With Veterans Day comes commemoration of those who fought in war and sacrificed their lives for their county.
One such man honored this year is triple ace fighter pilot Col. Clarence “Bud” Anderson, who led the Veterans Day parade as Honorary Grand Marshall Sunday in Auburn.
The event featured the renaming of Placer County road “Col. Bud Anderson Way,” as a commemoration of his achievements during his career as a fighter pilot during World War II, about which Anderson remained modest.
“Well, of course, I’m a little bit awed by it all to tell you the truth,” Anderson said. “But I’m honored and very appreciative and humbled.”
Flying has been a lifelong passion of Anderson’s and something he said he always remembers wanting to do.
“The flying part is a passion,” Anderson said. “I can’t remember when I didn’t want to fly. I was always fascinated by aviation and by flying, and I’ve done a lot of flying obviously in my 90 years.”
Anderson went to England in 1943 with the 357th Fighter Group, the first 8th Air Force Group to be equipped with the P-51 Mustang. Anderson achieved 16 victories and survived 116 missions without a single hit from an enemy aircraft.
“Flying combat is a very dangerous situation,” Anderson said. “But I did that when I was very young. It was just a matter of duty and getting the job done.”
Anderson said fighting in World War II wasn’t an afterthought, but a necessity many young men felt they had to be a part of.
“The young men, we just knew it was something we had to do, and we did it for our country, and we were patriotic,” Anderson said. “I think everybody just felt like, ‘We gotta do it. Let’s do it and get it over with.”
General Chuck Yeager, now a Nevada County resident and longtime friend of Anderson’s after the two flew in combat together, said Anderson is a nice person with ferocious piloting abilities.
“In an airplane, the guy was a mongoose,” Yeager said in the foreword of Anderson’s book, “To Fly and Fight: Memoirs of a Triple Ace.”
“It’s hard to believe,” Yeager wrote, “if the only Bud Anderson you ever knew was the one on the ground. An all-around nice guy. But once you get him in an airplane, he’s vicious. Best fighter pilot I’ve ever seen. He’s also the best friend I have in the world.”
Anderson was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2008, which he said was a special event where his son, with whom he fought a combat mission in Vietnam, presented the award.
“That was really a special event, and to be able to have my son do the honors, it was real special, very special,” Anderson said. “It was a great honor. I really appreciate it.”
Anderson still maintains his pilot license to this day but said it might be time to stop flying.
“I’m slowing down right now, to tell you the truth,” Anderson said. “I still enjoy flying, but I don’t fly as much as I used to. I kept my instructor rating up, but I don’t know. It may be time to hang it all up — one of these days.”
John Carr met Anderson two years ago at a book signing event and subsequently discovered the two lived just two streets away from each other. Carr spoke of what a remarkable man Anderson is and how capable he remains even at 90 years old.
“He’s gotten so many awards, and I’ve been to ceremonies with him and he has very few words to say, and he’s humbled,” Carr said. “And he’s an incredibly capable man at his age. If I make it that far, I want to be like him.”
Ed Sowa said he met the colonel two years ago after Carr invited Anderson to a Memorial Day event.
“To meet him is to feel like you’ve known him all your life and once you have met him you want to know him all your life,” Sowa said. “The achievements he’s made and he doesn’t look at it as any great feat. He just looks at it as what he needed to do.”
Rather than focus on his celebration, Anderson said Veterans Day is supposed to be about remembering those whose lives were lost in combat.
“Somehow or other I’ve made it through, but we want to remember the guys that didn’t make it,” Anderson said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
To conact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4230.
“The young men, we just knew it was something we had to do and we did it for our country and we were patriotic.”
— Col. Bud Anderson