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Bud Anderson, last surviving World War II triple ace pilot, dies at 102

WWII pilot hits the skies to celebrate 100th birthday
WWII pilot hits the skies to celebrate 100th birthday 01:42

The last surviving World War II triple ace pilot died at age 102 this week, more than 75 years after serving in the U.S. Air Force and flying missions over Europe, the Washington Post reported

Brigadier General Clarence E. Anderson, better known as "Bud," died peacefully in his sleep on May 17, his family said in a statement on his website.

"We were blessed to have him as our father," the statement read. "Dad lived an amazing life and was loved by many." 

Anderson is survived by his two children, four grandchildren and five great grandchildren. His wife, Eleanor, died in 2015. 

Anderson, who was born in California and learned to fly at 19, served two combat tours during World War II, according to his website. He escorted heavy bombers over Europe from November 1943 to January 1945, flying 116 combat missions and destroying over a dozen enemy aircraft in aerial combat as part of the 357th Fighter Group, nicknamed the "Yoxford Boys." He was the highest scoring ace in his squadron, according to his website. 

Bud Anderson.

Anderson's other military service included serving as the commander of a squadron in post-war Korea and as the commander of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing during combat in Southeast Asia. 

During his military service, Anderson earned 25 medals, including two Legion of Merits, 16 Air Medals and "many campaign and service ribbons," according to his website. He has also been recognized as a fighter ace, or a pilot who has destroyed five or more enemy aircraft in aerial combat, three times over.  

When not overseas, Anderson was a fighter test pilot and served multiple roles, including as the deputy director of flight test operations at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. In total, Anderson logged over 7,500 flying hours in more than 130 types of aircraft. 

Duxford Air Show
World War II fighter pilot Bud Anderson stands alongside a P-51C Mustang, Princess Elizabeth, at the Imperial War Museum Duxford, in Cambridgeshire. Chris Radburn/PA Images via Getty Images

Anderson retired from the Air Force in 1972, and joined the McDonnell Aircraft Company and spent 12 years serving as the manager of a test facility at Edwards Air Force Base in in California. He retired fully in 1984, published an autobiography in 1990, and quit flying at 90 years old but continued to lecture on the topic and consult on computer flying games, according to his website. 

Anderson was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2008 and the International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum in 2013, according to his website. He received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2015. In December 2022, he was given an honorary promotion to Brigadier General at the Aerospace Museum of California. 

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