Fellow World War II veterans meet for the first time

Anderson, Cockrum war heroes that fought together
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Nearly 70 years ago, Colonel Clarence “Bud” Anderson and Lt. Colonel Nelson “Bob” Cockrum assaulted enemy aircrafts in World War II together, but Wednesday the Auburn-area veterans met officially for the first time. With airplanes flying overhead, but no enemy fighters in sight, Anderson and Cockrum exchanged war stories at the Auburn Municipal Airport in an environment drastically different from the war fields of Europe. Mutual friend and retired Placer County Sheriff’s Lt. Nick Mileur, 73, of Auburn, arranged the visit for the two retired Air Force pilots. “I have the greatest admiration and respect for these guys. Bud shot down more than 15 enemy aircrafts over Germany and France in World War II. He is a local boy and is a super hero,” Mileur said. “They were on some of the same raids together and of course had met and never knew each other.” Anderson, a 1939 Placer High School graduate, is 89 now. He remembers shooting down 16 ¼ enemy aircrafts in his P-51 Mustang, totaling 480 hours of combat in WWII alone. He came home to tremendous honor and admiration in the Auburn-area Cockrum flew a B-17 Bomber and completed nearly 25 missions before being shot down near Switzerland. Most fighter pilots didn’t make it past 15 missions, he said. Anderson’s role was to escort planes like Cockrum’s B-17 Bomber into combat. Mileur said he has compared lists of missions each of the men were on and found that Anderson probably directly escorted Cockrum on some of them. Both men traveled to England in November of 1943 on the same ship, another commonality they only just discovered. They were even stationed at neighboring military bases. Cockrum said the P-51 Mustang allowed escorts like Anderson to fly longer distances with the bombers than their previous P-47 aircrafts. Having that extra cover was one thing that changed the course of the war, according to Cockrum. “When we needed escort we didn’t have it. The P-51 Mustang, it changed things enormously,” Cockrum said. Looking back, Anderson and Cockrum agreed that they were just doing their part in a war the entire nation was dedicating themselves to. When Cockrum was shot down, he managed to land in Switzerland, a neutral country in WWII. The Geneva Convention required soldiers who ended up in neutral territory to stay there until the war was over. He said conditions were good, but the desire to get back to the war was strong. “It was fun. I went skiing and had a girlfriend,” Cockrum said. “The primary goal was not to get back to their home. It was a case were people wanted to get back to the war.” Anderson recalls women going to work in factories and food being rationed so soldiers had enough to eat. “I don’t think people today realize what previous wars were like,” Anderson said. “It was total commitment, total war.” Mileur said he arranged the meeting because he grew up reading about the heroic feats of local veterans like Anderson and Cockrum, so preserving the history is important to him. “I just want to soak up the history,” Mileur said. Reach Sara Seyydin at ______________________________________________________ Meet a local hero: Colonel Clarence “Bud” Anderson Colonel Clarence “Bud” Anderson, 89, of Auburn, is a World War II Triple Ace. Anderson grew up in Newcastle and currently resides in Auburn. The Placer High School graduate flew his P-51 Mustang “Old Crow” while assigned to the 357th Fighter Group “Yoxford Boys” in the United States Airforce and personally took down 16 ¼ enemy aircrafts. He also served in Vietnam. In July 2008, Anderson was introduced to the National Aviation Hall of Fame. He has been interviewed by both the History Channel and Military Channel most recently and still flies today. His book of memoirs is titled “To Fly and Fight.” For more information on Colonel Clarence “Bud” Anderson, visit ______________________________________________________ Meet a local hero: Lt. Colonel Nelson “Bob” Cockrum Lt. Colonel Nelson “Bob” Cockrum, 91, of Penryn, is a World War II veteran who fought in nearly 25 missions. On his last mission in WWII his B-52 Bomber aircraft was shot down by an enemy. He managed to land it in a pasture in Switzerland, a neutral country, where he was interned for a year. Cockrum went on to ascend the ranks in the military and was even assigned to one assignment in which he was required to sign a lifetime secrecy agreement about. The last time he flew was with a hang glider.