Three-time ace, World War II, Vietnam War veteran visits Nellis

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Col. Ronald Gilbert, 57th Wing vice commander meets with retired Col. Clarence Anderson, World War II and Vietnam War veteran, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., April 25, 2018. Anderson began his career in 1942 after entering the U.S. Army Aviation cadet program and retired as a colonel after 30 years of service. Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie.

Retired Col. Clarence Anderson, highest scoring living ace, visited Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., for a meet and greet with leadership and Airmen, April 25 at the Nellis Club.

An “ace” is someone recognized for shooting down five enemy aircraft. Anderson earned his honor as a three-time ace after successfully shooting down 16 adversary aircraft.

The 30-year veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps and U.S. Air Force met Airmen, recalled some of his countless stories and participated in a Q&A session.

“My favorite time while flying was my World War II experience,” said Anderson. “I was in England flying a brand-new P-51 Mustang that had long range and was very maneuverable.”

Retired Col. Clarence Anderson, World War II and Vietnam War veteran, views a display full of Air Force and Army Air Corps relics at the Nellis Club on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., April 25, 2019. During World War II, Anderson served two combat tours escorting heavy bombers over Europe in the P-51 Mustang.

During the meet and greet, Col. Shane Henderson, 57th Maintenance Group commander, asked Anderson if he could recount a memorable experience he had with his crew chiefs during his career.

Anderson replied with a story about a time when he jokingly asked his crew to repaint his aircraft. While it was lifted for heavy maintenance, Anderson teased that he’d like a natural aluminum paint scheme on it.

“The next day walking out to my P-51, it sat out there with a new gleaming aluminum,” said Anderson. “I couldn’t believe it. The three guys standing there had huge grins on their faces, but I felt horrible. Their hands were raw from using whatever they could find to get the old paint off.”

Anderson praised his crew chiefs for their hard work and dedication.

“I can’t say enough for the crew chiefs of the world,” said Anderson. “Any pilot out there should pat them on the back.”

Throughout the Q&A, Nellis Airmen asked Anderson many questions about his life in and out of the service.

Anderson recounted how he served two combat tours during World War II. He flew 116 combat missions, accumulating 480 hours of flight time in aerial combat. In addition, he destroyed 16 enemy aircraft in aerial combat and one more on the ground. His achievements earned him 25 decorations, including two Legions of Merit, five Distinguished Flying Crosses, 16 Air Medals, the Bronze Star and the French Croix De Guerre. After a long, successful career Anderson retired in 1972. However, he continued to fly P-51s until the mid-1980s.

Retired Col. Clarence Anderson, a World War II and Vietnam War veteran, speaks into a microphone at the Nellis Club on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., April 25, 2019. Anderson was decorated 25 times including two Legions of merit, five Distinguished Flying Crosses, 16 Air Medals, the Bronze Star and the French Croix De Guerre.

Before his visit was over, Anderson expressed his appreciation for Nellis and its outstanding Airmen.

“The squadrons I’ve visited are still young, clean-cut Americans doing their job and serving their country the best they can,” said Anderson. “I’m very proud of them.”