He was 102 years old and had more than 7,000 flight hours

Farewell to Bud Anderson, the last triple ace of the United States aviation in World War II

As the years go by, the last members of the generation that lived through World War II are slowly leaving.

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This Friday, May 17, Clarence Emil "Bud" Anderson, the last triple ace of the United States in that war, has taken his last flight to heaven. He has died in the town of Auburn, California, where he had resided for many years. He was 102 years old and he was also the oldest of the few American aces from that war who are still among us.

Bud Anderson with his P-51B "Old Crow" during World War II (Photo: First Aero Squadron Foundation).

Bud was born in Oakland, California, on January 13, 1922. He grew up on a farm and first encountered aviation at the airport in his hometown. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Bud enlisted in the US Army in January 1942 with the dream of being a pilot. He received his training as an aviation cadet at Lindbergh Field, in California, and in Luke Airfield (now Luke AFB), Nevada. He earned his wings as a pilot in September 1942. at Hamilton Field, California.

A P-51B Mustang, 324823 (cn 104-25866) decorated as the "Old Crow" that Bud Anderson piloted during World War II (Photo: warbirds-eaa.org).

Bud's first service as a pilot was with the Bell P-39 Airacobra, a fighter aircraft that had joined the US Army Air Forces in 1941. After several assignments in fighter squadrons in California and Wyoming, was sent to the United Kingdom in November 1943 with the 363rd Fighter Squadron, operating from RAF Leiston, in Suffolk, western England. His first combat mission was on February 5, 1944. There his unit received a new aircraft: the P-51B Mustang. A month later, on March 8, Bud achieved his first victory against a German Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighter over Hanover that was harassing a B-17 bomber.

Bud Anderson next to an F-104 Starfighter at Edwards AFB during his time as a test pilot (Photo: Cold War Flight Testing).

Bud became an ace on May 8, 1944 with his fifth victory, shooting down a German Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter over Soltau, Germany, with his P-51B. During the war he became friends with another famous pilot, Chuck Yeager, who in 1947 became the first aviator to break the sound barrier in horizontal flight with the Bell X-1. Bud returned to the United States in January 1945 as a triple ace, after having obtained 16 victories over Europe. Once in his homeland, he married Eleanor Cosby on February 23, 1945, with whom he had two children. They lived a long life together. She passed away on January 30, 2015, at age 92.

Bud Anderson next to a P-51 decorated as his "Old Crow" in 2022 (Photo: Vintage Aviation News).

At the end of World War II, Bud was assigned as a recruiter to Ohio and after the war he became a test pilot. However, that destination was not the end of his combat experience: in 1970 he participated in the Vietnam War as commander of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, flying into an F-105 Thunderchief fighter from the Thai base of Takhli. Bud retired in 1972, with the rank of Colonel, having obtained 25 decorations and after having fought in two wars and accumulating more than 7,000 flight hours in more than 100 different aircraft. In 2022, the Air Force awarded him the honorary rank of Brigadier General, during a ceremony held at the California Aerospace Museum in McClellan.

Fly high, Bud! Rest in peace.

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