Major Rudolf Anderson was killed-in-action on Oct. 27, 1962 when his U-2 reconnaissance aircraft was struck over Cuba during a photo reconnaissance mission by a SA-2 missile. Anderson was the sole casualty of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the first recipient of the Air Force Cross. A South Carolina native from the textile region, he was graduated from Clemson in 1948, and was in Clemson’s first Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps class. He served in the Korean Conflict where his operational combat career began in 1953 flying RF-86 SABRE reconnaissance missions. For service in Korea, he was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses (DFCs). He first qualified with the U-2 in 1957.
Anderson was a member of the 4028th Strategic Reconnaissance Weather Squadron, 4080th Strategic Wing, of the Strategic Air Command, based at Laughlin AFB, Texas. His Air Force Cross citation follows:
"The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pride in presenting the Air Force Cross (Posthumously) to Major Rudolf Anderson, Jr., United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Pilot of a U-2 airplane with the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Strategic Air Command (SAC), from 15 October 1962 to 27 October 1962. During this period of great national crisis, Major Anderson, flying an unescorted, unarmed aircraft, lost his life while participating in one of several aerial reconnaissance missions over Cuba. While executing these aerial missions, Major Anderson made photographs which provided the United States government with conclusive evidence of the introduction of long-range offensive missiles into Cuba and which materially assisted our leaders in charting the nation's military and diplomatic course. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, Major Anderson reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force."