On Saturday, November 14, American Legion Post 3 members held a memorial service for Major Rudolf Anderson, Jr., at Woodlawn Memorial Park.
American Legion Post 3 Commander John Collins was Master of Ceremony. His opening remarks contained a brief outline of Rudy Anderson’s life growing up in Greenville, SC. He graduated from Greenville High School and later from Clemson College where he was a member of the Air Force ROTC program. After he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant, he underwent flight training as a F-86 pilot and he flew combat missions over Korea during the Korean War.
In 1960, he was picked to be trained as a U-2 reconnaissance pilot. The U-2 plane had a crew of one – the pilot.
But, it had the most sophisticated electronic equipment and specialized cameras, for recording images on the ground, that no other aircraft in the U.S. Air Force could accomplish and it could fly higher than any other aircraft could, estimated to exceed 60,000 feet in altitude.
Major Anderson and other U-2 pilots had flown several reconnaissance missions over Cuba in early October, 1962. These missions confirmed that the Soviet Union was installing medium-range ballistic missile sites on the island of Cuba, and they were only ninety miles from Florida. These missiles were believed to have nuclear warheads. President John F. Kennedy ordered one more photo recon mission before he would confront Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev about the removal of these sites from Cuba.
On October 27, 1962, Major Anderson was not supposed to be the pilot for this mission. But he volunteered for the mission. His plane was hit by a missile and the plane crashed in Cuba. The U.S. Government had no idea that the Soviet Union had a missile that could reach a target 60,000 feet in the air.
But the plane did crash and Major Rudolf Anderson became the only American military casualty of the Cuban Missile Crisis. On October 28th, 1962, the Soviet Union agreed to remove the missile installations and the U.S. Government agreed not to invade Cuba. The U.S. Navy did set up a Naval blockade around Cuba until the U.S. had proof that the installations had been removed.
City of Greenville, Mayor Knox White read a proclamation designated October 27, Major Rudolf Anderson, Jr. Day in Greenville.
This was the 47th year since Major Anderson was shot down over Cuba.
This year’s program was organized by American Legion Post 3 Historian and former Scout Master of Boy Scout Troop 19, Roy M. Gullick.