BY DUANE A. VACHON, PHD. Born in Tacoma Washington, Richard Beatty Anderson grew up in the area between Port Angeles and Sequim. He attended Macleay School and graduated from Sequim High School. Oscar his father worked at what was then the Barron Shingle Co. on Marine Drive in Port Angeles.
Anderson was living in Port Angeles when he enlisted in the Marines on July 6th 1942. Anderson received his recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California. Private Anderson then joined the Marine Barracks, Naval Receiving Station in San Diego in October 1942. Promoted to private first class on April 12, 1943, he was ordered to the Infantry Battalion, Training Center, Camp Elliott, San Diego, shortly afterwards. He eventually ended up a mortar man in the Marshall Islands in the North Pacific.
As fate would have it Anderson was to lose his life on the same day he arrived for combat. He became one of the 464 Americans who received this nation’s highest honor in World War II.
Anderson was preparing to throw a grenade at an enemy position when it slipped from his hands and rolled toward the men at the bottom of a shell hole that Anderson and three other Maries were taking cover in,” says Anderson’s medal citation, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Anderson “hurled his body on the grenade,” the citation adds.
Of the three Marines in the shell hole whom Anderson protected, Harry Pearce is the only one alive today. “He gave me a chance to live.” In a recent telephone interview, Pearce again recalled Anderson’s bravery.
“I think he did it instinctively and gave it no thought,” Pearce said.
“He did what he wanted to do, what he thought he had to do to protect others.”
Pearce said he often wonders what Anderson’s life would have been like had he survived the war.
“He was a good looking guy,” Pearce said. “I imagine he would have married and had a family, but these things you never know.”
How unusual is it that a person on the first day of combat exhibit Medal-of-Honor bravery, dying in the process?
“There is no way of saying how common it is,” said Victoria Kueck, director of operations for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, a nonprofit group with a three-person staff that tracks the stories of Medal recipients.
What’s clear is that Anderson’s actions were truly heroic:
He tucked a live grenade into his midsection just before it exploded.
He died the next day and was buried in Tacoma, where his parents moved after he enlisted.
He was among 12 Medal of Honor recipients in the 4th Marine Division.
A destroyer named after Anderson and launched in 1945 had among its first crew members Machinist’s Mate Robert L. Anderson, Richard’s brother.
Medal of Honor citation
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to
PRIVATE FIRST CLASS RICHARD B. ANDERSON
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
for service as set forth in the following CITATION:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the Fourth Marine Division during action against enemy Japanese forces on Roi Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, February 1, 1944. Entering a shell crater occupied by three other Marines, Private First Class Anderson was preparing to throw a grenade at an enemy position when it slipped from his hands and rolled toward the men at the bottom of the hole. With insufficient time to retrieve the armed weapon and throw it, Private First Class Anderson fearlessly chose to sacrifice himself and save his companions by hurling his body upon the grenade and taking the full impact of the explosion. His personal valor and exceptional spirit of loyalty in the face of almost certain death were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
/S/ FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
PFC Richard Beatty Anderson is buried at Lot #5 Block C Section 1 #182 at the New Tacoma Cemetery, Tacoma, Washington.