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    HomeNewsLegendary WWII Triple Ace Bud Anderson, a Skyborne Warrior, Passes at 102

    Legendary WWII Triple Ace Bud Anderson, a Skyborne Warrior, Passes at 102

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    Clarence E. “Bud” Anderson, a name synonymous with aerial might and bravery in the skies of World War II, passed away on May 17 at his home in Auburn, California. He was 102. Anderson was not just a witness to pivotal moments in military aviation history but a critical contributor to them, embodying the valor that characterized a generation of American pilots.

    Anderson’s journey into legend began six weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor when he enlisted in the Army Air Forces at the young age of 20. His skills as a pilot became evident as he joined the first unit in the U.S. Eighth Air Force equipped with the P-51 Mustang, an aircraft that would become emblematic of American aerial power. The Mustang was key to changing the tide of the air war over Europe, with Anderson as one of its most skilled operators.

    His proficiency in the cockpit led him to down 16 German planes during his 116 combat missions, making him a triple ace—a rare and commendable achievement. Anderson’s aircraft, all named “Old Crow” after his favored Kentucky straight bourbon, became feared by the enemy and revered by allies. A squadron mate, Chuck Yeager, described him as “the nicest person you’d ever know” on the ground, but in the sky, “those damned Germans must’ve thought they were up against Frankenstein or the Wolfman.”

    Beyond his wartime heroics, Anderson’s career spanned into the jet age as he became a U.S. Air Force test pilot. His work involved a variety of experimental aircraft, including flying some of the first Mach 2 jet fighters and overseeing the development of pivotal aircraft like the F-15 Eagle and F/A-18 Hornet.

    His remarkable military service, from 1942 to 1972, earned him numerous accolades, including two Legion of Merits, five Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Bronze Star, and 16 Air Medals. The French government also recognized his contributions with the Legion of Honor and the Croix de Guerre. Even after retirement from active duty, Anderson continued his engagement with aviation as a manager at McDonnell Douglas Aircraft’s flight test operations.

    The recent honorary promotion to brigadier general, bestowed upon him by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown Jr., was a fitting tribute to a storied career. Yet, Anderson never saw his accomplishments as solitary feats. He frequently acknowledged the members of his ground crew, recognizing their dedication and shared pride in their collective achievements. In one notable instance, his ground crew worked through the night, stripping the paint from his P-51 to improve its camouflage—a testament to their commitment and teamwork.

    Anderson’s passing marks the end of an era, as he was the last surviving triple ace from World War II. His life story serves as an enduring inspiration for those in military and aviation circles. It speaks to the heart of what it means to be a warrior and a pioneer. He is survived by his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, leaving behind a legacy of courage that soared as high as the planes he once piloted.

    As his family reflected on his life, they captured the essence of his impact: “We were blessed to have him as our father. Dad lived an amazing life and was loved by many.” Through the tales of his combat exploits and his contributions to military aviation, Anderson’s memory will continue to inspire future generations of pilots and service members.

    Relevant articles:
    Triple Ace Bud Anderson dies at 102, AOPA
    Bud Anderson, last triple ace pilot of World War II, dies at 102, The Washington Post
    Brig. Gen. ‘Bud’ Anderson, the last of the American WWII triple aces, dies at 102, WDBJ
    Bud Anderson, America’s last World War II ‘triple ace,’ dies at 102, Air Force Times

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