GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) – A special ceremony was held Thursday night to honor Major Rudolf Anderson, Jr., who died while serving our country during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Thursday marked the 60th anniversary of Anderson’s death, a man some call a Greenville American hero. A number of people gathered to remember him along the Swamp Rabbit Trail.
“By the presence of these large, long-range, and clearly offensive weapons of sudden mass destruction — constitutes an explicit threat to the peace and security of all the Americas.”
In October of 1962, President John F. Kennedy made the above statement at a crucial time in U.S. history.
“This was a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and this was the closest it came to a nuclear conflict,” said Cadiz Cantwell, a commander at Clemson University Air Force ROTC–Major Rudolf Anderson Jr. Squadron.
The tension lasted more than a dozen days, and part of that history includes Anderson–a man with roots in the Upstate.
“Major Rudolf Anderson was a cadet here at Clemson University at Detachment 770, and then once he commissioned and went on to do active duty, he flew in the Cuban Missile Crisis, and he was actually the only casualty during that day,” Cantwell said. “And we named our squadron after him because he was a Clemson alumnus,” she said.
Anderson died October 27th, 1962.
“U.S. Air Force Major Rudolf Anderson Jr. was flying a U2 Dragon Lady Spy Plane over Cuba taking images of Russia nukes missiles on Cuban soil,” said Stephen Goshorn,1st Vice-Commander for American Legion Post 271. “While he was up there, two Russian service air missiles reached up to touch him.”
“During this specific day, he actually wasn’t even supposed to fly,” Cantwell said. “He volunteered to go on the mission, and he was shot down in Cuba.”
“It was just a few hours into his flight, was when he was shot down by two Soviet supplied air missiles,” Cantwell said.
Veterans and Clemson University ROTC Cadets, whose squadron is named after Anderson, did a special salute.
“It’s very inspiring. I would say because we’re literally in the same building that he walked in. They haven’t changed buildings, and so it’s just truly incredible to see the bravery and encouragement that people walked in our shoes had to make that sacrifice,” Cantwell said. “He really did make the ultimate sacrifice. He didn’t even have to fly that day.”
Cantwell said Anderson’s selfless act gives her the courage to continue on her path to one day protect our country.
“It just gives me the ambition and tenacity to you know, do my best–to have service before self, excellence in all I do, and really just try to take the extra mile to serve us,” Cantwell said.
Goshon is glad to give Anderson honor, as well. He said he was four years old when this happened.
“As a child back then, now as an adult and doing taps, or singing, it’s bringing to remembrance, not having knew what happened, till later to just continue to remember,” Goshon said. “It’s just great to continue the remembrance when older generations pass away.”
“Let we never forget the ultimate sacrifice,” Goshon said. “Those who gave their lives in defense of the freedoms that we enjoy,” he said.
You can visit and read some of the history of the Cuban Missile Crisis at F-86 Sabre, which is at the Major Anderson Memorial in Cleveland Park, along the Swamp Rabbit Trail.