Air Force Link
Major Rudolf Anderson Jr.
 Maj. Rudolf Anderson, Jr.
Maj. Rudolf Anderson, Jr., history spotlight graphic, U.S. Air Force graphic
Download HiRes

Story Tools
 Printable story  E-mail story

 Add yourself to one of various Air Force e-mail subscriptions here Subscribe now

1/3/2005 - 1960 -- On Jan. 8, 1964, Maj. Rudolf Anderson Jr., the sole casualty of the Cuban Missile Crisis, was posthumously awarded the first Air Force Cross by order of President John F. Kennedy. Major Anderson lost his life on Oct. 27, 1962, when his U-2 aircraft was shot down by a SA-2 missile during a photo reconnaissance run.

He was also posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Cheney Award. Because of the classified nature of his work, Major Anderson belonged to a select group of unheralded and unrecognized reconnaissance pilots.

Air Force U-2 pilots of Strategic Air Command's 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing flying out of Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, played a major role in preventing a global war. In the summer of 1962, shipments of people and equipment from the USSR to Cuba increased dramatically. Despite Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev's denial, President Kennedy directed SAC to begin U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance flights over the island. The U-2 flights were made by Major Anderson and Maj. Richard S. Heyser. Later, flights were flown by RF-101s.

On Oct. 14, Major Anderson returned from a mission with pictures of ballistic missile sites and nuclear storage facilities under construction. On Oct. 22, President Kennedy addressed the nation and six tense days followed. While negotiations between President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev were still under way, Major Anderson attempted another reconnaissance run and his U-2 was shot down and he was killed.

By personal direction of the president, Major Anderson was posthumously awarded the first Air Force Cross. At the time, the Bronze Star was the highest combat decoration that could be made for Cold War action.

Anderson was a Greenville, S.C., native and was a graduate of Clemson University before joining the Air Force.

 Advanced Search

• Air Force focuses on religious respect

• Academy launches religious respect training program

• Fuels Airmen cultivate Balad farm

• AFRL robots work to counter bomb threats

• Two Airmen among recipients of military service award

• Winners save Air Force millions

• Experienced maintainers train active-duty Airmen

• Air Force journalists win DOD awards

• Former Thunderbird searches for Phantoms

• Promotion study guides hit streets in May

• Training ensures reservists ready to go

• Vehicle operators named Team of the Year

• Wilford Hall team flies to Alaska to evacuate infant

• Tour group gets feel for Air Force

• Airmen strut their stuff for civilian leaders

A rich heritage of religious freedom and respect
 Contact Us Security and Privacy notice