C.E. “Bud” Anderson is one of my all time heroes. He’s a triple ace with 16¼ kills over Germany. I’ve read his book "To Fly and Fight" twice, seen him countless times on the TV show “Dogfights” and also on “Showdown: Air Combat”.
I was kind of nervous and afraid I’d get tongue-tied about meeting my hero, but I made a lot of notes, and questions, and studying up on him helped.
The best thing though was that Bud is a really nice guy. I loved hanging out with him and hearing his stories!
Here’s our interview:
How did it feel to go on your first airplane ride and was that what ultimately got you into flying?
“Well, let me tell you about my first flight. First of all, I can't remember when I didn't want to fly. As a youngster, it seemed like it was forever. It was just fascinating to me. Airplanes were a little unusual still in the early 20’s when I would've started. There used to be an airway that went right through here and that's where all the airplanes flew on their way across the Sierra's. I used to see them go over and I'd try to identify them. I had a buddy in Loomis and we used to keep a little log book about what we saw. We were spotters and we would put down the time and date, which way it was going, and what it was, if we could identify it. In the Sacramento area there used to be a dirt strip by an old golf course and a hangar and a guy with a couple of airplanes. My father could see my interest in the flying so one day without me knowing what was going to happen, he took me down there, it was 1927 and I would've been about five years old, and we pulled in there and my dad had this guy take us for a ride. I don't even know what the airplane was it might've been a Travel Air with two seats up front and the pilot in back, and we took off from there and flew up over the farm and then came back and landed. I was both scared and thrilled. One of the unusual things about it was that I was fascinated with the sound and the smell of gasoline and oil. It was kind of scary for me at that age but I was so fascinated with it that the fear wasn't really a problem.
Did you have any regrets after joining the Army Air Corps?
“Oh no, I've never regretted anything I've ever done. I'm the kind of guy that I don't look back, when I do something. I never look back and say, ‘Oh God, if I'd only done this or that and had done that, or what if.’ You can't change it. I just look forward and don't look back.
So, can you tell me about the duck proof glass incident?
“Well, when I got into the Army Air Corps, went through my training and got into a P-39 unit, as luck would have it, we were stationed nearby, actually in Oroville, California, where this thing actually happened. The Army had built airfields all over the country. So we had moved there from Santa Rosa and were flying P-39’s out of there. The 357th Fighter Group Headquarters attached to our squadron. So one day, I think he was a Major then, I guess he was our Dir. of Operations, came down and he said, ‘I've been talking to some of the folks in town, and their rice crops around here are getting invaded by ducks who are eating up the crops!’ He said, he kind of asked, if we could fly out and chase the ducks off with our airplanes. And of course we thought that would be a terrific a lot of fun because it would be legal buzzing so we could fly around and raise heck and buzz across the fields. The P-39 was a combat airplane, and it had an allegedly bulletproof glass that was about 2 inches thick right in the front center windscreen directly in front of you. That thing was mounted sturdily and was supposed to be able to take a .50 caliber or .30 caliber shells and be bulletproof. We didn't foresee this problem that was going to come up.
So we get out early in the morning, kind of a dawn patrol, that's the first thing we did was to come in and scare the ducks off. The ducks would come that night and feed. I wasn't on this particular flight but there was guy in our squadron by the name of Peters, in this flight. They were out there buzzing the rice fields and he took a duck right in the center of that windshield. It didn't shatter the bulletproof glass but it did knock the thing so badly that the duck came on through, splattered all over the cockpit and made a mess out of the airplane. It didn't touch him, but he had feathers and duck guts all over his dark glasses and the cockpit was a terrible mess. It did do a lot of damage. So that kind of put a stop to ‘Operation Duck’. And that airplane stunk for a long time after that. It never really got cleaned up properly.”
How was it flying in P-39’s?
“The P-39 was one of our first front-line fighters that we had. They had the P-40, the P-39's, the P-47's, P-38’s and the P-51's were being developed. I thought it was a fun airplane to fly and enjoyed flying it, but I didn't have anything to compare it to because I hadn't flown a Mustang or really anything else, but to me it was a pretty good flying and airplane. It was a very unusual airplane. As you know the way it was built the engine was right behind the pilot and they did that so that they would have the nose free to put a large cannon in the nose. What they did was, they built the propeller with a hole through the hub so that the cannon could go right through there and it had a series of planetary gears, and the shaft went from the engine through the floor board of the airplane, kind of between your feet, and then up into the bottom of the planetary gears and that's what drove the propeller. So that left the whole place up front for the ammunition and the cannon. This plane was built for ground support and they had 20 mm cannons and 30 mm cannons in different models of them. The airplane was pretty unusual because it had this new innovation: the tricycle landing gear. All the airplanes we'd flown up to now were tail draggers. The other thing that was unusual about it was that it had door on it like an automobile door. You sat in it, you turned the knob and the door would open up, and it actually had a little crank so you can crank the windows down, and you could stick your arm out the window and taxi down the runway just like driving a car. It was a very compact airplane, very small and tight.”
“It had some unusual flying characteristics. Some of the pilots complained that it would tumble end over end if you got into some sort of the maneuver, it would go out of control and just tumble end over end. I never tumbled one, but I saw some guys rat racing over the field one day and I saw one guy fall out of the thing, out of control, and I'm pretty sure he probably thought he tumbled but I don't know.
After the war we asked these Bell test pilots whether that airplane would tumble then they said, ‘Well, you know, we tried everything in the world to make it tumble and we couldn't make it tumble.’ But then they put a caveat to their comments, ‘but it did have some very unusual post stall the gyrations.’ So maybe it's just in the terminology!
I enjoyed flying the P-39. We lost a lot of people flying it. People say it was difficult to fly but I personally didn't have any trouble with them, but I didn't know any better until I got to fly a Mustang and could compare it to something, I thought I could whip the world with it! I'm glad I didn't have to fly combat in it.
Were you nervous going overseas? I read in your book that you thought your ship, the Queen Elizabeth, wouldn't make it.
“Well, we trained as a fighter group together, about 5000 people. 28 pilots in our squadron and then we deployed overseas as a fighter group, the whole unit went together. When we got through training, we went to Camp Shanks in New Jersey, and then we went over and boarded the Queen Elizabeth with 15,000 others. It was a huge ship! It is so big it's kind of incredible. I couldn't imagine a bigger target on that open ocean than the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary. My vision of what was going on was they were sinking all kinds of ships that were heading over to supply England at the time. But you know a lot of them were freighters and they were trying to keep them together to protect them and when the submarines did intercept them, they had a lot of targets. And I just thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this Queen Elizabeth is so big it would be a prize to sink it and they would go all out to do that!’ And I can even remember it seemed to me we went out in the afternoon broad daylight the guy was going up the harbor blowing that horn and I was just wishing he’d keep it quiet! Why don't we sneak out at night! But as I found out, the thing was very fast and they would change course and they would go different directions every time and they wouldn't repeat themselves. Of course I didn't know all this. And as I said, there were 15,000 people on board.
Now I had just been promoted to Captain and being an officer, I had a room, the honeymoon suite up on an upper deck, with 17 other guys in bunk beds! And our poor enlisted men, they had to stay on the open deck for 24 hours, and then they had to swap with the guys in the hold, down in the belly of the ship, for 24 hours. The other thing that I can remember was that we did get into a storm, and that's a big ship, and I can remember rolling and rolling.
I never got an appreciation for how big a thing it was until we got off it in Scotland. When I got off and looked back at that thing I couldn't believe how big it was.”
Were you scared when you flew your first mission?
“You bet! Okay, let's talk about fear and combat. The biggest fear you have is the unknown. You don't know what it's going to be like. Then the other fear you have is, even though you've been trained for it, how will you perform? And especially if you're in the leadership spot, you worry about, you know, ‘Gosh, if I get one of these guys hurt or if I screw up.’ Think how bad you’d feel. And that's one of the things I've always said. I was more afraid of screwing up than I was of dying. And that's pretty true. But fear itself, well, we were pumped up, we were trained, we knew we were going to fight, we thought the war we were going to fight was essential and had to be done, and so we were eager to sign up and eager to fight and participate. Patriotism was very high.
On my first flight, I was a flight leader so I took other airplanes with me with no combat experience. So what they did was they took flight leaders and squadron commanders that would be leading flights and we went down to another group and we flew as wingmen with them. And my first flight was kind of a funny story and there is fear with it. I went out on this guy’s wing and I thought the night before we flew down there that surely we would just have a little milk run into France, you know, up and down the coast, get broken in easily and gradually. Well we go down there and guess what, we're going to Frankfurt, Germany! I'm on a big mission deep in and certainly we’re going to see some action. So I'm with this guy and he had combat experience and a couple of kills, and the one thing in combat you don't want to do is get lost. You never want to be by yourself. And so were flying along when somebody calls up some enemy airplanes. I am going to stick with this guy. I am not going to get lost and I know I'm going to stick like glue to my leader. I'm not flying show formation with him but I'm in there close! I'm looking around but I'm not going to get lost. And then they start talking and here comes an airplane he says, ‘Okay, I'm going to go in.’ and he pulls up, and I look down and here comes this Focke-Wulf 190. We’re up over him, inverted, and I’m looking down through the canopy. Its baby blue robin egg colored with black crosses on it just like you can imagine. My leader’s coming in on his tail when somebody screams on the radio, ‘Mustang, Mustang, there’s one on your tail!’ He didn't say what you're supposed to say like ‘red leader’ or ‘blue leader’ anything like that to tell you who you are. If you just yell, ‘Mustang, there’s one on your tail!’ there is going to be 48 pilots that are going to be looking around thinking, ‘Is that me?’ And so I looked around real quick and everything and he kind of skidded around and he started an attack again and he's going to get there and that voice comes again: ‘Mustang, Mustang, he’s still on your tail!’ And so my leader pulled up, fired a long burst, and then did these violent evasive of actions thinking that there’s someone on his tail! And now here I am, a wingman, trying to stay on his tail and he's trying to lose whoever's on his tail! Well we went screaming down, circling around, and I went through 18,000 feet. The supercharger was in low blower and when you went down there would be kind of a mechanical clunk, kind of like shifting gears and I'm overloaded. I'm trying to figure out what's going on, where’s my leader, and is this guy on my tail? I don't know. I couldn't see anybody back there so I go through 18,000 feet and I hear this clunk and I think, ‘Oh my God, I've been hit!’ So I level out and there's not another airplane in the sky. I'm all alone. Don't ever get lost in combat. And here I am. Lost. So I jerked around a little bit and I saw an airplane over there and in a bit and I joined up and it was my leader.
We never did find out who was doing all the hollering and everything but it was kind of scary. But then I got back and I survived and you know it wasn't cool, as if I'd been really smart I would've said, ‘Hey red lead, it's not you.’ You know, I would've looked around and told my leader that he was clear. But I'd just didn't have the experience.
Talk about fear in combat. After you get experience it's not so bad. It's fear because it's real. Your chances of getting killed are pretty high. We lost half of our squadron of our original pilots, 52% of them were killed or became prisoners of war. But I have to say that in my case, anticipation, you know if you saw many enemy airplanes and you try to figure out how to get over there to engage them. Or you are leading, see them attacking and have to think about a defensive maneuver. Right before that you're scared, however, when I was in combat maneuvering, dogfighting, going to be shot at or I'm going to shoot. You’re so busy trying to survive, trying to be successful that you're really not scared. Maybe that doesn't make sense. Your training kicks in.”
My favorite episode in a dogfight series is when you went toe to toe with that ME109 and went vertical. That was really amazing. Did you have another combat experience like that you can tell us about?
“Yeah, I had several; probably the one where I got into a dogfight out in front of the B-17's would be a very interesting one for you, but it also tells you a little bit about some of the deficiencies of the P-51.
We’d say we had such a great airplane but it did have some things that weren't perfect and one of those things was that it had a fuselage tank behind the pilot that held 85 gallons right behind the armor plate. We had two 108 gallon drop tanks and 92 gallons in each wing plus the 85 tank behind you. So when you took off, you took off on the left wing tank, because you wanted to use up some space in that tank first because it had a return line from the carburetor and excess fuel would go back into the fuel system instead of getting dumped overboard or being burned excessively. So if you wanted to go on a long mission you wanted every drop of gas. You took off on the left main tank, then you switch to externals and ran them dry, then you went to your fuselage tank, and when you got it halfway down, you’re ready for combat. Now when I say, ‘Ready for combat’, the fuselage tank gave you an aft center of gravity. You know, when you balance airplanes, you want to be balanced, and if you have a lot of weight in the back, it makes the aircraft kind of unstable. Not really easy to fly. For example, you're going fast and you pull a turn with a heavy pull on the stick and if you have an aft center of gravity, what it does, the airplane then tries by itself to tighten up the turn even more and the stick force goes light and pretty soon you're pushing forward on it to keep it from pitching up and stalling. So it's very unusual to fly that way because it's ass-backwards and dangerous. If you're going really fast, and we had guys really do this: during the chase and they pull up to fast, they get the stick forces reversed and they couldn't catch up and the plane would go up and over-G the airplane and the wings would come off. It's rare, but it did happen. They did later fixed it by putting a bob weight and some other stuff, but the safe thing to do was to burn half your fuel out, then go to your drop tanks so then when you drop your tanks you are ready to fight. But if you had a full fuselage tank you're going to have little control problem.
So this one day, were going out, we’re on a very long flight, we’re going into Poland way past Berlin and I wanted every drop of fuel so I was using this procedure: I was keeping my fuselage tank full, and I was on my drop tanks. We were out to the side but near the front of the bombers we were escorting. And we got a call that the Germans were making head-on passes. So I start heading to the front, and of course we would drop our tanks now. I’ve got a full fuselage tank so I know my airplane isn't going to fly to good. And I see these guys coming. You can imagine these bombers flying in these three ships and they would mass about 60 of them to maximize their .50 caliber guns from attacks and then there'd be another box behind them, and another box, and another box, and another box, I mean as far as the eye could see! I mean 800 to 1000 bombers in this stream. Then we'd have 700 or 800 fighters trying to protect them so it's a pretty formidable scene here on the ground with all the contrails. So these four Messerschmitt's are coming in head on, flying wing tip to wing tip in a beautiful formation. They went right through these bombers, shot two of them down right in front of us. We’re coming along the side trying to get at ‘em, but there’s nothing we could do. Then these four Germans roll over like this and dived out and go back up toward the front. They're going try to turn around and make another pass, and I don't think they saw us. So by the time they got up there and got around, we dropped our tanks and we had our power up so we cut across and jumped them in front of the bombers. We end up in a circling dogfight. There are four of us and I can remember, Getting into a turning dogfight right in front of the bomber formation. The bombers coming in, we’re circling and they are coming right at us. And by the way, I'm holding forward on the stick, trying to keep my plane in control and I can't quite get around on him like I want to. I’m staggering around and I didn't want to go through the bombers as I knew they'd shoot at you. If you point your nose at them they're going a shoot at you and I guess it went across the Germans mind too. Now, the guy that breaks out of the circle first is going to be at a disadvantage because when he breaks out, the other guy can get on his tail. Well, these bombers are coming and pretty soon I seen them, I might be exaggerating a bit, but I was seeing cockpits and crew, you know they were just getting so close that I wanted to break out but I didn't want to be the first guy to break out. Well, that Me-109, fortunately, he rolled over and went straight down so I'm on his tail. There are four against four in all of this. Now we go down to the deck, and it was a brilliant day, bright sunny in the spring just green grass and forest and we’re screamin’ down like that and he gets out ahead of me and I'm still coming down. He comes around with this very, very, hard turn. And he’s coming back and I'm coming at him and I said, ‘My gosh, if I don't do something this guys can come at me head on!’ And that's something you don't want to do with cannons vs. machine guns. They had bigger guns and we didn’t. So he came around like that and he's makin’ this turn and a few more degrees and he's gonna be lined up with me. I can get a shot at him and need to do it quickly before he gets lined up with me. He's still turning, so I just got my sight picture, fired a long burst, and hit him hard. I had knocked the engine cowling off, his propeller came off, he pulled up, went inverted, and bailed out right on the spot. And my element leader shot down another one so we got two out of the four and then they ran.
There's a kind of a funny part of this story. During the dogfight, and you're talking about this thing called situational awareness, out of my peripheral vision I saw something moving and it was actually a shadow and it was big and I thought, ‘What the heck is that?’ but I didn't have time to look for it. So I got my flight back together, the four of us, and I asked if they'd seen anything and they said no, I said ‘okay get up here, get in formation.’ So we got into “spread finger four” combat formation, We were down low enough, 3000 feet, and I said, ‘Just follow me; I think I saw an airplane.’ So finally I saw a railroad track was going in OUR direction, and I’m thinking, ‘I’m gonna get on that railroad track! So we flew for about three or four or five minutes and then I saw a shadow but nothing else - I couldn't see an airplane. Remember, I said it was a bright brilliant day and I'm looking down and here's this old Heinkel, old battle of Britain Heinkel 111, probably being used as a transport and he's camouflaged green. I couldn't see him but I could see his shadow. I have my four ships and I said ‘alright guys this is what we’re going to do.’ You know, wingman hardly ever get to shoot, and I thought this would be a very good chance to get some experience. Let them get some experience shooting in actual combat, firing guns. Some guys go through the whole war and never fire their guns so I said, ‘okay practice gunnery pattern.’ And they knew what I meant when I said okay everybody shoots. The Heinkel had a gunner and I make the first pass and we got an engine smoking and we silenced the gunner. And so I watched my whole flight make passes and by that time we had the engine burning the guns silenced the other engine smoking badly and the guy was in trouble. He's getting lower, and lower, and lower, and it would've been easy for me to go in there by myself, get in there behind him and blown him out of the sky, but this gave my guys actual gun firing practice. So the guy comes up and this is huge field out there and he bellies in, crash lands in the field. There was a stump or rocks or some damn thing and it broke the left wing off as a came to a stop and burst into flames. Two guys actually got out of the airplane. And I can see this guy today, one guy was up in the front of the airplane just kind of standing there looking up at us as we were circling around and the other guy took off running, and it's a big open field and there's no place to hide and he's just running as hard as he can, and I thought let's give this guy a thrill! So I peeled off like I was going to strafe him, went down there and just buzzed the hell out of him, pulled up did a roll, gathered our flight together and went home.
Do you think you owe your life to your ground crew?
“Having your airplane work properly is very important of course. To give you an idea of how excellent they were in maintaining my airplane. I flew two tours. I came home, went back, and flew another tour. So I flew 116 missions, 480 hours and 20 minutes of combat flying and never had a single abort because of mechanical reasons or engine problems, or for any problem for that matter. And that's pretty unusual when you think about it. I had one problem and I kind of got it on the way home so it doesn't count as an abort. As a matter of fact we were over Berlin and were just turning back when I smelled smoke in the cockpit. So here I am 500 miles from home with smoke which means maybe fire which is something you don't want in a single-engine airplane or any airplane. So, oh boy, and pretty soon my radio went dead. So I got my flight together and signaled to them that I have no radio and got them to switch leads with me so I'm flying on a wing. The smoke and the smell went away and I got back home. We found that the exhaust stack, on the left side, one had cracked and had dropped down and jammed into the shroud and the exhaust was pouring back into the engine bay. Well, old Otto Heino had that engine bay so clean that you could eat your lunch in there and so it didn't catch on fire and nothing burned in there except for some electrical wires, and that's what caused the electrical failure. Other than that I had no problems whatsoever. Otto was so meticulous and they were so dedicated it was just kind of incredible. I just can't say enough about the crew chiefs of the world, they work there butts off and don't get credit for anything.
My crew chief, Otto Heino, is now a very famous potter he makes beautiful pottery. Just last weekend I went to his 95th birthday. He still alive he still works six days a week making treasures. He was my crew chief in training for P-39's and then he did my first tour with him. Then he was promoted so he had to move on. He moved up to be in the line chief and he got six airplanes he’s looking ever so he hand-picked my new crew chief for my second tour but he was always there when I left for every mission.
I don't know if you read the story about how they depainted my airplane and put it in a bare aluminum paint scheme overnight - three guys did that by hand. I thought holy smokes those guys think I gave them a direct order! I wanted him to do that when the airplane was laid up for heavy maintenance. I told them after a mission that it snowed out there and a camouflage airplane shows up against the snow. Please depaint it and put it in a silver paint scheme and then I decided to fly the next day. I come out in the morning, walk over my revetment, look down there, and my Mustang is sitting there in gleaming aluminum. These three guys are standing there at attention. Their hands were raw, I mean from using hundred octane and scraping the paint off. I was shocked that they had done it overnight and not waiting until the plane was laid up for a day or two but I realized they wanted to do that. You think about it; if you’re a crew chief on an airplane and your airplane went down for any reason whatsoever, think how you'd feel, you know, if it was a mechanical, you’d feel really bad.
Tell you what, when you got a kill, he painted that mark on the side like it was his kill too. It was their contribution to the war. We were doing the fighting and the dying up there but back in England, not in combat so to speak, so you know they wanted to share and do their part. They were very dedicated and very patriotic I just can't say enough about them.”
Did anyone ever find the door from your hut at Leiston where you carved your victories?
“No, the field over there has been returned to agriculture. I've been back there several times. The landowner is a German by the way, and supposedly they're used to be a Quonset hut over there with a bunch of doors stored in it but if there were, I never got to see it. People have looked for it but that would be cool to have that.”
You were described as a mongoose when you were in combat. Please tell me about the mindset you had to put yourself in when you're in combat.
“Well you had to be the hunter, you had to be the aggressor, and you had to want to do it. There should be no doubt in your mind that when you're going into combat that your going to do it. You know you don't want to have any doubts about pulling the trigger, about what you're doing and why you're doing it. I kind of adopted the attitude when I got over there. You’ve got to remember how young I was, I was 22 years old when I flew combat. I finally decided when I got over there that I'm already dead. I'm not going to make it so I'm going to do the damn best job I can. And then when you got more flying, more combat experience and were successful, then you got more confidence and could be really successful. Training had a lot to do with it.
Let's say you got two guys, same age, same physical conditioning, same training same background, everything can be about as equal as can be, then what's the difference between a good fighter pilot and a great fighter pilot? That's something in here are up there, call it fighting spirit. I call it motivation. The guy with the greatest motivation probably will end up on top and that's the kind of mindset you’ve got to have. You’ve got to want to do it and I think a lot of aces had those attributes. Assuming everybody's eyesight is the same. Well, I don't know I could see enemy airplanes before other people could and so could so many aces for some reason. Is there a knack of picking up an enemy airplane? I wanted to see them but some of the guys, I don't know whether they wanted to see them or not. Can you imagine a guy going to the whole war and never seeing an enemy airplane? We had some guys that allegedly that happened to. But motivation is probably the key.”
When you were escorting bombers did you ever have a gunner fire on you?
“Probably. You point your nose at a B-17 formation and they're going shoot at you. I think they had the philosophy where you to shoot at everybody and sorted it out later. am A P-51, looks like a Messerschmitt, Focke Wulf will look like a P-47 a little bit, a P-38 , doesn’t look like anybody so they may not have been shot at by the bombers. I don't personally know or remember, but I bet the B-17S were shooting at us when we're doing that circling dogfight in front of them. They might've been trying to shoot at him but hey, I was there to!”
So did you feel that the Mustang was the best plane in World War II Europe?
“Yes I did. The reason I think it was is because what we needed at the time was an airplane with long-range and none of the other airplanes had that. Well fortunately the Mustang not only had the long-range and endurance and can fly wherever a B-17 wanted to go but it was also maneuverable, it was also very, very fast at high altitudes, very fast at low altitudes because it had the two stage, two speed supercharger. It was a fantastic combination of an airplane with this new type of airfoil and it had a unique radiator system underneath. Believe it or not, the radiator on liquid cooled airplanes create drag but North American figured out a way to cool the engine and provide a small amount of thrust, a very little bit, but it at least it killed some of the drag. So it was an ingenious airplane from an aeronautical engineering standpoint and it flew well. In the hands of a good pilot I think it could take care of itself against all. The trouble in Europe was a lot of the airplanes had good performance like the speed, altitude, maneuverability they were all very close, but none of them had the range of the Mustang. The Spitfire was designed for the dogfight. The Germans built theirs to shoot down bombers with a heavy armament and stuff like that. Pilots probably made little more difference in the European war than they did in the Pacific war because in the Pacific the Japanese airplanes were so maneuverable that we could not dogfight with them. In that sense you have to hit-and-run. They had no armor plating, they didn't have protected fuel cells, and they torched easily so you had to use different tactics. They had to use your high-speed and not dogfight with them”
Did that confidence in your plane and crew allow you to be more aggressive in combat?
“Yes, I felt good about the Mustang and my crew and personally I felt I could outdo anybody I'd ever run into. Now I did learn well after the war that at low altitudes the 109 could give a Mustang a hard time in the hands of a good pilot. Fortunately I didn't have to learn that lesson. Two or three of my dog fights were against good pilots. But a lot of the kills, I just came in behind him and shot him down and they maybe didn't even see me. But yes, having a good aircraft certainly does give you added confidence.”
On page 90, the second paragraph, you said, ‘that there are people who didn't like combat. Some guys would groan when the target looked tough and some guys would grin. And the guys who grinned were the ones you wanted to have with me.’ So did you grin?
“You bet! Oh yeah, we liked to go on those missions because we knew we were going to have action.”
“Yes the F-86 is a wonderful airplane. It's probably one of my favorite airplanes. You know the Mustang was one of my favorite airplanes too. It's a beautiful airplane, wonderful sound, it's a great airplane to fly, and it has a great history. It got me through the war that's enough right there. The F-86 again is a beautiful airplane on the ground and in the air. It's the best subsonic jet airplane I ever flew. IF you're at high altitude you could GO supersonic in a dive. My next favorite airplane would be the most modern airplane I got to fly. Today the best airplane I've flown is the F-15 Eagle. I have only flown it once or twice since it was developed after I retired. It flies beautifully and has a lot of new gadgets. The reason is because today computers control the airplane. You can design an airplane and say I want to make it fly like a Mustang or I want to make it fly like an F-86, and the computers can do that. You take an F-16, which is basically an unstable airplane without a computer and the same with the B-2. You can’t fly it without the computer. New airplanes are very nice to fly, they fly beautifully. So those are my three favorite airplanes.”
So on page 232 you talked about dropping toilet paper on the carrier's deck. It must've been fun! Can you tell me about it?
“I didn't actually do the toilet paper but I was involved in the flight and I'm the one that made the sonic boom. I was stationed in Korea after the war and had an F-86 squadron. It was an unaccompanied assignments and no family and it was right after the war. It was kind of a miserable place to be. We hadn't decided whether we were going to be there or not. The facilities were kind of rundown and the country was in shambles. Living conditions were horrible. Well anyway, the Fifth Air Force’s, Japan and Korean based fighter units would go on what they called “Mobility Exercises” where we would go off to a different base and demonstrate we could operate. You know if something happened down in such and such place, we can fly down there, arrive and start flying the next day or even the day we got there. So they were these exercises to test us. We would fly down to Taiwan which was then Formosa, and this was where the Chinese were, the Nationalist Chinese, because they were separate from China and we operated off of a Chinese airbase. We were just continuing our training and were a demonstration of our combat capability. We would do some gunnery, drop some bombs, fly formation, and stuff like that. Well there was some kind of a joint command there, and they wanted to have an exercise with the Navy. So we're down there and the Navy, they always think that the fleet can move around and we can't find them, and all that kind of stuff. And so they said, all right the fleet is out here somewhere and their going to be steaming about 100 miles off the coast and they wanted to see if we could go in and intercept the carrier and they were going to test the fleet’s air defenses. So I had this one guy, who was a Major, the rest were second lieutenants on their first duty assignment. So I got old Ben and I said, ‘well we’ll put on the external tanks so we have the endurance, and we’ll go as high as we can get better fuel specific, and then we can see a greater area also. When the weather report came out there was going to be a cloud factor and that was not going to help us too much. Our plan was if we didn't get intercepted, I would fly the top cover and when we found a carrier, I'm going to roll over, take the F-86 supersonic, and try to cast the sonic boom on the carrier. You can do a pretty good job of directing the sonic boom. You can hit an airfield! I’ve done that many, many times! And then Ben says you do that and then he's going to take his flight down, and what he'd done is the F-86 has speed brakes that pop out of the side of the fuselage, and they put all these toilet paper rolls inside there and closed the speed brakes. So I would do the sonic boom if we found them and then he'd go down, down, down, and come across the deck of the carrier pop the speed brakes and send the toilet paper all over the carrier!
So were out there and I'm up at 40,000 feet, we got a fuel margin to get back what we call our bingo fuel so were getting very close to our bingo fuel in fact we’re at our bingo and I’m thinking, ‘darned we can't find him’, and I’m rolling around and looking and all of a sudden I look and there’s a break in the clouds and I see this huge wake and there she is! I told Ben where the carrier was and he saw it, so I go down, hit them with the sonic boom, and Ben dove down beneath the clouds and came up on the carrier and hit them with the toilet paper.
We got a commendation from an Air Force general on the joint staff that was part of the exercise. We had sent a report in and said that, ‘We'd laid a sonic boom on the carrier and we had dropped a simulated atomic weapon on it!’ The Air Force General got big kick out of it. Later we got a report back that said, ‘there was a high sea with pitching decks and they had a tail hook problem on the Panthers. They never did get airborne.’ I don't know what the true story is but I know what we did!”
“Well, we used to have fun now and then.”
Well, I sure had fun spending the afternoon with Bud!
He also autographed two models I made with my dad!
To give you an example of how nice a guy Bud Anderson is, after I transcribed the interview and went through it, Bud spent a lot of his valuable time reading and editing it for me. Thanks Bud!
Buds book “To Fly and Fight” is a great book! I highly recommend it!
Also, be sure to check out his really amazing website. (you can get his book from it!)
If you go to my audio clips page #2, you can hear parts of our interview!
Interview by me. Bottom 4 photos by me and my dad. The rest are courtesy of Bud Anderson.