About Major Rudolf Anderson
Major Anderson was born in Spartanburg in 1927. His family relocated to Greenville, SC, where he graduated from Greenville High School. He earned his degree in textile engineering from Clemson Agricultural College in 1948.
He joined the Air Force in 1951 and graduated from flight school in 1953.
Anderson was assigned to the 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, base in Kimpo, Korea, where he flew the RF-86 over the denied territories of the Soviet Union and China. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters.
In 1957, Anderson was selected to fly the top secret, high flying U-2 reconnaissance plane, often flying at altitudes higher than 72.000 feet for extended periods of time.
During the 13 days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Anderson made the second U-2 flight over Cuba on October 15th, 1962. His photographs showed additional new ballistic missile sites under construction. On October 25th, 1962, Captain Eugene Mellmoyle was flying over Banes, Cuba when two surface to air missiles (SAMS) were fired at him. Although the U-2 Missions had been halted over Cuba, Major Anderson volunteered to fly on Saturday, October 27th, 1962. It was during this flight over Banes, Cuba that two SAMS missiles smashed into his U-2 plane, killing Major Anderson and destroying the aircraft.
The downing of Major Anderson’s plane prompted President John F. Kennedy to warm Premier Nikita Kruschchev that “strong and overwhelming retaliatory action would be taken unless he received immediate notice that the missiles would be withdrawn.”
Within 24 hours of Anderson’s death, Khruschev told Kennedy the missiles would come out.
For his supreme sacrifice, Major Anderson was awarded the first Air Force Cross, the Purple Heart and the Cheney Award. All of Major Anderson’s metals are on display in the Cecil D. Buchannan Museum of Military History, located in Taylors, SC.
Major Anderson’s body was laid to rest in Woodlawn Cemetery in Greenville, SC. In addition to the American Legion Post 214 being named after Anderson, there is a mounted Air Force jet in Cleveland Park, Greenville, SC honoring Major Anderson.
Above and Beyond: John F. Kennedy and America's Most Dangerous Cold War Spy by Casey Sherman is a new book that tells more of Major Anderson's story – April 17, 2018.
Dedication of Major Rudolf Anderson, Jr. Memorial in Cleveland Park
Nov. 6, 2012 - 21 minutes