Navy sailor who died at Normandy laid to rest in Willmar

Published 8:18 am Monday, May 30, 2016

WILLMAR — A Navy sailor who died more than half a century ago on the beaches of Normandy during World War II has been laid to rest in Willmar.

Navy Machinist Mate 1st Class John Anderson died on D-Day in the engine room of a landing craft tank that was destroyed by enemy fire. Anderson’s family was told at the time his remains had washed out to sea.

But family members had always thought otherwise, and many years ago they enlisted the help of Willmar resident Jon Lindstrand.

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Lindstrand spent four years tracking down the whereabouts of Anderson’s remains, and in 2009 the family learned that Anderson may have been laid to rest in a grave in a Normandy American Military Cemetery. DNA testing was needed to prove the person buried at Normandy was Anderson, but Lindstrand said he and the family were turned down twice when they requested the test.

“There were a couple of times when you just wanted to give up,” Lindstrand told WCCO television. “It just seemed like there was no way to get past the bureaucracy.”

The family sought additional help from Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Klobuchar said the Navy had first said it couldn’t do tests on the body, so her office got involved and persuaded the Navy to perform the tests for the family, “and guess what, they were right,” Klobuchar told KARE television.

DNA tests confirmed the person buried was Anderson, and he was brought back to Minnesota for a proper military farewell.