Anoka County history: Soldier’s experience in World War II

The Anoka County Historical Society conducted an interview with World War II veteran Bruce Cameron on Sept. 25, 1991.

Cameron worked in the powder room at Federal Cartridge when he enlisted in the Army.

Shortly after the December 1941 bombing at Pearl Harbor, he was inducted into the military at Fort Snelling.

Staying there for only a short time, he did his basic training at Camp Polk Louisiana.  He was assigned to the Third Armored Division.

In the summer of 1942, they began nine months of training in the Mojave Desert in California.

“You get out in Death Valley, 130 degrees, you wore heavy leather gloves to keep from blistering your hands it was so hot…,” Cameron said.

“[W]hen the Japanese shelled the West Coast, we were the only combat division there, so we were kept there longer than the average.

“We trained recruits there for a while because [of that shelling].”

Cameron’s unit moved east, across the United States to Camp Miles Standish in Massachusetts.

From there they went to England. He participated in the Normandy invasion of 1944 and then went on to fight in the Battle of the Bulge.

He describes his experiences and how his education helped in the battle and took him out of the immediate line of fire.

“I don’t know if you’d call it a break or not, but myself and five or seven of us, we had more mathematics…. ,” he said.

“[S]o we were taken out of the tank, back in what they called the fire direction center, and we figured the angles and the locations….

“So we were taken off of the extreme front line, back to that until they broke whatever—like these blockades…then we were back into our tanks….

“I took a lot of math at Anoka High School and Dunwoody…. And it paid off.”

Later in the war, as the Allied forces pushed back the Axis forces, Cameron saw more amazing sights.

“We… finally ended up sitting outside Berlin, watching the Russians clean Berlin out,” he said.

“And the one thing I remember there is this man — German — come up on a motorcycle…

“He took the white flag and opened it, and … there was an officer…’cuz they wouldn’t surrender to anyone except an officer. [They were] very conscious of rank.

“And the darn driver turned around and says, ‘Well, they can surrender to you, Lieutenant.’

“Well, I was no more a lieutenant than the man in the moon. At that time, I was a sergeant…. and the next thing you know…. [he] surrendered 1,500 men to a five-man tank crew….

“He was educated. I found out afterward, he was educated in New York….

“He wanted to surrender his men to Americans.  He didn’t want them at the mercy of the Russians.”

The grateful German prisoners cooked Cameron and his crew a warm meal, the first one they had in a long time after living off of cold C-rations.

He said, “And the food was delicious.  The first time I’ve ever eaten horse meat.”

Cameron earned a Purple Heart and a Good Conduct medal for his service.

He says he was proud to serve, “to protect American women and children from having to go through what I saw in Europe, it was worth it.”

Editor’s note: Leslie Plummer is a volunteer with the Anoka County Historical Society.

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