Bud Anderson clearly summed up his 30-year military career and service to the United States Air Force perfectly in the title of his autobiography, To Fly and Fight. Anderson was born in California in 1922 and grew up on a farm near Newcastle. While at Sacramento Junior College, he earned a private pilot license at 19 through the Civilian Pilot Training Program. Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he became an aviation cadet. He received his wings and a commission as a second lieutenant in the Army Air Force in September 1942. During World War II, he flew two tours in the 357th Fighter Group from Leiston, England.
During 116 missions flying the North American P-51 Mustang, he became a triple ace with more than 16 Luftwaffe fighters downed in aerial combat. Later, after World War II, he was assigned to the Flight Test Division at Wright Field, Ohio. He flew over 90 different types of aircraft and worked on several unique test programs. On one, he flew a Republic F-84 Thunderjet that was coupled in flight, at the wing tip, to the wing tip of a Boeing B-29. On another, he flew different models of Republic F-84s up under a Convair GRB-36. He then attached the fighter to a trapeze hung from the bomber and was lifted into the bomb bay. He progressed in the field of flight test and rose to chief of Flight Test Divisions Fighter Section. After an assignment to the Pentagon, Anderson attended Air Command and Staff School.
He then served a tour at Osan AB, Korea, flying the North American F-86 Sabre in the 58th Fighter-Bomber Group. He soon became Commander of the Fighting 69th Fighter-Bomber Squadron and led it during an extensive deployment to Taiwan. Next, he went to the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB and served as Chief of Flight Test Operations. He flew the Century series fighters and many other aircraft. In 1962, Anderson went to the Army War College for a year, and then returned to Edwards AFB as Deputy Director of Flight Test. In 1965, he became Director of Operations for the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing in Okinawa. He flew the Republic F-105 Thunderchief and ended the tour as Wing Commander. In 1970, after a two-year assignment at the Pentagon, he took command of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing in Thailand.
He flew the F-105 on 25 missions against enemy supply lines in Southeast Asia. Colonel Anderson retired in 1972 with over 7,000 hours flying time in more than 120 different types of aircraft. He then joined McDonnell Aircraft as manager of the company test facility at Edwards AFB. Now fully retired, Anderson occasionally gets airborne in Old Crow, a P-51 painted exactly like his World War II fighter.
During World War II, aircraft such as the North American P-51 Mustang proved the value of escort fighters for heavy bombers. By the fifties, there were bombers with transoceanic range, but there were no fighters with that capability! Major Bud Anderson was one of the test pilots to fly on Project FICON. The program was meant to test the feasibility of a parasite fighter born by the bomber. Eventually, the emphasis changed to carrying a parasite reconnaissance fighter. For Anderson, FICON presented some of his most intense moments as a test pilot!