil to report for his pre-induction physical at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City, Utah…

On October 19, 1943, he left for the Marines and reported to Camp Pendleton, California for intensive combat training.  He was in excellent physical condition and handled the rigorous training in stride.  He became an expert rifleman and gifted and dependable Marine.

The description goes on to discuss how Phil was part of the group that aided in the invasion of Saipan and Tinian in the Marshall Islands and how up to that point it was the costliest battle of the Japanese war, but they emerged victorious.  He and his group went back to Hawaii for additional training and conditioning for a mission that turned out to be the invasion of Iwo Jima.

iwo jima flag

Famous photo of Flag Raising on Iwo Jima 

The description continues:

The invasion of Iwo Jima began on the morning of February 19, 1945. Phil’s company was part of the 2nd wave to hit the beaches.  He was killed within two hours of wading ashore.  The fighting was fierce and the casualties extremely heavy.  The Japanese were well trained, fortified, and well supplied.  Of the 250 men in Phil’s company, all were killed but seven.  All seven were badly wounded.

Even after all the years that have gone by since that day, I could sense the loss my grandfather felt with his friend and cousin who had sacrificed everything on that day.  Additionally, my Grandpa was deeply humbled that the Lord had protected him (my Grandfather) throughout the war.

He discussed how lonely he felt during the war being so far away from home, being in a foreign land, and being surrounded by temptations to do things against his belief system.  He describes his feelings in his own words:

I never realized at the time that the Lord was blessing me all the time and answering my prayers in a way that was preparing me to rely on the power of prayer and put my complete trust in the Lord. I will forever be thankful to my parents who taught me right…

I will always remember the day my parents took me to the train and bid me goodbye.  Never before had I felt of my parents love for their son like I did that day and the love that I felt for them.  Their love and concern touched the inner most part of my soul as we embraced.  Their last words were: “We love you son. We have faith in you. Trust in the Lord, keep yourself clean and pure, and always remember we would rather you come home clean and pure in a box, than unclean and alive.  Our prayers are for and with you always.  Always pray to the Lord and read the scriptures often and also your patriarchal blessing.  Always remember the great promises.”

Those words sank deep into my heart from that time on my Savior became my very best friend.  I learned to rely in him constantly and constantly prayed to him…

I will be forever grateful for my Grandpa Anderson’s service in the war and as I reflect on Phil Finlinson, a distant cousin of mine, who was killed in battle, I am humbled as well.  These men sacrificed so much to help shape many of the good things about our nation and allow us to enjoy the freedoms and privileges we do today.

I’m also extremely grateful for my Grandpa’s courage to stand up for righteousness at such a young age and develop a close bond with the Lord.  It has blessed my family and many others as well over the years, I’m sure.

My grandfather is nearly 90 years old and is among the youngest people who served in World War II.  I’m sad to see that generation passing on, but I hope to do a small part and preserve their legacy by sharing this story.

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