William S. Anderson

1922 - 1996


Their Story

William S. Anderson was a heroic member of the Moline, Illinois community. William was born on August 22 of 1922. He grew up in Moline with parents, Oscar and Mildred Anderson, along with his brother Keith. Although not much could be found about this group, it seems they spent much of their time raising money for the war effort. Prior to enlisting for the draft, William worked at Minneapolis Moline Power and Implement Company[1]. He also hosted meetings of the Phi Mu Kappa fraternity at his parents’ home in Moline[2]. In September of 1942, as World War II started to pick up, William was assigned a position in the Army Air Corps[3]. He became both a “gunner and radioman on a Flying Fortress”[4]. Flying Fortresses were extremely powerful planes for the time period; each was equipped with four different engines and “a very effective weapons system, dropping more bombs during the war than any other American aircraft”[5]. However, at some point during his service he was captured by Nazi troops and imprisoned in one of their many camps, Stalag Luft 4. He frequently wrote home but after being captured this all came to a halt and his family wondered what had happened to him and if he would be coming home. For two years William was held prisoner at Stalag Luft 4 where conditions were atrocious[6]. This camp held hundreds of  Prisoners of War in barracks without beds, meager amounts of food, and little to no water[7]. However, this tragedy did not deter the strength and perseverance of William Anderson.

On April 28, 1945 news got back to the Moline area that Anderson would soon be released from Stalag Luft 4 and return home to his family; he had been freed from the clutches of the Nazi troops. Upon his arrival home, he spent time in the Moline area and “designed and built the cages in use at Niabi Zoo, Coal Valley”[8]. His memory continues to live on not only through  his work on the Zoo, but through the stories told by his children; a daughter, three sons, and ten grandchildren[9]. His brave efforts will forever be graciously remembered. If not for the efforts of brave men like William Anderson, our nation would not grant its citizens the opportunities and freedoms it does today.


[1]Page 2 WWII Draft Registration.Fold3. 2012.

[2]Personal and Social Notes: Rock Island.The Rock Island Argus. May 18, 1942.

[3]Anderson, William S.” Fold3. July 1, 2020.

[4]Moline Gunner Given Freedom.The Rock Island Argus. April 28, 1945.

[5] Apple, Carolyn. “World War II: America’s Heavy Hitter – The B17 Flying Fortress.Delaware Historical & Cultural Affairs. March 26, 2022.

[6]Moline Gunner Given Freedom.The Rock Island Argus. April 28, 1945.

[7] Frisbee, John, L. “Valor: Lest We Forget.Air Force Magazine. September 1, 1997.

[8]William Anderson.The Dispatch. October 8, 1996.

[9]William Anderson.The Dispatch. October 8, 1996.