In the course of World War II, as service stars were hung in the windows of many – no MOST – American homes, citizens were often reminded by public service announcements of the great truth that “they also serve who only wait”. Whether it be for the over-due airmail envelope from overseas, or worse yet, the dreaded War Department telegram, the waiting game was a painful and ever-present part of war on the “home front”.
For Mr. & Mrs. Joseph A. Anderson of Ogden, Utah, the long wait began with notification that the U.S. Navy PV-1 patrol bomber on which their son Joseph Hyalmar Anderson was a crew member was missing and presumed down on a flight from Naval Air Station Whidbey, Island, Washington State on December 26, 1943. Because of the flight’s mission to carry out anti-submarine patrols, it was assumed by the family that the twin-engine Lockheed Ventura, overrun by a violent storm had gone down at sea. It was not until June, 1944 that the Canadian Military discovered the actual crash site at the most remote tip of Vancouver Island in a locale known as Lawn Point. Still, details of the crash and its investigation remained cloaked in wartime mystery. The “final” word seemed to be the official letter from the Secretary of the Navy, confirming the presumed death of Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Joseph Hyalmar Anderson, dated more than a year later on January 15, 1945.
But there was in fact much more to the story, details of which revealed themselves to Vancouver Island residents, and which were later the subject matter of one or two local journalists who had no idea how to communicate with any family members in the U.S.. And so the waiting went on for extended family members – cousins, nephews and a growing posterity who never stopped wondering. It is correctly said that for every battlefield casualty, there is a circle of at least one hundred people whose lives are touched and unsettled by the absence of that loved one from their midst.
What Canadian investigators discovered on the ground was that the aircraft fuselage had survived the crash relatively intact and that one of the six crew members of Ventura # 28736 was sufficiently mobile to be able to first care for, and eventually bury – to the degree possible – his five deceased crew mates. With the benefit of Whidbey NAS records, it was determined that Hyalmar Anderson, the 19 year-old boy from Ogden who had been the tail gunner was the surviving crewman. There was evidence that he had made pathways to the rocky shoreline in an attempt to find food and water for the others before death from injuries claimed them, but all attempts to find what had happened to Anderson uncovered no answers to that final question. Members of Canadian and U.S. Forces blew up the aircraft and its bombs, ditched the still-secret Norden bombsight at sea and completed proper burial of the five American crewmen.
Fifty-eight years would pass before a letter written by an interested citizen and amateur researcher from Port Hardy, BC would find its way into the hands of another Joseph Hyalmar Anderson – this one a nephew of the long-lost WWII airman. At last the true story of the lost PV-1 and its crew would begin to unfold for family members who had never stopped wondering.
Finally, 65 years after receipt of that unwelcome Christmas telegram, on Sept. 16th, 2006, fifteen members of Hyalmar,s extended family stood on the desolate grassy slope at the tip of Vancouver Island where the luckless WWII bomber had come to rest, and where thoughtful members of the Canadian VFW had erected a marker. With a piece of the lost warplane for a souvenir, and an honor guard provided by uniformed members of the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, a quiet and reverent ceremony there on that distant promontory brought closure for a Utah family who bore witness to the truth that ”they also serve who only wait”; even after 65 years.
Members of Joseph Hyalmar Anderson’s present-day extended family surround the memorial at Lawn Point, B.C. marking the crash site on Vancouver Island. Lloyd Kartchner of Cedar City Utah, a nephew – 3rd from right in rear row – is the source of information for Al Cooper’s article.
Uniformed officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police represented our northern neighbor and wartime ally in family commemorative services held in September, 2006.
Photos Courtesy Lloyd Kartchner