Remembering the Late WWII Triple Ace Bud Anderson

After the war, the legendary aviator became a test pilot, flying more than 130 different aircraft.

Clarence ’Bud’ Anderson, a pilot of the 357th Fighter Group, with his P-51 Mustang in March 1944. [Courtesy: American Air Museum in Britain]

The aviation world is a less colorful place today as Brigadier General Clarence "Bud" Anderson has died.

Anderson, a "triple ace" who shot down 16 enemy aircraft during World War II, died at his home in Auburn, California, on May 17. He was 102.

Anderson's aviation career spanned 30 years. After WWII, he became a test pilot, flying more than 130 different aircraft, and was in the cockpit at the birth of the jet age. Some of his test flights involved a small fighter being carried aloft by a Convair B-36 Peacemaker bomber, which was released from the larger aircraft.

He served at the Pentagon and in the Pacific as the wing commander of the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing on Okinawa and later the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing based in Thailand.

When he retired from the military in 1972, he held the rank of colonel. He was heavily decorated, having earned five Distinguished Flying Crosses, 16 Air Medals, two Legions of Merit, a Bronze Star, and a Commendation Medal. In 2022, the Air Force promoted him to the honorary rank of brigadier general.

Anderson was a favorite on the airshow and fly-in circuits. He often spoke at events held by the Commemorative Air Force and was inducted into the CAF’s American Combat Airman Hall of Fame in 2001.

Anderson is probably best remembered for flying his P-51 Mustang Old Crow. Prior to flying the P-51, Anderson flew a P-39 Airacobra.

According to the CAF, with the blessing of Anderson and his family, the Central Texas Wing was able to add the Old Crow name and livery to the CAF’s P-39 in July 2022. The P-39, a P-51B, and a P-51D, all bearing the Old Crow livery, served as a backdrop for a special Warbirds in Review presentation with Anderson as the guest of honor.

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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