Richard Beatty Anderson was born in Tacoma, Washington on June 26, 1921 and grew up in nearby Agnew, Washington. He graduated from high school in 1939 or 1940, and volunteered for the United States Marine Corps in July 6, 1942. After receiving his recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Anderson was stationed at the Marine Barracks in San Diego until being ordered to report for infantry training.
Anderson received a promotion to Private First Class on April 12, 1943 and became a member of the new 4th Marine Division then in formation. His assignment was with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment then in training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California. In January 1944, the 4th Marine Division deployed from California for their first combat action of World War II: the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign.
The 4th Marine Division arrived off the shores of Kwajalein Atoll in late January. The assault began on January 31, 1944, with the 23rd Marines assigned to land the following day on the Roi portion of the linked Roi-Namur islands in the north segment of the atoll.
On February 1, 1944, PFC Anderson had taken cover in a shell hole with three of his fellow Marines. As he prepared to hurl a grenade at the Japanese enemy, the weapon slipped from his grasp and fell amongst his comrades. Instantly realizing that the grenade would kill them all if he didn’t act, Anderson selflessly smothered the grenade with his own body, saved the lives of the other three, and ultimately joined the ranks of our Nation’s greatest heroes.
From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (A-F):
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Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 4th Marine Division during action against enemy Japanese forces on Roi Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, 1 February 1944. Entering a shell crater occupied by 3 other marines, Pfc. Anderson was preparing to throw a grenade at an enemy position when it slipped from his hands and rolled toward the men at the bottom of the hole. With insufficient time to retrieve the armed weapon and throw it, Pfc. Anderson fearlessly chose to sacrifice himself and save his companions by hurling his body upon the grenade and taking the full impact of the explosion. His personal valor and exceptional spirit of loyalty in the face of almost certain death were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
PFC Anderson survived the grenade’s blast long enough to be evacuated to a hospital ship where he succumbed to his wounds. His remains were repatriated to the United States and he was laid to rest in the New Tacoma Cemetery, University Place, Washington.
Meanwhile, on the neighboring island of Namur, First Lieutenant John V. Power led his Marines on a charge against a Japanese strongpoint. Half a world away in Italy later the same day, Army PFC Alton W. Knappenberger’s accuracy with his automatic rifle saved the day at Cisterna.
On October 26, 1945, the United States Navy accepted into commission the Gearing-class destroyer USS Richard B. Anderson (DD-786). The ship was sponsored by PFC Anderson’s mother and his brother Robert, a Navy Machinist’s Mate, became a “plank owner” as a member of her commissioning crew. The Anderson served our fleet until her decommissioning on December 20, 1975. The ship later served for over 20 years in the Taiwanese Navy from 1977 to 1999.
The 4th Marine Division is the present-day ground component of the Marine Forces Reserve. 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines is still a part of the division and is comprised of reservists located across the Southwestern United States.