George Norman Anderson Jr., a retired civil engineer who was a decorated Army veteran and former prisoner of war, died of congestive heart failure Monday at the Veterans Affairs Rehabilitation and Extended Care Center in Baltimore. The Towson resident was 89.
Born in Baltimore and raised on Allendale Road, he was a 1937 graduate of Polytechnic Institute, where he played lacrosse. His family owned and operated boys and girls summer camps in Vermont, where he learned horsemanship, became the riding instructor and gained an interest in polo.
He attended Norwich University, a military school in Northfield, Vt., and was a member of its ski and polo teams. He completed two years of college before enlisting in the Army in April 1942.
After basic training, he shipped out to England as part of a combat engineering group that built roads and bridges and performed other civil works to meet the infrastructure needs of the advancing American troops. Mr. Anderson was commissioned as a second lieutenant in August 1943.
On June 8, 1944, he landed during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. He served in an engineering combat battalion and led a platoon of combat engineers who worked quickly to repair the Isigny causeway and a Vire River bridge. His unit fought continuously from Normandy to St. Lo, where a large battle destroyed the town. He disarmed enemy booby traps and land mines, built bridges and installed tank traps, family members said. He went through Paris and continued on to the Battle of the Bulge.
Mr. Anderson saw many of his troops and comrades killed and wounded by land mines and in firefights. He was promoted to first lieutenant and became a combat engineer unit commander. While caring for wounded troops in a defensive position during the Battle of the Bulge, Mr. Anderson was captured by the German army on Dec. 16, 1944.
Family members said that until he was prodded by his grandsons to make an oral history, Mr. Anderson was largely silent about his experiences during the war.
They said that in recent years, as his health declined and he suffered complications associated with his war wounds, Mr. Anderson prepared a narrative of his service years, consulting reports he filed while in the Army.
After his capture, and after a five-day forced march in the cold and snow, he was interned in Oflag 13-B in Hammelburg in Bavaria. He said he was placed in a hut with no heat and given a single blanket. According to Mr. Anderson, "The prisoners were given only water, no food." After several weeks, and with the approach of the Allied troops, the prisoners were forced out of the prison and marched to an area near Nuremberg.
In early April, he was severely wounded when the prisoners came under fire from a U.S. plane. He was taken to a German hospital, where he recalled a German doctor saying, "Give that kid pajamas." His treatment was minimal, and his wounds became infected. At the time of his liberation by the Army, he had lost more than 60 pounds. In urgent need of surgery, he was transferred via plane to a hospital in Paris, where a physician removed shrapnel. He also suffered a lung collapse and was hospitalized for several months.
Among other decorations, Mr. Anderson received a Purple Heart.
"He was not a complainer and remained calm in all situations," said his son, John Wilson Anderson of Arlington, Va. "Rarely, if ever, did I see my father angry."
Mr. Anderson later completed his civil engineering degree at Norwich University and in 1947 joined the staff of Baltimore Contractors, then located on Central Avenue. He remained with the firm and became its vice president of sales and estimating before he retired in 1982.
"He was particularly proud of the construction of the combined campus of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and Western High School," said his son. "He was a Poly graduate, and his father had taught there for many years."
Mr. Anderson also worked on the Golden Sands condominium in Ocean City, Children's Hospital in Philadelphia, the Howard University library and Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, and dormitories at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Services were held Thursday at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer.
In addition to his son, survivors include his wife of nearly 60 years, the former Irene A. Desjardins; a daughter, Deborah Anderson Carroll of Leonardtown; a sister, Jane Creager of Towson; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.