Major Rudolf Anderson Jr. Emily JN Sharita
Education • Rudolf Anderson graduated from Greenville High in 1944. • He went on to Clemson University, and graduated in 1948 with a textile degree. • While at Clemson, he served in the Air Force ROTC. • By the end of his senior year, he had earned a position on Clemson’s Senior Platoon.
Accomplishments • Rudolf Anderson was the only casualty of the Cuban Missile Crisis. • Before his death on the last day of flights, Anderson took aerial photos of the missile sights in Cuba which could have brought the US into a nuclear war with the USSR. • It is believed that Anderson’s death may have been the thing that stopped Khrushchev from firing the missiles, preventing a potential war. • He joined the air force in 1951, served in the Korean War and earned two Distinguished Flying Cross citations while in service • Anderson was also given a Purple Heart, the first ever Air Force Cross, and the highest peacetime award, the Distinguished Service Medal, for his heroic service in Cuba.
The Day of His Death • The day of Anderson’s death is known as “Black Sunday.” It was the 12th day of the Cuban Missile Crisis, October 27, 1962. • His flight was originally to be cancelled, but he argued to go ahead and was shot down over the eastern tip of Cuba. • Anderson left behind a wife, two sons, and a daughter
Memorials • In honor of Rudolf Anderson, a memorial was put up in Cleveland Park in Greenville. The plane used was the one he flew in Korea, as U-2 planes that were flown over Cuba were unavailable. • There are several other memorials to him in Greenville as well as an annual service in his honor. There is also a memorial to him in Cuba. • The movie, Thirteen Days, depicts his heroic flight and death
Newspaper Article Oct. 27, Rudy's family was informed that he was missing. That wasnational headline news. His family here knew nothing more for four days.Then on Oct. 31, U Thant, acting secretary general of the United Nationson a peace-seeking trip to Cuba, told the world that Fidel Castro wouldallow Rudy's body to be returned to the United States. That was when his father, mother and other family members learned aCuban weapon had shot him down. I had not seen Rudy since May 1956. On an Air Force Reserve trip toAlaska our plane was grounded at Larson Air Force Base, Wash., whereRudy was an F-86 jet fighter pilot with the Strategic Air Command.That's the type of plane that now serves as a memorial to him nearCleveland Park. He felt he had that Saturday in Washington off and suggested threeof us go fishing in one of those rich lakes near Spokane. But SAC pilots had known for a long time that their time was notalways their own, and Rudy was put on alert status, insisting that twoof us take his car and fishing equipment, which we did. Later that weekend he came over to our room at the air base and in aleisurely discussion I asked when he was going to get out of the AirForce. • Dan Foster, retired sports editor of The Greenville News, was apersonal friend of Rudolf Anderson Jr., the only American casualty ofthe Cuban Missile Crisis.By Dan Foster Seeing the current movie "Thirteen Days" about the Cuban MissileCrisis brought back both pleasant and sad memories about Rudolf AndersonJr. He was not only the single casualty of that showdown between theU.S. and Soviet Union, he was a hero to many, including the latePresident Kennedy. This is not impersonal. Rudy was a friend, a native Greenvillian, ateammate on the Buncombe Street Methodist Church softball team of thelate 1940s. And, as the U.S. Air Force decided, a pilot and officer ofskills high above the norm. Pilots chosen to fly the exotic U-2 spy plane were an elite group.Their missions required special skills, extraordinary courage and a deepsense of responsibility in the protection of their country. It was aerial photos that Rudy and another U-2 pilot made inmid-October 1962 that convinced Kennedy and his advisers that the SovietUnion had put offensive missiles into Cuba. The movie portrays the keen anxieties and hurried discussions theKennedy circle had before the administration's decision to tell NikitaKhrushchev to remove the missiles. That was joined with a blockade ofCuba, which appeared then and now as the closest the world has come toWorld War III.
Newspaper Article • A later Kennedy message was that he did not want to send flowersthat overshadowed those of the family, and the family asked that he betold of their appreciation for his help and concern and whatever flowershe sent would be appreciated. Rudy's wife, Jane, was pregnant at that time, and Air Forceofficials advised Barnick that when they flew her and many others fromLaughlin Air Force Base near Del Rio, Texas, that blue staff cars couldnot be used for ground transportation. Jane, who later remarried, died in the early 1980s. But in theaftermath of Rudy's death, an Air Force spokesman said she becamehysterical when a staff car was involved. That problem was solved when Bill Baker, a teammate of Rudy's on thechurch softball team, a longtime friend and a Plymouth dealer here,volunteered a dozen new Plymouths to be at the base when Jane's flightarrived. Gen. Thomas Power, the four-star commander of SAC, attended theservice at Woodlawn and presented Rudy's widow and mother with U.S.flags from atop the casket. Power's presence became a mission unto itself. Advance SAC partiescame to determine where, even at Woodlawn, Power would not be more thana minute away from contact with the Pentagon and his headquarters inNebraska. Although those were nervous times, they were made considerably lessso by the Rudolf Anderson missions. And while the "Thirteen Days" moviespent little time on Anderson's role, in real life John Kennedy made nosecret that he and the world owed a huge debt of gratitude to Rudy. • "Get out? Man, I'd do what I'm doing for nothing, and they pay me." Not nearly on the scale that he would pay them back six years later. Although the Anderson part of "Thirteen Days" is brief, it conveyedthe same appraisal Jack Kennedy had in real life. That was that Rudy'slegacy was an enormous factor in avoiding all-out war. After his body was flown to Florida, then to Washington, D.C., itwas flown with an escort to Donaldson Air Force Base in Greenville onNov. 5 for later burial in Woodlawn Memorial Park. The plane thatbrought him to Greenville was one of the three designated Air ForceOnes. That was a fine gesture by President Kennedy but not a surprise tothose who knew what had gone on in those four days since Rudy wasdeclared missing. After Rudy's death was confirmed, Kennedy had his military aide callCol. Roland Barnick, commander at Donaldson, to ask if Barnick hadcommunicated with Rudy's family. Barnick told Washington that he hadsent a letter saying how proud he was to have a man such as Rudy as afellow Air Force officer and said the letter told the family that thebase stood ready to help them in any way possible.
Works Cited • GHS Wall of Fame • http://www.af.mil/history/spotlight.asp?storyID=123009509%20 • http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=7553231 • http://www.clemson.edu/military/anderson.html • The Greenville News