General Clarence E. "Bud" Anderson, a decorated World War II fighter pilot, is an emblematic figure in American military history. His career, marked by bravery and skill, is a vivid example of the heroism of the men who served during the Second World War.
Early Life and Military Beginnings
Bud Anderson was born in Oakland, California, on January 13, 1922. Growing up in the Great Depression era, Anderson, like many of his generation, witnessed the harsh realities of life from a very young age. His interest in aviation was sparked early and was undoubtedly influenced by the rapid advancements in aircraft technology during those years.
Anderson joined the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in 1942, at a time when the world was engulfed in the turmoil of World War II. His natural skill and passion for flying quickly became apparent, and he was soon selected to be a fighter pilot, a role that would define his career and legacy.
Bud with his P-39Q, 42-20746 'Old Crow'
The War Years
During World War II, Anderson flew the P-51 Mustang, a plane that he would become almost synonymous with. He named all his aircraft "Old Crow," after his favourite whiskey, a light-hearted touch that was characteristic of the camaraderie and spirit of the fighter pilots of that era.
Bud, pictured in his P51B 'Old Crow' with his Crew chief Otto Heino.
Anderson was assigned to the 363rd Fighter Squadron of the 357th Fighter Group in Europe. This group played a critical role in gaining and maintaining air superiority over the European theatre. The missions Anderson flew were perilous, involving dogfights with enemy aircraft, escorting bombers, and engaging in ground-attack missions.
Bud's last P51, the D variant with the Perspex bubble canopy seen at Leiston in Olive Drab paint.
Legacy and Recognition
By the end of World War II, Anderson had flown 116 combat missions and had 16.25 confirmed kills, making him the highest scoring ace in the 363rd Fighter Squadron. His service earned him numerous awards, including the 2 Legion of Merits, 5 Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Bronze Star, 16 Air Medals, the French Legion of Honour and the French Croix de Guerre, as well as many campaign and service ribbons.
A Encounter Report submitted by Bud from his actions over Germany on the 27th November 1944.
After the war, Anderson continued to serve in the Air Force, including in the Korean War. His post-war career involved test piloting and commanding various fighter squadrons and wings. He retired from the Air Force in 1972, after 30 years of distinguished service.
Reflections on War and Service
Anderson's reflections on his service are a mix of pride and humility. He often spoke about the camaraderie among the pilots and the importance of teamwork in their missions. He also acknowledged the perils and sacrifices of war, paying tribute to those who didn't make it back.
Bud on the wing of 'Old Crow' at the end of his second tour of duty.
An Enduring Legacy
Today, Bud Anderson is remembered not only for his heroism and skill as a pilot but also for his contributions to military aviation and his commitment to sharing his experiences with younger generations. His memoir, "To Fly and Fight: Memoirs of a Triple Ace," provides an in-depth look at his life and the experiences of a fighter pilot during one of the most tumultuous times in world history.
Anderson's story is not just about the triumphs and challenges of war; it's about the enduring spirit of resilience and dedication. His legacy serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by the men and women who fought in World War II and the enduring importance of their contributions to history.
General Clarence E. "Bud" Anderson's story is a powerful chapter in the broader narrative of World War II. His bravery, skill, and dedication exemplify the best of the Greatest Generation. As we look back on his remarkable career, we are reminded of the courage and sacrifice required to protect freedom and democracy during one of the darkest times in human history. His legacy continues to inspire and educate, serving as a beacon of heroism and dedication for future generations.
For more information about General Anderson, his wartime exploits, his post war service and a wealth of information about the 357th Fighter Group please visit To Fly and Fight
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All images courtesy of To Fly and Fight (www.toflyandfight.com)