Keeping with this Caribbean and Cold War history theme, I thought it appropriate to bring up this man.
Rudolf “Rudy” Anderson, Jr., was born on September 15, 1927 in Greenville, SC. He was an Eagle Scout, a graduate of Clemson, and a commissioned officer and pilot in the United States Air Force. He flew missions as a reconnaissance pilot over Korea, earning two Distinguished Flying Crosses.
He is more widely known for his seat time in the U-2 Dragonlady. And for dying in one.
Dragonlady missions over Cuba were originally flown exclusively by the CIA, for high-altitude aerial reconnaissance. Less than two weeks prior to Anderson’s last mission, the U-2 had shifted ownership to the USAF (October 14, 1962). After the USAF’s first mission, CIA squinties (Imagery Intelligence Analysts; so called due to their squinting over backlit tables reading the runes of IMINT) assertained that the Soviets had stationed ballistic missiles on Cuba. This analysis led to what you and me call the Cuban Missile Crisis.
On October 27, 1962, Anderson went wheels up from McCoy AFB, Orlando, FL. His U-2 was struck by shrapnel from an exploding Soviet S-75 Dvina (surface-to-air missile; big one). Shrapnel also breached his cockpit and punchtured his flight suit–which was pressurized far greater than normal flight suits, due to the extreme altitudes at which Dragonladies typically operated. As a result of that puncture, Maj. Anderson decompressed from his suit at high altitude. And with all due respect…that is not at all a good fucking way to go.
Wreckage was spread over miles of Cuban soil near Banes. His body was never recovered. What could be collected of the debris was collected by Cubans and the Cuban government, and was put on display in museums around the country.
By order of President John F. Kennedy himself, after his death Anderson was awarded the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, the Purple Heart, the Cheney Award, and the U.S. Air Force’s first Air Force Cross.
Though the U.S. suffered several casualties during the Cuban Missile Crisis (19 total), Rudy Anderson was the single combat KIA…dying alone in the skies over a hostile nation.
Featured Image courtesy of wikipedia
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