Although he served in the Army Air Corp himself, the most often-told war story Robert Dean Anderson shares has nothing to do with his military service. He was, in fact, just a kid of 11 or 12-years of age, remembering back to the days in his hometown of LaPlata.

EDITORS’ NOTE: From Wednesday and through today, the Lake Sun is proud to feature the brave accounts and courageous histories of local veterans who’ve served our country with honor and distinction. We not only thank them for their service, but also for sharing these personal stories and photographs with us.

Although he served in the Army Air Corp himself, the most often-told war story Robert Dean Anderson shares has nothing to do with his military service. He was, in fact, just a kid of 11 or 12-years of age, remembering back to the days in his hometown of LaPlata.

“The young men who wore the uniforms in World War II sacrificed everything, even their lives,” her said. “No one matched that but those who were left behind, the mothers and fathers. They also sacrificed, and I never forgot that. In our little town of LaPlata, Missouri, population 1,292 during World War II, we had one taxi, run by Orie Smith. When the government sent the messages through the telegraph operator in the Wabash Railroad Station that informed parents of the death of their sons in the war—telegrams that began with: WE REGRET TO INFORM YOU… Orie took the message to them in a bright yellow envelope. I believe Orie delivered six such messages in our small town.”

Everyone in town knew Orie’s car, a black, 1940 Chevrolet sedan; and they knew why he drove to someone’s house: To deliver one of those envelopes. Anderson said he will never never forget the day that Orie’s black sedan pulled into their driveway.

“I was just a child, but I knew my mother was going through the worst time of her life. Which one of her three sons would she never see again? The agony drove her to the front door to Orie, and the yellow envelope he held in his hand,” Anderson recalled. “But when she opened it, she saw a smile on Orie’s face. The telegraph operator always alerted Orie to the message he would be delivering.”

It seems Orie was the bearer of good news. The telegram he handed Anderson’s mother was a message that the son who had flown 52 missions in the South Pacific in a B-25, bombing places they only knew from the Gabriel Heater radio news, was coming home on the train.

Military service ran in the Anderson family, so it came as no surprise that 3 of his older brothers served at the same time in WWII. His father and two uncles were in France during World War I, and one of them is still buried there. He had three brothers in WWII, and lost a cousin and two friends of the family in the war. Anderson said you can’t forget those who sacrificed so much.

Anderson grew up with lots of big ideas of what he would someday become. While being an aircraft mechanic in the Army Air Corp may not have been one of those dreams, when the time came he felt he was going to be drafted, he decided to enlist. He soon found himself serving in France, working on aircraft engines and helping build an air station that would eventually be turned over to the French government. He said it was interesting and rewarding work, especially working with the French civilians.

It was an adventure for a young man who had once wanted to be a cowboy but gave up on that idea when he learned it had something to do with cows. He changed his mind and decided baseball was the way to go. As Anderson tells the story, his baseball dreams were inspired by his dad, who was a Sunday afternoon town team baseball catcher. He tried out for the St. Louis Cardinals, but didn't make the cut

It was then that he decided he wanted to be a writer. He had a fascination with storytelling and putting words on paper. It was during college studying journalism that he would find his plans taking a detour when reenlisting for duty during the Korean Conflict. He spent three years in the European Theater before being discharged as a Staff Sergeant and returning home where he would pursue a degree in engineering.

After spending his military service working on jet engines, he realized he had an aptitude for engineering. He would eventually spend 15 years as a spacecraft and aeronautical engineer, working on several early spacecrafts projects, such as the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo.

“I often say no rules existed then so we wrote the rules. Then we had to follow our own rules and that turned out to be less adventurous,” said Anderson “That's when I switched over to newspapers, becoming a reporter, editor and publisher.“

Despite the detour into engineering, Anderson never really gave up on his love of writing. In fact, while he was attending engineering school, he worked for what is now the Kansas City Star. Eventually, he and his wife would own their own newspaper.

Today, Anderson is an author with a number of books to his credit.