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Tom Cleaver
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Bud Anderson, R.I.P.

May 18, 2024 · in News · · 11 · 394

Those of you who purchased my book “Clean Sweep: VIII Fighter Command vs the Luftwaffe,” have seen that the cover very prominently features the fact that the Foreword was written by Brigadier General Clarence Emil “Bud” Anderson.

I was really happy when Bud agreed to write a foreword for the book, and really gratified that he read it (at age 101) and told me it was the best book he had read about his war; he particularly liked that the other side was there. That's the kind of gold-plated compliment you keep close.

Bud died last night, five days short of his 103rd birthday. The family announcement read, “On 17 May 2024 at 5:29pm, passed away in his home peacefully in his sleep surround by his family. We were blessed to have him as our father. Dad lived an amazing life and was loved by many.”

He did lead an amazing life, and he was loved by many. Including me.

Bud first experienced combat on the 357th Group's first mission, January 20, 1944. It was the largest force assembled to date of the American strategic air forces, with sixteen wings of heavy bombers – 1,003 B-17s and B-24s. The targets were the aircraft production factories in the Brunswick-Leipzig region, only 80 miles south of Berlin. The mission involved a flight of over 1,100 miles round trip, and the 357th would provide target support, along with the 354th “Pioneer Mustang” group. Led for this mission by the legendary Don Blakeslee, the 357th would cover the bombers over Leipzig. Light snow was falling when they took off, but the weather cleared by the time they crossed the Channel.

The Mustang at that time was not the reliable airplane it would become; the most prominent problem was engines cutting out (eventually solved by changing from Champion sparkplugs to British Lucas plugs for use with the lower-quality British avgas). Ninety-six P-5s of the two groups left England; by the time they were over central Germany, both groups were down to fewer than 40 Mustangs each.

The 357th's pilots claimed their first victories when several Bf-109s jumped Lieutenant Calvert Williams' 362nd Squadron flight. One overshot and Williams immediately opened fire, sending it down trailing black smoke. The 363rd squadron's Donald Ross tangled with another pair of Bf-109s and shot down the wingman, but was so close behind that when it exploded, he was forced to fly through the explosion; his radiator was damaged by debris sucked into the belly intake. His Merlin engine quickly overheated and Ross was forced to bail out.

Flight leader Bud Anderson of the 363rd was fighting the cold in his cockpit when he spotted an Fw-190 4,000 feet below. He dived and came out 300 yards behind; the enemy pilot evaded with a split-S. Anderson followed. “I was determined I would go wherever he went, do whatever he did. I wanted a victory.” Suddenly, he felt an unexpected blast of cold air and looked up to see that the “coffin lid” of his canopy was lifting, separating from the side piece as the latch started to fail. It got worse as he went through 11,000 feet at nearly 500 miles an hour. Prudence finally won out. He pulled the throttle back, then nosed up into a climb and rejoined the group. Years later, he said, “Thinking about it afterwards, I realized I had come close to doing something unforgivably dumb.”

During the battles over Leipzig and Brunswick, 21 of the 941 bombers were shot down, while the escorts lost four. They claimed 61 enemy fighters shot down; Luftwaffe records admitted loss of 53 Bf-109s and Fw-190s, and 25 Bf-110s, better than U.S. claims. Only 362 German defensive sorties were flown, less than half the number expected.Doolittle had been prepared for the loss of 200; the results were better than their wildest dreams: four assembly plants in Leipzig had been hit hard. Overall losses were 2.8 percent.

On January 21, the bombers went back to Brunswick. Bud wasn't on the flight schedule, but his brand-new P-51, the first of several named “Old Crow,” was flown by 1st Lt Alfred Boyle. Shortly after the group crossed into Holland, Bf-109s attacked, trying to get them to drop their tanks. Boyle's flight went after them and he got on the tail of one in a wild dive. When he opened fire, the 109 shed parts and several hit his prop. He barely managed to bail out of the tumbling Mustang to become a POW. When Anderson learned that his new airplane had been lost, he pretended to be upset but later wrote, “By now I was getting pretty good at blocking out unpleasant distractions. I was developing a thick hide.”

Eventually Bud would be one of the top aces of the 357th, officially credited with 16 aerial victories.

Reader reactions:
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11 responses

  1. Very, VERY special, Tom. Thank you.

  2. He was a fine gentleman. When he was recounting the occasion he commented to his ground crew that it was about time for the green paint to come off his plane, he had tears in his eyes as he finished by saying the men stayed up the entire night rubbing the paint off with gasoline soaked rags.

  3. 103! Holy smokes! Blue Skies, Bud

  4. RIP to a true American hero.

  5. Thanks for sharing, Tom (@tcinla). WW2 ended almost 80 years ago. It won't be long till that entire generation is gone.

  6. A Fine Man. Blue Skies, Bud!

  7. A pity to see those men go. May he rest in peace.
    Thanks for sharing Tom @tcinla

  8. Sorry to hear about Bud Anderson.

  9. Those of us in the Baby Boom generation were fortunate to know so many of the people who actually served in and fought the Second World War. You were particularly lucky to get the know Bud Anderson so well, Tom (@tcinla). We may never see his like again. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Great write-up, Tom. I find your comment about the Lucas spark plugs VERY humorous. I have had the pleasure (?) of owning several vintage British sports cars over the years and we always joked that Lucas electrical systems were the "Prince of Darkness". This is the FIRST time I ever heard of Lucas solving an "electrical" problem, Hahahaha.
    Well done and RIP, Bud...

  11. When I was a kid I idolized Yeager, but as I got older I came respect Bud even more. Fair winds, General.

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