Placer County World War II history buff honors sacrifices made

Meeting with Auburn air triple-ace Bud Anderson reveals surprise Auburn Journal article from 1944
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Gary Maggard’s appreciation of World War II history runs deep. His World War II “war room” displays the militaria he has collected and the intricate models of airplanes he has built. The ex-Navy sailor takes the time to honor the memory of the troops who served and sometimes sacrificed their lives. Maggard’s collection includes special items such as a bloodstained Normandy beachhead map that was carried by a radio operator that day in June 1944. Each item – from a scale model of a Zero airplane to an autographed photo of Auburn’s own triple-ace Bud Anderson – has a story that Maggard tells with reverence. Maggard, 54, has a vial of Omaha Beach sand that a friend retrieved from the shore of D-Day invasion attack zone during a 60th anniversary commemoration in 2004. “It was an emotional time for veterans with many dropping to their knees and crying as they picked up handfuls of sand,” Maggard said. “I know I can’t smell anything but sometimes, I will take out the sand and smell it.” Maggard has made many connections with veterans over the years and one of his most cherished and most unusual was a recent visit with Anderson to give him a copy of a June 8, 1944, edition of the Auburn Journal he had found in an old barn. The newspaper included an article about Anderson being awarded medals for his service in the air over Europe. But the gift became more special when Anderson pointed out that his wife, Eleanor, was also the subject of an article – about her returning to Auburn after appendix surgery – on the same front page. “He glanced to the left of his page and his eyes got big,” Maggard said. Anderson left with a copy of a special edition of the Journal to share with his wife and Maggard departed with a sense of heightened appreciation for Anderson and his exploits in the skies. “What are the odds of finding that particular edition of the paper in a barn and Bud finding the article about his wife?” Maggard said. Maggard, who works for Auburn Toyota and lives in the rural Auburn area, said that his search for items related to World War II hasn’t made him a regular garage sale-goer but he will stop if he sees one. It’s part of his quest not only to dig into history to sate his own curiosity and also preserve history. Sometimes Maggard is the last line of defense between preservation and the landfill. At one garage sale, he found a stack of crudely printed newspapers made by troops on one of the Pacific Islands and approached the seller with them. “Her response was to tell me I could just take them all, that they were being used to start a fire,” Maggard said. Maggard started to collect militaria from World War II while serving in the Navy. “It just escalated from there,” he said. “One of my goals is to teach new generations about this history. It’s not that they’re not interested, it’s just that they haven’t had someone to talk to them about it. If you don’t learn from the past, you’re doomed to repeat it in the future.” Anderson said Thursday that he appreciates the effort made by Maggard to meet him and share the newspaper. He added that he also appreciates the work of Maggard and many other World War II history buffs. "They're very important in keeping the history stories that came out of World War II alive," Anderson said.