Rudolf Anderson bigraphy, stories - Recipient of the Purple Heart medal

Rudolf Anderson : biography

15 September 1927 - 27 October 1962

Major Rudolf Anderson, Jr., USAF (15 September 1927 – 27 October 1962), was a pilot and commissioned officer in the United States Air Force and the first recipient of the Air Force Cross, the U.S. Air Force's second-highest award for heroism. The only person killed by enemy fire during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Anderson died when his U-2 reconnaissance aircraft was shot down over Cuba.


Anderson was born in Greenville, South Carolina. He earned the rank of Eagle Scout from Greenville's Boy Scout Troop 19, graduated from Greenville High School and from Clemson University as a member of Air Force ROTC Detachment 770,Ceremony program, Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Distinguished Alumni Induction, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, 26 July 2011, page 6. in 1948.Clemson Alumni Association, "Clemson Alumni: Today 2008", Harris Connect, Inc., Chesapeake, Virginia, 2007, page 1813. Commissioned as a second lieutenant, he completed Primary and Advanced pilot training and received his Air Force aeronautical rating as a pilot. He began his operational career flying RF-86 Sabres and earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses for reconnaissance missions during the Korean War. After qualifying on the U-2 on 3 September 1957, "he became the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing's top U-2 pilot with over one thousand hours, making him a vital part of the United States' reconnaissance operation over Cuba in late October of 1962." Ceremony program, Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Distinguished Alumni Induction, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, 26 July 2011, page 6.

Cuban Missile Crisis

Originally flown by the CIA, the Lockheed U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance missions over Cuba were taken over by the Air Force on 14 October 1962, using CIA U-2 aircraft that were repainted with USAF insignia. Anderson was part of the 4028th Strategic Reconnaissance Weather Squadron, 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, headquartered at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. On 15 October, when CIA analysts studied reconnaissance film from the first 4080th overflight, they found SS-4 medium-range ballistic missiles. These pictures triggered the Cuban Missile Crisis.

On 27 October, Anderson took off in a U-2F (AF Serial Number 56-6676, former CIA Article 343) from a forward operating location at McCoy Air Force Base in Orlando, Florida. A few hours into his mission, he was shot down by a Soviet-supplied S-75 Dvina (NATO designation SA-2 Guideline) surface-to-air missile near Banes, Cuba. "The loss of the U-2 over Banes was probably caused by intercept by an SA-2 from the Banes site, or pilot hypoxia, with the former appearing more likely on the basis of present information," stated a CIA document dated 0200 hrs, 28 October 1962.Central Intelligence Agency report - supplement 8 to Joint Evaluation of Soviet Missile Threat in Cuba, 0200 hours, 28 October 1962. Anderson was killed when shrapnel from the exploding proximity warhead punctured his pressure suit, causing it to decompress at high altitude.

On 31 October, Acting United Nations Secretary U Thant returned from a visit with Premier Fidel Castro and announced that Anderson was dead.

By order of President John F. Kennedy, Anderson was posthumously awarded the first Air Force Cross, as well as the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, the Purple Heart, and the Cheney Award. On 26 July 2011, Anderson was inducted into the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Distinguished Alumni in a ceremony at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, officiated by Lieutenant General Allen G. Peck, Commander, Air University.Ceremony program, Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Distinguished Alumni Induction, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, 26 July 2011, page 6.

Although Anderson was the only combat death of the crisis, three reconnaissance-variant Boeing RB-47 Stratojets of the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing crashed between 27 September and 11 November 1962, killing a total of 11 crewmembers.Lloyd, Alwyn T., "Boeing's B-47 Stratojet", Specialty Press, North Branch, Minnesota, 2005, ISBN 978-1-58007-071-3, page 178. Seven more airmen died when a Boeing C-135B Stratolifter delivering ammunition to Naval Base Guantanamo Bay stalled and crashed on approach on 23 October.

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