Note from the Editor: the following is by Mary Anderson, Victor's daughter.
What she has written is both a biographical memoir and an appreciation
of her father and his times.
It is clear from Colena’s writings that the House of An followed a path that lead to a deep and active faith in God, Christ, and the Peace of the Spirit which Colena and Elam’s children possessed. Their lives were an expression of the faith commonly found among the descendants of Victor and Hannah.
1How GOOD and how pleasant it is
to live together as brothers in unity!
3It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling
on the mountains of Zion.
There the LORD bestows his blessing,life for evermore.
Elam Jr. followed Victor to the University of Redlands and majored in physics. Younger brothers are prone to doing this sort of thing. But while Victor devoted himself to defense work, Elam found a path to the ministry and to pacifism. Victor worked with the Navy on sonar while Elam joined in protests over nuclear weaponry. They were at odds, but each was following his leading. They respected each other, both of them were doing something right, both were throwing themselves at the most serious problem facing the human race.
But it was wheat farmers from the Midwest who really pulled us through the Cold War. Russians were hungry, American farmers needed markets. So US wheat fed the USSR and neither country could afford to destroy the other.
Did the Wyoming Andersons play a role in this? I do not know. Jesus certainly approves feeding one’s avowed but hungry enemy, and the clan is known for its deep, profound, active Christian faith. I can picture the original Victor and his son Elam, Sr., joined together looking down and smiling with relief and deep satisfaction at all of this.
But you must love your enemies and do good, and lend without expecting any return; and you will have a rich reward: you will be sons of the Most High, because he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36Be compassionate, as your Father is compassionate.
Generous aid from the United States expedited the recovery of her WWII enemies Germany, Italy and Japan. Peace and prosperity came to Europe after centuries of imperialistic and religious warfare.
3He shall judge between many peoples
and impose terms on strong and distant nations;
They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.
4Every man shall sit under his own vine
or under his own fig tree, undisturbed;for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.
An American Friends Service Committee team administered the generous US aid to post WWII Germany. With malice towards none, the AFSC team fed all Germans but did not question wartime loyalties. With charity towards all, the team housed and fed the hordes of ethnic Germans routed from their homes in neighboring countries and forced back to their native land. The team gently shepherded Germans to classes on democracy and human rights.
Rosalie Eliot, who decades later was to tender the final months of her childhood friend Anne [Victor's wife - ed.], served on that team.
Beat your plowshares into swords,Joel 3: 10
and your pruning hooks into spears;
let the weakling say, “I am a warrior "
The decisive defeat of the Axis powers exhilarated the US and the USSR giving each heady notions of the world domination which it felt would be easily within grasp were it not for the other’s meddling interference.
Having come to power through bloody revolution, the Russian government supported violent Third World insurgencies, while, driven by economic self interest, the United states supported oppressive Third World regimes. As the Cold War wore on, the US having abandoned its own human rights mandate while dealing with the Third World self righteously condemned the Russian Red Army’s oppression of the Eastern Europe satellite countries it gained at the end of the war.
But the world did not wish to be dominated. And the plans of each super power had a fatal flaw.
Attempts at global domination eventually lead to Afghanistan. This country is remote, its terrain rugged, its economy based on the export of heroin to addicts in both the US and the USSR, and its peoples splintered into factions and coalitions in constant flux and conflict. Russia was there for twenty frustrating years, its sophisticated military bogged down in unending unresolved conflict. As of 2011 the US has been there for eleven years bogged down in a conflict costing tens of billions of dollars a year.
But this quest for dominance was dark.
During WWII the US mustered a corps of the world’s most brilliant physicists and by throwing its full support behind them produced the Bomb. The Russians had followed suit. Each WWII victor now had the power to wreak devastation on the other and faced the danger of having devastation wrecked on them.
The letter from the SSS which summoned him to the draft prompted young Victor Anderson to take his sweetheart Anne Dowden to the cliffs above La Jolla Cove and ask her to marry him. "Sure," said Anne, thinking ‘August’. "How about Wednesday", he said. "Uhhhh….," she said. And, sure enough, by the following Thursday they were husband and wife.
Victor was drafted by the Manhattan project, not the army. He was sent to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to work on the Bomb. The push to the Bomb was so hurried and so secret that its team had been rushed to an isolated spot in the Appalachian woods and housed in hastily built barracks. Housing for married couples had to wait. His newly pregnant young wife stayed behind in Berkeley, where she gave birth to their daughter (me).
The Manhattan project needed silver, so Fort Knox sent a shipment of ingots. Victor and his cohorts were required to measure every milligram of the precious metal, even the dust that resulted from drilling the holes in the ingots, and to return every single speck of silver.
Victor was present at the first A-bomb test in Los Alamos. He had been assigned to measure the effects of the blast, an effort which took several months. Legend has it that one of the top scientists (Fermi? Teller? Oppenheimer?) tossed a wad of paper in the air at the instant of the blast, and estimated the force of the blast from the trajectory of the wad. My dad’s lengthy calculations must have been right since they matched that wild guess.
The US-USSR nuclear arms race that was spawned from the wartime race with the Germans dominated the next five decades. Each country had the capacity to annihilate the other several times over and each was threatened with utter devastation. Fear and dejected resignation reigned.
1949: I am four years old. ‘Daddy, what is this shiny black and green rock in the plastic case?’ I was fascinated by the dark beauty of a piece of glass fused from sand by that first A-bomb.
1955: I am in third grade. "Nenny, nenny, nenny. If the Bomb drops on Civic Center you will be totally destroyed but I’m going to live." The San Diego Union had just published an aerial photo of the city overlaid by concentric circles showing the zones of the degrees of devastation which would result should the H bomb be dropped on Civic Center.
1960: I am choosing my college. "The University of Redlands is safe during a nuclear war. It is far from Los Angeles, is nestled under the San Jacinto mountain wilderness and lies on the edge of the Mojave desert." I was kidding myself. The SAC base 40 miles away kept squadrons of heavily armed bombers in the air ready to head for Russia on a moment’s notice.
1962: My fiancé and I respond to the Cuban missile crisis. ‘Mary, it looks like this is it! I have my car packed with tents and food. I will be in Redlands to pick you up in two hours.’
David then picked up his stick, chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in a shepherd's bag which served as his pouch and, sling in hand, went to meet the Philistine.
I Samuel 17:40
1940s – We return to the war time.
While the world’s top physicists were ferreting out the secrets of nuclear fission and figuring out a means of exploiting its destructive capacity, an engineer in Canada quietly developed a simple gizmo that enabled a single destroyer to accurately and quickly home in on a German submarine’s location when it surfaced to communicate with its base. An unheralded team of intelligence personnel had uncovered the mistaken German belief that this was an impossible feat. That gizmo and those secret agents broke the stranglehold that German U-boats held on Great Britain, which had at the point been effectively and decisively taken out of the war as its people faced starvation and its defenses were rendered impotent.
Which of the two scientific achievements was the most effective in ending the war? Which achievement posed the most threat to the human race?
8The LORD has told you mortals what is good,
and what it is that the LORD requires of you:
only to act justly, to love loyalty,
to walk humbly with your God.
Victor Anderson did not join the nuclear arms race, but quietly and patiently developed means to detect Russian nuclear submarines.
The Marine Physical Laboratory, a small lab in the University of California system, hired him as a research assistant shortly after the war. He loved wrestling with theoretical acoustics and he playfully invented widgets to put his acoustic theory to use. Carrying the Anderson gene of stubborn determination - this being the gene which enabled his grandfather Victor to survive orphanhood during one of Sweden’s great famines - he threw himself into a PhD thesis which incorporated the two disciplines which, although they were scientifically related, demanded dissimilar mental effort. This truly remarkable feat took twelve years, during which he married and fathered three children, creating a household which his ever devoted, patient, resourceful, but somewhat put out, wife ran on half a shoestring.*
This all happened during the unprecedented affluence of the 50’s and early 60’s. My schoolmates who lived in the tonier neighborhoods of Point Loma had fathers who earned good money as engineers for Lockheed. One of them was even a test pilot for Convair. But we lived in a small house which, alas, two years after we moved in found itself in the landing pattern of a busy airport. My sister and I wore hand me downs from our Portugese fisherman neighbors. We got really, really tired of small mealy apples in our lunch and glasses of lumpy milk from clumpy powder!
My dad was singularly blessed in his workplace and the unquestionable support he received from both the US government and the US navy. He had access to a surplus fleet of navy ships. His team at MPL was marked by camaraderie, ingenuity and persistence. He is fond of describing the time that a project, which faced a critical demonstration, sank despite his calculations that it would float. His crew saved the day when they hit on the idea of filling the hull with empty plastic bleach bottles and worked through the night doing just that, thus saving the project.
"If a crew member on a Russian submarine 10,000 miles away dropped a hammer, your dad’s equipment would pick up the sound." I doubted that my dad’s equipment could figure out that the submarine was Russian, but this bit of hyperbole from a young underwater sound scientist had an element of truth. Victor had developed a deep understanding of underwater sound and was gifted with an uncanny knack for building fancy sonar gizmos. He retired with silver medals from both the Acoustical Society of America and the IEEE engineering society.
The Cold War bore on.
The front cover of the Bulletin of the American Atomic Scientists featured a clock, which illustrated the risk of nuclear holocaust as happening when the hands of the clock reached 12:00. Each year the hands inched closer and closer to midnight until they were one minute away from midnight.
Grassroots demands for the economic stability and prosperity afforded local populaces by defense establishments – missile silos, army bases, weapons storage sites, defense manufacturing plants – turned the entire country into a military target which the USSR would have been forced to destroy in an all out war.
"Nazareth!" Nathaniel exclaimed. "Can anything good come from Nazareth?"
Mikhail Gorbachev, born into a peasant Russian Orthodox family in Stavropol in 1931, came to head the USSR in 1986. Younger generations of Russians had tired of Communism, the USSR military had been hamstrung in Afghanistan for twenty years, and the arms race was stressing the economies of both Cold War antagonists.
December 7, 1987:
"Hey Mike!** When my mom reads this she will get me that video game play station for Christmas for sure. What does your letter ask for?"
"Aw, c’mon. Your parents can’t give you that!"
"Yeah, but my mom would never buy me an Xbox. World peace would be cool!"
December 8, 1987:
Michael flashed us a triumphant grin of relief when he saw the headlines the next morning. The US and the USSR had just signed the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Reduction Treaty in Geneva.
Mid December, 1989:
"Hey guys! Trekking through the Himalayas was great, just great! Anything happen while I was gone?" Phil, my colleague at the Bank of America, had just returned from one of his long jaunts to the far corners of the world.
"Well, European Communism collapsed, the USSR was disbanded, and the Berlin Wall came down," we said with a grin.
"Huh? Really? I don’t believe it!"
But it was true. Gorbachev’s push for reforms, his strong support from the younger Russian Communist Party members, and the severe economic crisis the Russians faced had resulted in the dissolution of the USSR, a radical change in economic policy, introduction of democracy, and a dissolve of the belligerence which had characterized Russian foreign policy, and, of course, turmoil, upheaval, severe deprivation, and the replacement of Mikahil Gorbachev by Boris Yeltsin.
But a period of calm, peace, and prosperity was ushered in. The Russian economy recovered and is in better shape today than it was in the early 80’s. Some of Gorbachev’s reforms took hold.
2005: “Huh? Really? You’ve got to be kidding!"
My fellow students, born in the 1980’s were having difficulty wrapping their brains around the descriptions of the Cold War they were hearing from the prof and me. Both of us had been born in the 40’s. The Cold War had dominated our lives.
Then we tried to explain the ‘Mutual Assured Destruction’ paradigm that fueled national defense policy.
“Well, you see, we were terrified by the other side’s nuclear capabilities so we had to escalate the development of our own and saturate our land with military targets which the Russians had to destroy to protect themselves, so they had to escalate … ……”.
The students were not convinced.
March 19, 2008:
"St Francis is, for me, the alter Christus, another Christ. His story fascinates me and has played a fundamental role in my life." Gorbachev, an atheist, was on a surprise visit to pray at the tomb of Saint Francis in Assisi Italy (Wikipedia)
I now realize that the deeply profound Christian faith passed on to me from Elam and Colena was unusually peaceful, tolerant, patient, kind and honest. Perhaps the already strong, deep Christian faith of House of An was enriched, enlightened and strengthened by communion with the Buddhist insight and practice the young, energetic, inquisitive and compassionate couple encountered in Shanghai in the years immediately following 1918. But it was in them all along and they nurtured it throughout their lives.
* Vic was employed by the U S Navy, so his salary was lower than that of engineers working for civilian corporations.
** Michael is Mary’s second child.