Testimonies from the Midwest

 

Captain Cecil Dale Sanderson, Co. L, 377th Infantry, 95th Infantry Division

Captain Cecil Dale Sanderson          Division patch        Photo of Cecil Dale Sanderson

 

Cecil Dale Sanderson was born on July 7, 1914, on a farm near Aurora, South Dakota, in Brookings County.  Raised in the Lutheran faith, Cecil was with the federal extension service before entering the service in March of 1942. The following is his story, told in his own words.

Service Record: I took two years of basic military training during my first two years at South Dakota State University. This was required of all able bodied males at that time. Primarily for reasons of pay and clothes--this was during the "dirty thirties"--I took two years of advanced military training which gave me the military rank of 2nd Lieutenant should I be called into military service. I graduated from SDSU in 1937 with a BS degree in Animal Science.

I was called into military service in March 1942. I was assigned to the newly formed 95th Infantry Division located at Camp Swift near Austin, Texas. Since there was a span of time between college graduation (1937) and the time we were called into the service (1942) we were first required to take a three-month refresher course at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

Our division spent three years stateside before going overseas. We arrived in France in June of 1944 shortly after D-Day. The 95th Division of which our infantry unit was part started at St. Lo, France. In our trek to Berlin we were part of Gen. George Patton's Third Army. They battled fiercely along the Moselle River amid heavy casualties on both sides. Sanderson's company faced their final battle east of the Rhine River on April 3, 1945. During the surrender of German soldiers, Capt. Sanderson procured a rare and valuable souvenir: a specially marked P-38 pistol which he took from a German officer and carried with him for the remainder of the war. Cecil recently donated the weapon to the Brookings County Historical Society Museum in Volga, South Dakota. 

Camp Encounter: Yes, we liberated a forced labor unit of about 2,000 men They were very thin and undernourished. Of course, our first job was to supply them with food and clothing. We also liberated a large group of Russian prisoners, mostly men but a few ladies. There again we responded to their food and health needs. One of our main problems was to keep the liberated units from scattering among civilians. Getting them settled down and their major needs satisfied was no easy task. Few of them escaped to "get even" with local civilians who were partly responsible for keeping them confined.

Awards: Bronze Star

 

After the War: At the time that I was inducted into the service, I was a county extension agent in Hamlin County, South Dakota. After returning from the ETO (European Theater of Operations),  I was given a month's leave but instructed to return to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, to prepare for the invasion of Japan. As we were preparing to board ship for Japan, the first atomic bomb fell on Japan. We were instructed to hold up our boarding. Nothing happened for a day or two so we were again ordered to board ship. The second atomic bomb fell after which Japan surrendered. The war was over. I was discharged from Camp Shelby in August of 1945. Then I became an extension agent in Roberts County for 15 years. I was then assigned to the State Extension Office as a district extension supervisor. After serving in this position for 12 years, I resigned. During my career, I returned to SDSU and secured a MS in economics. 

 

Advice from a WW II Veteran to Today's Youth:

Hitler could have been stopped with a company of men at the very start. The US home cry, "Let's don't get involved," was our biggest mistake. We had ample information that Germany was preparing for war. For example,  What were they building all of those military tanks for?

Prisoners at forced labor building the Dove-Elbe canal

Prisoners at forced labor building the Dove-Elbe canal; photo courtesy of USHMM

Female prisoners at forced labor digging trenches at the Ravensbrueck

Female prisoners at forced labor digging trenches at the Ravensbrueck
concentration camp; photo courtesy of USHMM

Prisoners in Buchenwald at forced labor

Prisoners in Buchenwald at forced labor; photo courtesy of USHMM 

Inmates at forced labor in the brickworks at the Klinker-Grossziegelwerke

Inmates at forced labor in the brickworks at the Klinker-Grossziegelwerke
Sachsenhausen, opposite the main camp; photo courtesy of USHMM

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