William John Anderson II
PFC in Signal Co, Special : Inst & Maint; Telephone & Wire
Military occupational specialty: 650 (telephone switchboard operator)
Born 1924 in OH, Died 2022
County of residence at enlistment: Portage County, OH
Other residence(s): New Milford, OH; Emporium, PA (1950s, Martin spreadsheet); Kent, OH in 2019; also MA and CA
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
College education after the war: yes; school unknown
Bill Anderson was born on December 2, 1924 in Randolph, OH. He graduated from Rootstown HS, and was a drummer in several bands locally during those years. He registered for the draft on December 28, 1942; at the time, he said that he was living in New Milford (part of Rootstown Township) with his family and working for Pyramid Rubber Company. He enlisted on February 18, 1943.
He served overseas during the war, performing telecommunications work as part of the Ghost Army Signal Company Special. During the Battle of the Bulge, he found himself behind enemy lines, providing a crucial link in the telephone connection to surrounded forces in Bastogne. According to his son, Bill was a go-between in France and Luxembourg between civilians and the OSS. After his discharge in 1945, he went to college to earn a degree in electrical engineering, and married Zelma Oleta Ashton in 1946. He graduated in 1948 with a degree in electrical engineering.
After leaving the Ghost Army, Bill began collecting documents relating to the unit's history and organizing them into a book, though he never published it. The documents in Anderson’s Ghost Army binder include maps, movements of the soldiers, operations details, letters, photos, lists of casualties, rosters of various companies, acclamations, drawings, caricatures, and more. This material is now part of the Ghost Army collection at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, LA.
But, like the rest of the Ghost Army soldiers, Bill could not talk about his wartime experience for many years. A 2013 article in the Kent, OH Record-Courier describes what Bill would tell people. “It was classified, we couldn’t talk about it. People would ask, ‘What did you do?’ and I’d say, ‘Well, I’m with special troops.' They’d say, ‘Oh, you played in a band.’ ‘Yeah, I played in a band.’ I didn’t have to go through a lot of explanation. It didn’t bother me.”
Bill continued to serve in the military, attending the National War College in Washington DC, and serving in the National Defense Executive Reserve for about 30 years. He also worked as a consultant for a variety of companies, spending much of his time designing secret (though real!) pieces of military hardware—including Navy airships, parts of the hydrogen bomb, gear for missiles, and missile-warning radar systems.
Bill and Oleta and their son, William J. Anderson III, lived in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and California during those years.
In retirement, the couple settled in Kent, OH where they were both active in civic affairs. Bill served on the Kent Planning Board, while Oleta served on the Zoning Appeals Board and the Board of Trustees of the Portage Area Rapid Transit Authority.
Oleta died early in 2020 and Bill died on February 12, 2022. Their ashes are interred at Standing Rock Cemetery in Kent, OH.
1924 Ohio birth index
1942 draft card
1943 enlistment record
1994 US public record index
2009 article on cleveland.com website
2013 article in Kent, OH Record-Courier
2020 wife's obituary in Kent, OH Record-Courier
2022 obituary in Kent, OH Record-Courier