I had the pleasure of meeting Colonel Bud Anderson last year at an awards banquet held by the Northern California Aero Club. As the honored guest, he told the audience about his experiences during WWII flying his P-51 Mustang. He served two combat tours, flying 116 combat missions (480 hours) and destroyed 16 1/4 enemy aircraft in aerial combat and one on the ground. To explain the 1/4 kill, Col. Anderson shared the victory with other members of his squadron. As he explains the event:
“We were engaged in a wild dogfight with some ME109′s and ended up on the deck. During the engagement I noticed a large shadow moving on the ground. After we finished off the ME109′s I gathered my flight of four together and investigated the mysterious shadow. It turned out to be a camouflaged HE111 trying to get out of the area by flying right on the deck. We pulled up along side and set up a regular gunnery training pattern each taking a turn. All flight members got in one or two passes. We silenced the rear gunner, set one engine on fire and the other smoking badly. The pilot made a belly landing in an open field but the HE111 broke in half and caught fire. We saw at least two crew members escape. Everyone in my flight of four P-51′s had made a firing pass on the bomber so I shared the victory with all flight members.”
When asked what is his favorite aircraft, his loyalty remains with the P-51D, especially his “Old Crow” which he named after a whiskey he preferred. He jokes that he tells his Baptist friends that it is named after the smartest bird that flies in the sky, but in actuality his plane is named after the Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey of the same name. A good name for a great plane. It is arguably the plane that won the war. Originally ordered by the British in 1939, the Mustang would go on to be the primary fighter aircraft to dominate the skies. It’s ability to carry 450 gallons of fuel, the aircraft had a range of 2000 miles making it perfect to escort the bombers for the duration of long-range missions.
Before the U.S. entered the war, it produced various supplies for the Allied forces. The British Purchasing Agency originally purchased all the P-40′s that Curtiss-Wright Corporation could build. The British knowing they needed more planes approached North American Aviation to build additional P-40′s but the company did not favor the idea of constructing a competitor’s product. Instead they produced a new fighter that used the same American-built Allison engine V-1710-39, the P-51. Originally named the Apache, it was later named the Mustang after the wild North American horses.
Once the U.S. entered the war, the Mustang remained the main fighter plane combating the German Luftwaffe. Col. Anderson’s model, the P-51D, was the most produced at 9600 aircraft. It’s combat record includes 4950 air kills, 4131 ground kills, 230 V-1 kills. Only 300 P-51s exist today with about only half flying. Bud Anderson has his “Old Crow” which you can learn more about in his book, To Fly and Fight: Memoirs of a Triple Ace. I recommend his book for a pilot’s perspective on WWII. His straightforward narrative reads as if he is in a conversation with his reader. Rather than listing combat maneuvers and mission logs, he provides an in-depth description of the emotions and logistics of his experiences in combat. Intermixed with a little humor and stories of his personal life, the book is an exciting read. An accomplished pilot, Col. Anderson has flown over 130 aircraft, logging 7500 flight hours. His 30 year military career included: Commander of an F86 Squadron in post war Korea; Commander of an F-105 Wing on Okinawa; served in Southeast Asia as Commander of 355th Tactical Fighter Wing; assignment to the Pentagon as an advanced R&D staff planner and as Director of Operational Requirements. He has been decorated 25 times to include 2 Legion of Merits, 5 Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Bronze Star, 16 Air Medals, the French Legion of Honor and the French Croix de Guerre, in addition to multiple campaign and service ribbons. A true American hero.
Refer to Bud Anderson’s webpage for more information, excerpts from his book, and videos narrating his experiences in the war: http://www.cebudanderson.com/