80 Years After D-Day: Baker City WWII veteran reflects on service

BAKER CITY — Eighty years ago, on June 6, 1944, Allied forces launched the largest amphibious invasion in history, storming the beaches of Normandy, France. This pivotal event, known as D-Day, marked the beginning of the end for Nazi occupation in Western Europe. While the world commemorates this significant milestone, Kenneth Anderson, a 97-year-old World War II veteran from Baker City, reflects on his own service during the war, which took place in the Pacific Theater.

“I wasn’t part of that,” Anderson said of D-Day. “I was in the Pacific.” He served on a small cargo ship that transported supplies from Seattle to various locations, including Alaska and the Aleutian Islands.

Born in 1927 in Minnesota, Anderson joined the Navy in 1944 at the age of 17, after a stint working on ore boats in the Great Lakes. His early work as a fireman on these boats, shoveling coal and helping in the boiler room, prepared him for his naval service. “I was stronger than hell,” he recalled, despite his small stature.

During his training at Farragut Naval Training Station in Idaho, Anderson’s prior experience earned him a position in shipboard engineering, where he continued to excel. He was eventually assigned to a small cargo ship that had been repurposed from a British banana boat.

In the Aleutians, Anderson’s ship delivered supplies to air bases engaged in bombing Japanese positions. The war in Europe ended in May 1945 while Anderson was in Seattle, where he witnessed the city’s celebrations. “We were given liberty. It was a wild afternoon and night,” he remembered.

He says he was down in San Diego training with Marines preparing for the eventual invasion of Japan when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Japan surrendered soon after. 

“We learned after we dropped the bomb that we didn’t have to go, which was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Anderson said. 

After the war, Anderson pursued a degree in mining engineering, which led him to move to Baker City for mining operations. Reflecting on his service and the broader war effort, Anderson emphasized the importance of American manufacturing and unity.

“Our ability to manufacture war materials is what allowed us to win World War II,” he said. “Everybody was dedicated and everyone turned to it”.

Anderson also expressed concern about current global tensions and the future of warfare, stressing the importance of standing strong against potential threats. 

“War is going to be a different thing, there’ll be no more standing armies in future wars” he said, discussing modern electronic and missile warfare.

“What made us win World War Two was that there was no politics, we as a country all knew the mission and what was at stake,” Anderson said. “Now we have too much politics everywhere and too many politicians with bad ideas.”