Following up on our article about the Grant family collection (and their cows) earlier this year, we want to highlight two of the Grant cousins, Lewis and John, who both served during World War II. Both faced challenges during the war, but only one lived to return home.
Lewis G. Grant was born in Linwood Township in 1913 to Thomas and Minnie Grant and grew up on the family farm. He was 27 when he was drafted into the Army and reported for duty on April 7, 1942. After extensive training, Lewis and his unit were sent to England where they staged for transport to France. They landed at Omaha Beach three months after the D-Day landing.
From the moment of landing in France, Lewis’ division was under fire. It was moving quickly through the countryside, so fast that even the ammunition supply wasn’t able to keep up. It was late in August of 1944 when he and several others were sent to scout out the enemy positions and were captured by German soldiers. Lewis later recalled:
“One of my buddies got shot and one was calling for a medic. The medic came up there and they wanted help to get him back by this depression in the ground and I helped them. I handed my gun to another buddy and he laid it down and didn’t take it with him. I went back to get it and there were the German soldiers standing there with their guns cocked. It was a foolish thing on my part, but I’m still alive.”
After a night of interrogation, he was held in Stalag 7A, one of the larger POW camps in Germany, which held more than 8,000 prisoners. Lewis remained captive for nine months, and for the last five of those he worked on a farm near the camp.
After the war, the prisoners walked to the American lines, where they were fed all the chicken they could eat and all the chocolate they could drink. Lewis was discharged in November of 1945 and returned to Linwood. He married, raised a family, and worked for the power company in Elk River 27 years before he retired. He died in 1994.
Unfortunately, a family and career were not in the cards for Lewis’ cousin, John.
John O. Grant was born Oct. 6, 1921, also in Linwood Township, to Logan and Nellie Grant. He joined the Marine Corps Nov. 25, 1942, at the age of 22. He went overseas the following March and participated in several South Pacific campaigns. One photograph of him from the Grant family collection indicates he came home at least once on furlough, though we don’t know if this was before he went overseas or during his time in the South Pacific. Although he survived several of those terrible island battles, John was killed in action on Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands Feb. 24, 1945. Initially buried there, his remains were later returned to the United States at the request of his parents; he is buried at Fort Snelling.
The Grant cousins are just two of the Anoka County soldiers who have been highlighted in our exhibit “Getting It Done: Anoka County’s Answer to WWII.” This exhibit will be coming down in December, so if you haven’t had the chance to stop by the History Center and see it, plan a trip in the next couple of months.
Audra Hilse is the Anoka County Historical Society’s collections manager.