Nearly 70 years ago, Bud Anderson was in the cockpit of a P-51 Mustang fighter, flying over Nazi-controlled Germany, his eyes sweeping the sky for the dark specks that signaled incoming Luftwaffe dogfighters trying to shoot him out of the sky.

Now, seven decades after he used the P-51’s power and agility to outmaneuver the Luftwaffe and pepper the German planes with 50-caliber gunfire, Anderson will come to Truckee to tell the stories of being a World War II triple ace. The World War II fighter pilot made a name as a war hero and masterful multi-tasker — flying a plane to the edge of its limits while firing his wing-mounted guns and scanning the sky for incoming attackers.

“You are totally in control of your own life and your own success,” said Anderson of his dogfighting days.


Apart from the piloting skills, Anderson said that the great aces had something special.

“Some people would call it a fighting spirit. I call it motivation,” said Anderson.

During his 116 combat missions with the 357th Fighter Group of the U.S. Air Force, Anderson shot down 16 German planes, and became known as one of the most talented and tactical dogfighters in World War II.

The renowned World War II fighter pilot, now 91 years old, will speak at a July 5 dinner at the Truckee Tahoe Airport’s Hangar One and serve as the grand marshal at the Truckee Tahoe Airport AirFair on July 6.

Anderson grew up on a farm in Newcastle and remembers taking “expeditions” up to Lake Tahoe as a kid. It was on that farm, under the trans-Sierra flight path, that Anderson first became entranced with aviation. Flying soon became the focus of his life — a pilot by 19, at 22 years old he was escorting bombers across Nazi Germany, protecting them from swarms of Luftwaffe fighters.

Anderson’s skills at dogfighting, the aerial equivalent of hand-to-hand combat, earned him 25 decorations, and a description by renowned U.S. military pilot Chuck Yeager as “a mongoose … the best fighter pilot I’ve ever seen.”

Dogfighting was a life-and-death contest of flying skill, gunning accuracy, and quick thinking. And Anderson excelled in the cockpit of the P-51 Mustang, a nimble, fast, long-distance fighter that revolutionized the bombing range of the U.S. Air Force in World War II.

Anderson was inducted in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2008. He still travels extensively, speaking about World War II and representing his generation of World War II fighter pilots in ceremonies and air shows around the world.

An active pilot until last year, Anderson recently returned from Great Britain during a trip where he once again climbed into the cockpit of a P-51 Mustang.

His message, a story of war-time valor, is also a story of a farm boy from Placer County who charted a course that made him one of the most revered aerial combatants in World War II history.

“I always tell them that you are looking at a guy who lived his dreams,” said Anderson.


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