WWII Air Force Hero Dead at 102

(RepublicanJournal.org) – One of the leading US fighter pilots of WWII has died at the age of 102. Clarence E “Bud” Anderson was the last surviving triple ace. He went on to serve a 30-year career in the Air Force, becoming a test pilot before going back to war in the 1960s.

Bud Anderson was born in Oakland, California, on January 13, 1922. He grew up on a farm near Newcastle, California. In 1941, he joined the Civilian Pilot Training Program at Sacramento College, where he was a student, and gained his pilot’s license at age 19.

In January 1942, weeks after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and dragged the US into the war, Anderson enlisted in the US Army Air Corps. After military flying training, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the US Army Air Force in September 1942, and assigned as a fighter pilot. Starting out on the troublesome P-39 Airacobra, he was transferred to the 363rd Fighter Squadron, 357th Fighter Group. In November 1943, the 357th — including Anderson and Chuck Yeager, who later became famous for breaking the sound barrier — deployed to RAF Leiston in Suffolk, England.

At first, the 357th saw no action because the P-39 didn’t have the performance to take on German fighters, but in January 1944, the unit was re-equipped with the P-51B Mustang. Anderson flew his first combat mission on February 5, and less than a month later shot down his first German aircraft. On May 12 he destroyed his fifth, making him an ace; by the end of the war he had flown 116 combat missions and achieved 16 and a quarter victories, the highest-scoring pilot in his squadron — Yeager called him “the best fighter pilot I’ve ever seen.”

Both his P-51B and the P-51D that later replaced it were called Old Crow; to keep his teetotal parents happy Anderson told reporters it was named after “the wisest bird in the sky,” but in reality, it was a tribute to his favorite brand of bourbon.

After the war, Anderson stayed in the newly formed USAF and became a test pilot. Later he commanded a wing of F-105 Thunderchief strike aircraft based in Thailand and flew combat missions over Vietnam. He retired in 1972 with the rank of full colonel.

After retiring, Anderson went on to take over McDonnell-Douglas’s flight test facility, holding that job until 1998. He was promoted to the honorary rank of brigadier general in 2022. Anderson married once, to Eleanor Cosby, in February 1945. She died on January 30, 2015. Anderson himself died in his sleep at home in Auburn, California on May 17, the last of America’s triple aces.

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