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Retired Col. Clarence “Bud” Anderson, a World War II triple ace with 16.25 kills to his credit, was honored at the third Mitchell Institute Heritage Dinner, in Arlington, Va., on April 24, 2019. Staff photo by Doug Birkey.

Retired Col. Clarence “Bud” Anderson was honored April 24 at the third annual Mitchell Institute Heritage Dinner, in Arlington, Va.

The 97-year-old World War II triple ace related some of his exploits during air combat in Europe, Korea, and Vietnam, as well as in flight testing during the 1950s and 1960s. Anderson is America’s highest living ace, with 16.25 kills to his credit. He served two tours in the famed 357th Fighter Group, flying his P-51 “Old Crow” on over 100 missions escorting bombers into Europe in 1944 and 1945.

After the war, he was active in flight test at Wright Field, commanded an F-86 squadron in Korea in the years immediately following the cease fire, returned to the test world as the chief of flight test operations at Edwards AFB, Calif., in the later 1950s and 1960s, and wrapped up his career as the commander of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, flying F-105s in combat in South East Asia.

After retirement from the Air Force in 1971, Anderson served in the McDonnell Douglas’ flight test department, helping bring types like the F-15 Eagle into service. He actively flew the P-51 up until the early 2000s and is still an active ambassador for airpower around the globe.

“Today’s Air Force is built upon the contributions of individuals like Bud Anderson,” AFA’s Mitchell Institute Dean retired Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula said. “Whether helping gain air superiority in the months before D-Day in 1944, ushering the Century Series fighters into service in the 1950s, or flying into harm’s way as a commander during the Vietnam War—his bravery and dedication to duty stand second to none.”

The audience of 40 included Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, Deputy Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan, and other current and former Air Force leaders, as well as guests from industry and members of the aviation and defense press.

The two previous honorees at the annual event were the late Lt. Col. Dick Cole, last survivor of the Doolittle Raid (2017); and Lt. Gen. Tom Stafford, commander of Apollo 10 (2018).