World War II vet who shot down 16-plus enemy aircraft returning to Truckee airshow | SierraSun.com

World War II vet who shot down 16-plus enemy aircraft returning to Truckee airshow

Wilhelmine Zoe Peers and Evan Peers
Special to the Sun

This is a special year for the Truckee Tahoe AirShow & Family Festival, as Col. Clarence "Bud" Anderson will return as Grand Marshal for an honorary "Salute to Veterans."

Here exists an unparalleled opportunity for younger generations to meet a legend, a World War II Triple Ace Fighter Pilot, who was most recently bestowed the Congressional Gold Medal in Washington, D.C.

"That's the highest recognition that Congress can give. That was pretty humbling to me," noted Anderson.

One week before, a life-sized statue of him with his P-51 Mustang was unveiled at the Auburn Airport, dedicated to his passion of flying and honoring his service and achievements.

This year's air show will highlight Anderson in a free speaker's forum, in which he'll relive through story-telling and video his first-hand experiences fighting in World War II.

The presentation will educate and captivate audiences of all ages, leaving each person with a memory of what it was like to serve one's country in the 1940s and the skills needed by fighter pilots.

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Event attendees will be able to tell their children that they were there with a great American hero, and everyone will have an opportunity to see a P-51 up close and hear it roar through the sky.

A Triple Ace Earns Exceptional Status

Flying aces earn their military aviator status by shooting down numerous enemy aircraft during aerial combat.

Over the years, the number of aerial victories required to qualify as an "ace" has varied, but most commonly it's a minimum of five.

During World War II, Anderson earned his Triple Ace status by destroying more than 16 enemy aircraft in aerial combat and another one on the ground.

During WWII, he served two combat tours escorting heavy bombers over Europe in the P-51 from November 1943 through January 1945. He flew 116 combat missions (480 hours).

Today, of the 1,447 pilots who attained "Ace" status, Anderson is one of fewer than 75 still alive.

Fighting during WWII was very much about outsmarting the enemy.

He relates: "Tactics varied by the theater you were in, you used the tactic that fits the situation best. There was not just one maneuver but more like a bag of tricks to fit the many different and changing situations."

A Hero's Path

Born in 1922 in Oakland, Calif., Bud grew up on his family's ranch where hard work and responsibility were essential.

He learned to drive a car almost before his feet could reach the pedals.

Like the young generation today, Anderson enjoyed competitive sports and fast, loud cars.

He was introduced to aviation at Oakland Municipal Airport, where he recalls meeting Sgt. Arthur J. Lewis."Sarge," as he was known, took this youngster under his wing. Anderson the pilot never looked back.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor during World War II, he combined his love of flying with his deep patriotism, and he enlisted in the Army Air Corp.

After graduation from pilot training in 1942, he was initially assigned to fly the P-39, changing to the P-51 made a huge difference.

It is still his favorite today. He named his airplane "Old Crow" after his favorite whiskey. After many victories, Anderson returned home a Triple Ace and a Major.

Anderson remained dedicated to the USAF after the war, first serving as a test pilot and then Chief of Fighter Operations followed by Chief of Flight Test Operations.

As part of the missions in Vietnam he flew F-105s and also served as a tactical commander. With over 30 years of military service, he retired from the Air Force as a full Colonel.

Anderson has been decorated over 25 times for his service to the United States.

The year of the Veteran

This is the year of the veteran — 70 years since victory in Europe.

"We see this year's air show as the perfect time to salute our veterans with a ceremony and community participation to show our appreciation," said Tim LoDolce, chairman of the Truckee Tahoe Air Show.

Veterans from all over will attend relating and sharing in patriotism, dedication, inspiration and honor for each other and their country.

Anderson notes, "I like to do things for the local Truckee Tahoe community. During one of my first engagements in Truckee, I also got to know Tim LoDolce, air show chairman, who provided me with a fountain of information."

LoDolce himself is a legend and Vietnam veteran, having flown with the Flying Tigers.

The Truckee Tahoe AirShow & Family Festival is proud to offer all attendees a chance to meet a Triple Ace, witness aerobatic flying, peruse static displays and meet leaders in the aviation community.

With no exception, this event will be another inspirational year at the air show.

Gates open at 9 a.m. and close at 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 11, at the Truckee Tahoe Airport.

For additional event information, to purchase a vendor booth space (nonprofits are free), to become a sponsor or to purchase VIP Tent Passes, visit TruckeeTahoeAirShow.com.