World War II Triple Ace Fighter Pilot

Illustration of a vintage fighter plane, named "Old Crow" with a red tail and checkered nose, set against a blue badge background with three silver stars and the inscription "Brigadier General - Aerospace Museum of California

California native, Brigadier General C. E. “Bud” Anderson (1922 – present) flew in 116 combat missions escorting bombers into German-occupied Europe during World War II. At just 22 years old, Anderson quickly proved his skill as a fighter pilot and leader within the famed 357th Fighter Group. Flying a P-51 Mustang he named “Old Crow,” Anderson earned “Triple Ace” status after shooting down 16 ¼ enemy aircraft in combat. He served for two tours during 1944 – 1945 without being hit by enemy fire.

His legendary military career did not end after World War II. Some of his more notable assignments included serving as a test pilot flying over 100 different kinds of aircraft. During the Vietnam War, General Anderson served as a Commander of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing where he flew bombing strike missions against enemy supply lines in Southeast Asia. During his 30 years with the Air Force, he was decorated 25 times including two Legion of Merits, five Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Bronze Star, 16 Air Medals, the French Legion of Honor, and the French Croix de Guerre. In 2022, at 100 years old, Brigadier General Anderson is the highest-scoring living World War II ace in the United States.

The P-51 Mustang “Old Crow”

General Anderson flew three different P-51B model Mustangs during his first combat tour during World War II. During his second tour, he flew a P-51D model which was his favorite to fly. The P-51D model featured six 50-caliber machine guns and the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine which improved performance and handling. This powerful new engine provided 1,490 horsepower and could generate over 440 miles per hour top speed.

All of the aircraft General Anderson flew during his military career were named and painted “Old Crow.” Unlike other young World War II pilots of the time, he did not name his plane after his wife or girlfriend because he was single at the time. Instead, Anderson named his aircraft after the cheapest bourbon whiskey brand available at the time, Old Crow. Anderson charmingly recollects, “For all of my church-going friends, I told them that “Old Crow” was named after the smartest bird in the sky. But all my drinking buddies knew that it was named after that smooth Kentucky whiskey.”

Brigadier General Anderson

A friend and supporter of the Aerospace Museum of California

Brigadier General Bud Anderson is a friend and supporter of the Aerospace Museum of California. Many artifacts such as his World War II leather helmet, service uniform, and other personal items are on display in the Museum gallery. Be sure to stop by the Museum’s Old Crow Cafe named in honor of Bud Anderson’s P-51 Mustang. The cafe features art, artifacts, and memorabilia related to General Anderson’s service during World War II.

Bud turned 100 on January 13, 2022 and is the highest scoring living US Fighter Ace and the only surviving US Triple Ace. There are now only 14 living US Fighter Aces out of 1,447 recognized US Fighter Aces.

An elderly man with a bright smile proudly holding a book titled "Fly Navy," surrounded by five young people, with an American flag in the background, signaling a moment of intergenerational connection and possibly - Aerospace Museum of California

"Be passionate and excel at whatever you do. Never give up or lose your sense of hope or humor… and don’t take yourself too seriously."

Let's Honor Our American Hero

Bud Anderson has inspired millions of people through his perseverance, heroic flying experiences, his honor, integrity, service and commitment to our community and country. He is one of the finest fighter pilots who ever flew, a living legend who is proud to have served his country. He inspires young people to set ambitious goals, to work hard to achieve them and he encourages them to “Live their dreams”.

Let’s honor our great American hero and ensure his legacy endures and continues to inspire future generations.

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Aerospace Museum of California - McClellan, CA 95652