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Rudolf Anderson, Jr.
September 15, 1927(1927-09-15) – October 27, 1962 (aged 35)
Maj. Rudolf Anderson
Place of birth Greenville, South Carolina
Resting place Greenville, South Carolina
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch U.S. Air Force
Rank US-O4 insignia.svg Major
Battles/wars Korean War, Cuban Missile Crisis
Awards Air Force Cross
Air Force Distinguished Service
Purple Heart
Cheney Award

Rudolf Anderson, Jr. (September 15, 1927 – October 27, 1962) was a pilot and officer in the United States Air Force, and the first recipient of the Air Force Cross. Anderson was killed when his U-2 reconnaissance aircraft was shot down during the Cuban Missile Crisis; he was the only casualty that occurred as a result of enemy fire during the confrontation.


Cuban Missile Crisis

Originally flown by the CIA, the USAF took over the Lockheed U-2 high altitude reconnaissance missions of Cuba on October 14, 1962, using WU-2 aircraft of the 4028th Strategic Reconnaissance Weather Squadron, 4080th Strategic Wing, headquartered at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. On October 15, 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 October 27, Major Anderson took off in U-2A (FY serial 56-6676) from a forward operating location at McCoy Air Force Base, Orlando, Florida, and 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. [1] Anderson was killed when shrapnel from the exploding proximity warhead punctured his pressure suit, causing it to decompress at high altitude. On October 31, Acting United Nations Secretary U Thant, returning from a visit with Premier Fidel Castro, announced that Major Anderson was dead.

By order of President John F. Kennedy, Major Anderson was posthumously awarded the first Air Force Cross, as well as the Distinguished Service Medal, the Purple Heart, and the Cheney Award.

Although Major Anderson was the only combat fatality during the crisis, eleven crew of three reconnaissance Boeing B-47 Stratojets of the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing were killed in crashes during the period between September 27 and November 11, 1962. [2]


Air Force Cross citation

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pride in presenting the Air Force Cross (Posthumously) to Major Rudolf Anderson, Jr., United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Pilot of a U-2 airplane with the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Strategic Air Command (SAC), from 15 October 1962 to 27 October 1962. During this period of great national crisis, Major Anderson, flying an unescorted, unarmed aircraft, lost his life while participating in one of several aerial reconnaissance missions over Cuba. While executing these aerial missions, Major Anderson made photographs which provided the United States government with conclusive evidence of the introduction of long-range offensive missiles into Cuba and which materially assisted our leaders in charting the nation's military and diplomatic course. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, Major Anderson reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Personal life

Anderson was born in Greenville, South Carolina earned the rank of Eagle Scout, from Troop 19, and graduated from Clemson University in 1948.[3] His body was interred in Greenville on November 6, 1962 at Woodlawn Memorial Park.[4]


A memorial to Major Anderson can be seen at Cleveland Park in Greenville. The memorial includes an F-86 Sabre, the type of plane Anderson flew in the Korean War. The F-86 was used for the Memorial because there were no surplus U-2 aircraft available at the time when it was erected in the 1960s.

Every year a memorial service is held in his honor.

The Arnold Air Society Squadron at Clemson University is named in his honor.


Some of the wreckage of Major Anderson's aircraft can be found in three museums in Cuba. The engine and portion of the tail assembly from the U-2 is on display at the Museum of the Revolution in Havana. The right wing, a portion of the tail assembly, and front landing gear are on display at the Museo del Aire, also in Havana. One of the engine intakes is at the Museo Girón at Girón village, adjacent to Bahia de Cochinos.

Popular culture

The shooting down of Anderson's reconnaissance flight over Cuba is featured in the film Thirteen Days, with Chip Esten playing the role of Major Anderson.


Specific references:

  1. ^ Central Intelligence Agency report - supplement 8 to Joint Evaluation of Soviet Missile Threat In Cuba, 0200 hours, 28 October 1962.
  2. ^ Lloyd, Alwyn T., "Boeing's B-47 Stratojet", Specialty Press, North Branch, Minnesota, 2005, ISBN 978-1-58007-071-3, page 178.
  3. ^ Clemson Alumni Association, "Clemson Alumni: Today 2008", Harris Connect, Inc., Chesapeake, Virginia, 2007, page 1813.
  4. ^ Rudolf Anderson at Find a Grave

General references:

  • Central Intelligence Agency report - supplement 8 to Joint Evaluation of Soviet Missile Threat In Cuba, 0200 hours, 28 October 1962.

External links


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