MCCLELLAN, Calif. – Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. presided over a ceremony for retired Col. Clarence E. “Bud” Anderson, promoting him to the honorary rank of brigadier general, Dec. 2, 2022, at the Aerospace Museum of California in McClellan, California.
The ceremony was an opportunity to honor the 100-year-old World War II triple ace during the 75th anniversary year of the U.S. Air Force’s establishment as a military service.
Anderson was also presented with a general officer’s personal flag, which has historically symbolized leadership on the battlefield. Today, general officer flags signify the presence of a general officer, and their personal flags are present at all official military functions one attends.
“It is a real, real pleasure and honor to be here today with you,” Brown said. “As you might imagine, I get to do some pretty neat things, and this is one of them. This is the second opportunity I've had to promote someone from our Greatest Generation.”
Anderson flew 116 combat missions as a fighter pilot and leader with the 357th Fighter Group during WWII. He shot down 16 ¼ enemy aircraft during combat in his P-51 Mustang, earning the title, “triple ace.” The term ‘Ace’ is used to describe a fighter pilot who has been credited with shooting down five enemy aircraft.
The California native is the last American triple-ace from WWII and the oldest living American fighter ace.
For me, he represents all the guys he flew with. He's the last of them.retired Lt. Col. Jim Anderson, son of Bud.
"For me, he represents all the guys he flew with,” said retired Lt. Col. Jim Anderson, son of Bud. “He's the last of them."
Anderson served from 1942 to 1972. Some of his decorations include: two Legions of Merit, five Distinguished Flying Crosses, 16 Air Medals and the Bronze Star. After retiring from active duty, Anderson worked at the F-15 test facility at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
“[Bud’s] kind of a wrecking ball of a guy and I think for many of us, probably wouldn't want to have him behind us shooting us down—he had a distinguished career,” Brown said. “It was really good to have a chance just to read through [some of Bud’s service records] and for me personally to reflect on the impact you had on our history of our Air Force.”
A large crowd of more than 200 people were in attendance to honor Anderson, as well as members of congress, local district representatives and retired military.
“To all the young people that have the ambition to join the Air Force,” Anderson said. “Have at it! You can be what you want to be and you should know that when you like what you do, you can excel, be a better person at your job to do it better.”
Before the ceremony, Anderson was asked how it feels to receive this honor; he said he was too overwhelmed to answer that question.
Following the ceremony, refreshments and cake were provided to celebrate Anderson. The crowd raised shots of Old Crow, the bourbon whiskey Anderson named his aircraft after; Anderson’s first “Old Crow” was a P-39Q when flying with the 363rd Fighter Squadron during WWII.