WWII vets offer treasure trove of stories

Nestled on the border of Escondido and San Marcos, California sits a residential mobile home park, Madrid Manor, where two hidden treasures thrive. Two surviving World War II veterans are alive, living independent lives, and still giving back to their community. Harry Anderson, 100, and Bruce Radder, 90, rebuilt lives, married wives, and entertained their own troops. It is refreshing for this reporter to review their legacies with them.

Anderson recently discovered what he believed to be original photos of Eisenhower and MacArthur, in his bedroom closet, while preparing for his 100th birthday party last year.

Radder suggested that he has been entertaining the troops at his mobile home park for more than 30 years, performing his version of “The Follies.” These shows are new each year and each year, these shows are well received.

Both men cross paths on occasion at their residential park. Both men lead humble, quiet lives that often don’t reveal how meaningful and joyful their contributions are. Given their gift of longevity, these World War II survivors have given back to their communities over and over again.

After celebrating his 100th birthday last December (see the Sept. 15, 2015 issue of MilitaryPress), Anderson decided to clean out his closet, literally and figuratively. He had so many war souvenirs to be considered for donation. But, when this man, who had landed in Japan two days after the Universal Surrender in 1945, at age 30, discovered old photographs, a whole new chapter of his life started.

Though no official agency was willing to step in and authenticate the negatives, once these were developed, Anderson insisted that he had captured the two famous generals, General Douglas MacArthur and General Dwight Eisenhower, not on the battlefields, but walking together, side by side, leaving a meeting, descending down a staircase.

Who or what or where should Anderson turn to with his find? He turned to this reporter for assistance.

That’s when other pieces of Anderson’s background surfaced. This reporter determined that direct gifts to the local community were just as important as war souvenirs. While the pursuit to determine the validity of the photographs still remains an open topic, what I wanted to learn more about was about Harry’s Girls.

When he was age 84, an age where many of our friends silently slip into our memories, Harry Anderson had already adopted a high school in San Marcos that assisted unwed mothers to obtain a formal education. Anderson bought diapers, food, and toys to a population most likely forgotten or condemned, and he purchased these supplies out of his own meager retirement funds.

Years later, his protégés still remember Grandpa Harry as they go about their lives, raising their children, and earning college degrees.

Meanwhile, many residents of Anderson’s mobile home park keep up a knitting circle, which has donated bonnets, booties, and bottle covers for these babies. That is where Anderson met Radder and vice versa.

Harry Anderson is a quiet, loyal, dedicated, and self-deprecating fellow. Bruce Radder is the dynamic opposite. Radder is an entertainer at heart, always on stage and always in the public view. Wherever Radder hangs his hat, there will be an audience behind the lights.

Writing about their history, their past, present, and indeed, their future, is still an open project. At the suggestion of this reporter, Anderson contacted the San Diego Veterans Museum in Balboa Park, San Diego, California. Special oral history volunteers are willing to record the veteran’s history for longterm storage in the U.S. Library of Congress Archives and the San Diego Veterans Museum. At long last, Harry Anderson’s story was officially recorded a few months ago in the proper format for storage for posterity.

Inspired by this true act of volunteerism, this reporter rented a car and made her own personal visit to the Museum as well as conducted an insightful interview with one of Grandpa Harry’s Girls.

To learn more about the exciting opportunities at the local museum, please contact Sheldon Margolis, Phone: 619-239-2300, Fax: 619-239-7445 sheldon.margolis@veteranmuseum.org, www.veteranmuseum.org.



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About the Author


Heather Siegel

Heather Siegel is a well-known disability rights advocate. Each story brings Siegel’s unique insights into the complex lives of disabled veterans struggling to survive in the peacetime world. If you know someone who would be a good candidate for a profile, please contact Heather Siegel — The Siegel Sidebar at siegelsidebar@militarypress.com or (760) 432-8383.