Last Triple Ace dies, age 102

| May 23, 2024 | 23 Comments

Let that sink in. Triple Ace. At least fifteen kills  – in his case, 16 in air-to-air combat.  One Israeli in the Six Day War has 17, and Ukraine claimed one of theirs (since disputed) with 40, but since WWII these have been few and far between.*

Clarence E. “Bud” Anderson arrived in the European Theater of World War II in 1943, an experienced pilot at a time when many of his contemporaries had around an hour of experience in the cockpit. Anderson had been flying since 1941, when he was just 19 years old, and he brought that experience to the air war above occupied Europe.

Presciently, he got his pilot’s license just before the war started and joined the Army Air Corps in 1941. He was originally trained on the P-39 (no, that is not a typo) Airacobra, a P-40 looking MIDENGINE fighter. Engine behind the pilot? Who knew? Didn’t matter, his 357th Fighter Group would soon be issued P-51 Mustangs, perhaps with the most unique training regimen in aviation history:

The pilots of the 357th would get little time to train with the P-51; as their commander famously told them, “You can learn to fly `51s on the way to the target.”

Now THAT is OJT.

In his Mustang, nicknamed “Old Crow” for his favorite brand of bourbon, Anderson would fly 116 combat missions over two tours, logging some 480 hours and 16 air-to-air kills, usually while escorting bombers on their way to targets in Europe.

Note the difference between fighters and bombers… as we learned from “Enola Gay” after 25 missions the bomber crews were done. After 25, apparently the fighter jocks were well broken in.

After the war, he trained to become a test pilot, learning to fly the United States’ earliest jet aircraft while pushing it to its limits. He also participated in experimental flying, testing fighters attached to the wingtips of bombers to increase their ranges. These so-called “parasite” planes, F-84 Thunderjet fighters mounted on B-36 bombers, could detach and reattach to their mother ship when needed. Over the course of his career, he flew more than 130 different aircraft, logging an astonishing 7,500 flying hours.

Dunno about you, pretty sure on my best day I could even name 130 different aircraft.

During the Vietnam War, Anderson was sent to Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base, where he was not only commander of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing and its complement of F-105 Thunderchiefs, he also flew missions against North Vietnamese supply lines.

Anderson retired in 1972 as a colonel, earning two Legions of Merits, five Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Bronze Star, 16 Air Medals, the French Legion of Honor and the French Croix de Guerre over his 30-year military career.

Anderson didn’t stop flying when he left the military; in fact, he didn’t stop flying until he was 90 years old.

Anderson was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2008, received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2015 (along with the other World War II aces) and a promotion to brigadier general in 2022.

Think we would all agree that his promotion was both overdue and richly deserved. BG Anderson died peacefully in his sleep on May 17.


*The US had one 16-kill pilot in Korea, but at least one article says cross-referencing US kills claimed with contemporary enemy records shows substantial discrepancies. Wiki



Category: Air Force, Vietnam, WWII

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And of the P-39 I’ve heard that a drawback to having the engine behind the pilot is if you got in a flat spin, it was time to give it up as it was near impossible to recover.

Impressive man. RIP, sir!

Skivvy Stacker

Don’t imagine it made much difference to those boys. They just started the flat spin, said; “well, don’t feel like bein’ a pancake, reckon I’ll jump out”…or, “well, may as well see if I can land this thing and invent a helicopter…”


Not the best dogfighting aircraft, but the russkies used it to great effect, I believe some of their highest aces used it. And the 37mm cannon it mounted in the nose made it hell against ground targets as well..

Maybe a little of the inspiration for the warthog???

BZ BG Anderson.. that such men lived…

Anna Puma

The P-39 was only used for Stateside training with the 357th FG.

The old wives tale of the flat spin has been around well since the P-39 first flew. But it had no inherent vices except for being under-powered due to the USAAC removing the super charger.

Having a center mounted engine close to the actual airframe CG made it a very well behaved plane. Having the shaft to the propellor running between your legs was probably unsettling.

If you want a unit that was forced to adapt and fly different aircraft, look at the 418th NFS. They deployed with P-70s, A-20s with AI radar, and also flew a couple P-38 Lightnings. Then switched to the night intruder mission flying the B-25H only to trade those in a few months later and start flying the P-61 Black Widow.


Good info.. some cool planes there…

Skivvy Stacker

How did this motherfucker get into the COCKpit with balls and DICK as big as the ones he had attached to the front of his lower torso?

DAY-UM!!!! COL Bud Anderson! I’d be glad to follow you into Hell, even if there was a 100% guarantee that I would get creamed in the effort—because I figure you’d be there to send my soul to God.


^Word^ And it probably took the combined power of 130 aircraft to give enough lift to get those balls airborne.

God Speed, Fare Well, and Rest Easy, Good Sir. We Salute you and your Service to our Country.


“16 air-to-air kills, usually while escorting bombers on their way to targets in Europe”

Rest in peace sir and thank you for protecting those bombers.
My dad was a B-17 gunner/toglier and often spoke of the brave
escort pilots that made sure their missions were completed.

Old tanker

Fair skies and tailwinds forever. Thank you for our freedom Sir.


A clip from the series: Dog Fight
Bud Anderson and the ‘Old Crow’ battle a Me-109
The Greatest Generation is truth…

BlueCord Dad

That segment was on The Military History channel last night👍

Green Thumb

Bad ass.


You may wonder how he was able to shoot down so many planes in WWII.

The answer is because he did it 2 and 3 at a time. Once he shot down three of eight F109s attacking the bombers and a 2nd time he shot down two and forced a third to crash land. On at least two other occasions he shot down two.

The man was warrior like the days of old.

President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neande

Dunno about you, pretty sure on my best day I could even name 130 different aircraft.”

Many were probably variations that never saw production.

He was a test pilot so that makes sense.

What a time to be there doing that! Fresh out of WWII and being a test pilot during the advent of the Jet Age. Every year going faster, higher and farther than before. He was a contemporary of and friends with Chuck Yeager and the rest of that crew.


They probably flipped their shit when the Old Crow came flying.


Pilots like this ACE is what made aviation what it is today. Truly great hero’s for our country.
I went to see a speaker at an EAA event and had the opportunity to meet Bruce Crandall. I went with a friend who said he was in Ia drange valley. Turns out my friend was acquainted with Bruce and flew on one of the other choppers as a crew chief. Simply inspiring to meet people of this caliber.


Rest in peace, good Sir.


RIP and may you enjoy flying higher than you ever did in life, Sir.

Anna Puma

All of Bud Anderson’s planes named “Old Crow” from the P-39 to the F-105D. He flew two combat tours in the ETO.


Ragtop man, I wish I had one of those old Ford’s today.


[…] We discussed yesterday the recent passing of Brigadier General Clarence “Bud” Anderson. He was the last American triple ace still living. He shot down 16 German Luftwaffe planes in the skies over Europe between 8 March and 5 December 1944. He earned five Distinguished Flying Crosses for his successes. Read them here. […]