Major Rudolf Anderson, Jr.

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Major Rudolf Anderson, Jr. was Clemson's, and America's, 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis hero.

At 7 p.m. ET, October 22, President John F. Kennedy announced to the nation the discovery of Soviet nuclear medium-range ballistic missile sites in Cuba, ninety miles off Florida's southern tip. A face-off with Soviet Russia ensued with the United States Navy implementing a quarantine of Cuba to halt missile deliveries and all U.S. Armed Forces coming to a highest state of readiness.

On October 27, Anderson, a Greenville, South Carolina native and 1948 graduate from Clemson's cadet corps and pilot with the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing was tasked with an overflight mission of Cuba in a Lockheed U-2 spyplane to take photos of the Soviet SS-N-4 medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) and SS-N-5 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBMs) build-ups. Anderson had first qualified on the U-2 type on September 3, 1957. (Crickmore, Paul F., Lockheed's Blackbirds: A-12, YF-12 and SR-71, "Wings of Fame, Volume 8". London, United Kingdom: Aerospace Publishing Ltd., 1997. ISBN 1-86184-008-X. page 40.) Contrary to Moscow orders to not engage reconnaissance flights, a single Soviet-manned SA-2 missile battery at Banes fired at Anderson's high-flying U-2C, 56-6676 (Article 343) at 10:21 a.m. Although not a direct hit, a piece of shrapnel punctured the canopy and the pilot's face plate, resulting in Anderson's immediate death. A censored Central Intelligence Agency document dated October 28 1962, 0200 hours, states "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." (Central Intelligence Agency report - supplement 8 to Joint Evaluation of Soviet Missile Threat In Cuba, 0200 hours, 28 October 1962). Actually, it was both.

On October 31, Acting United Nations Secretary U Thant, returning from a visit with Premier Fidel Castro, announced that Major Anderson was dead. His body was returned to the United States and he was interred in Greenville on November 6, 1962. He was the only combat casualty of this most dangerous incident of the Cold War.

In the face of a public stand-off, coupled with back-channel communications, Soviet Premier Krushchev announced a withdrawal of Soviet missiles from Cuba, with the United States agreeing to withdraw Jupiter missiles from Turkey, and the globe's closest brush with World War III was averted.

By personal direction of the President, Major Anderson was posthumously awarded the first Air Force Cross.

A North American YF-86H-1-NA Sabre fighter jet, 52-1976, similar to the mount Anderson had flown during the Korean War, is mounted in his memory in Cleveland Park in Greenville next to the Reedy River. It was dedicated in May 1963. In past years, Clemson Air Force ROTC cadets of Det. 770 have undertaken plane washes of the Sabre. In 2007, a team from Lockheed-Martin at Donaldson Center refurbished the swept-wing fighter.

It should be noted that 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. (Source: Lloyd, Alwyn T., "Boeing's B-47 Stratojet", Specialty Press, North Branch, Minnesota, 2005, ISBN 978-1-58007-071-3, page 178.)

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.

The Rudolf Anderson Jr. chapter of the Arnold Air Society, Air Force ROTC at Clemson commemorates his service.

Early close call[edit]

During Anderson's senior year at Clemson, he narrowly escaped serious injury when fell out of a third story window of second barracks:

"Dr. Lee Milford reported this morning [March 4, 1948] that he was 'highly pleased' with the condition of Rudolph Anderson [sic], textile engineering senior from Greenville, who fell from the third floor of the second barracks about seven thirty last night. Dr. Milford said that Anderson rested 'very comfortably' last night, and that he was ready to take food. The college physician said that young Anderson was suffering from laceration of the right forehead, complete dislocation of the right wrist, and a fractured pelvis bone. As far as can be determined, no internal injuries are prevalent.

It is understood that the student was chasing a pigeon down the hall of the third floor of the second barracks, and was unable to stop at [sic] the bird flew out the window. Several witnesses said that he hit the eaves that protrude over the door of second barracks, breaking his fall, and saving him from more serious injuries. He was conscious when arriving at the college hospital, and was able to identify himself.
Dr. Milford said that it was a miracle that Anderson escaped with the injuries he obtained. The gangplank that he finally came to rest on is constructed of iron and concrete. The college physician further stated that Anderson had a good chance to recover provided nothing unforeseen turned up."
(The Tiger, "Rudolph [sic] Anderson Is In 'Good Condition' ", Thursday 4 March 1948, Volume XXXXI, Number 19, page 1.)
Subsequently, The Tiger reported on Thursday, March 11, "A few days ago the president's office received the following message on a card post-marked Greenville:
'I read in the paper that one of your distinguished senior students fell out of a third story window while chasing a pigeon down the hall. It did not state whether he caught the pigeon or not. This has me worried because I have often wondered whether a Clemson man is capable of catching a pigeon or not.
'Yours truly,
A Cute Pigeon'"

Exterior links[edit]

Article by Liz Newell -