Bud and Chuck: Aerial adventures in WWII

Chuck Yeager is famous for breaking the sound barrier in a Bell X-1 rocket plane. That happened on Oct. 14, 1947, at Muroc Army Air Base in southern California, renamed Edwards Air Force Base in 1950. On that day Yeager hit Mach 1.06, or 700 mph, at 45,000 feet. He reached Mach 1.35, 905 mph, in December and 1.45, 957 mph, the following March.
Yeager, during his time as a World War II fighter pilot, became friends with Clarence “Bud” Anderson, who was incorrectly identified in Yeager’s autobiography as Yeager’s wingman during the war. Yeager did not proofread the captions, and although the mistake was corrected in later editions it was circulated widely in paperback editions. Anderson wrote in his autobiography, “To Fly and Fight,” that he supposed that is how history gets written.
Anderson and Yeager both served two tours as fighter pilots in World War II. They had a passing acquaintance during the first round but became close friends the second time out, and in the final months of the war they were based in Texas together training new flyers. Anderson worked as a recruiter in Ohio after the war and Yeager as a test pilot. They married three days apart and honeymooned together.
Anderson hated recruiting and felt he was being punished for not getting shot down, whereas Yeager got the hotshot pilot job because he had gone down. Both had volunteered for a second tour despite having fulfilled their mission requirements on the first tour, and Anderson said Yeager had to fight for the right to reenlist because he had been interned in Spain, a neutral country, and the Germans could have pressured Spain for letting him go had they caught him.
“To Fly and Fight” is an engaging first-person account of World War II, and in it Anderson revealed his triumphs and his failures with no apologies. He wrote of his final “mission,” an aerial gallivant over western Europe with Yeager. They had only to accompany a group of planes to the Dutch coast but kept flying because it would not count as a mission if they didn’t fly over enemy territory, and at the Dutch coast they turned right and flew 500 miles south into Switzerland. They dropped their empty fuel tanks on Mount Blanc and strafed them, and they buzzed a lakeshore hotel by Lake Annecy, flying low enough to disturb the shingles. They meandered home over France, just over treetop height.
When they returned, Anderson’s crew chief said words to  the effect of “You should have been there today.” The group got more than 50 German planes, and Anderson and Yeager had missed the fight. Anderson said he felt sick.
Anderson eventually returned to flying and served in Thailand at age 48 during the Vietnam War. He retired as a colonel after 30 years of service. Both men are still alive, and both stay active with public appearances, interviews, and worthwhile causes. Anderson, for example, will attend an air show in Houston this weekend. Yeager’s website is http://www.chuckyeager.com, and Anderson’s is http://www.cebudanderson.com/. “To Fly and Fight” is an interesting, honest testament to the reality of war by a pilot who experienced it first-hand.

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