Alyssa Burson
Travis Goetsch
Cooper Gumbleton
Mr. Peirce
May 20, 2014
Major William Anderson
After 21 years of serving in the United States Air Force, Major William “Bill” Anderson
can easily be classified as an American hero. Traveling the world and serving in the Vietnam
War has taught Anderson many lessons and skills that he still uses today. One of the greatest
lessons he has learned is that we as Americans should be extremely grateful for the service men
and woman who protect us overseas today and those who have done so throughout our history.
Mr. Anderson hopes to teach this valuable lesson to younger generations. We will always
remember Bill Anderson as a hero and a mentor to our future.
William Anderson was born in 1940 in Altoona, Pennsylvania to a loving stay at home
mother and a role model father who served in the Navy. With his three other siblings and
devoted parents, his middle class family lived a contented life. At the age of 5, his dream and
love of aviation started young after witnessing his neighbor perform “victory rolls” over his
house in his P-51 Mustang fighter at the end of WWII. After his mother took him to an airport to
watch the planes land and take off, his love and special interest for aviation became his goal and
foundation for his future.
After graduating from high school, Anderson didn’t know what he wanted to do. He
decided to attend Penn State and pursue a career in engineering after being briefly inspired by his
engineer uncle. Throughout his time attending Penn State, he was enrolled in the Navy ROTC
program and later the Army ROTC program. After a loss of interest in engineering and a
shortage of money, Anderson left Penn State and decided to consider other options. From there
he decided to see an Air Force recruiter, and was immediately placed into cadet training due to
his completion of 2 years in college. At the age of 21, he began his training in Waco, Texas and
was unable to achieve his goal of becoming a pilot because of his limited eye sight. Anderson
instead became a navigator and graduated 3rd in his class of 30. Now 22, Anderson continued his
training at the bombardier school at Mather Air Force Base in Sacramento, California. During
this time Anderson met his beloved wife, Terry Anderson, at a dance and recalls that she “looked
like Natalie Wood to me.” They later married and have now been together for 51 years. After
completing bombardier training, he was assigned to C-130 Hercules as Tactical Air Command at
Dyess Air Force Base, there he had his first child, his son, in 1965. He then volunteered for
Vietnam and was stationed in Japan on a 3 year company tour.
While on this tour he had to leave 15 days out of every month to Vietnam and perform
supply and troop deliveries to ground units. On one of his trips, he performed a mission that
earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross. This award is earned after performing a hazardous
mission with only a 50/50 chance of survival or completion. On this mission he was tasked to fly
through the A Shau Valley with six other C-130s and drop ammunition supplies to ground
troops. Due to dense fog and inclement weather, there was nearly zero visibility which possibly
saved the flyer’s lives, as the enemy anti-aircraft guns were not radar equipped. In an already
difficult task of navigating an extremely narrow valley, they were basically in a shooting gallery
with the Vietcong and their anti-aircraft weapons. Due to the inclement weather, the Vietcong
were firing their weapons based on sound and were unfortunately able to take down the number
“7” C-130, killing five crew members and five Life Magazine photographers. The surviving
aircrafts landed in Da Nang Air Base, and Anderson’s number “5” C-130 survived with 75 bullet
holes, and because of this event Anderson considers the number 5 as his lucky number. On this
tour, Anderson had his second and last child, a girl, in 1967. He enjoyed traveling throughout
Japan with his family and playing golf.
After his three-year tour in Japan, Anderson became a navigation instructor in
Sacramento, California for 4 ½ years. With this job he was able to attend night school, and
received a MBA degree and an under-graduate degree in Management. He then was stationed at
Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, Colorado as a Squadron Commander for a three year tour. In
late 1975, Anderson went on an isolated tour in South Korea at Osan Air Base during the
ceasefire of the Korean War. From there, Anderson was then stationed at Dover Air Force Base
in Delaware flying the huge C-5A aircraft for four years and traveled much of Europe. Near
retirement, Anderson went back to Lowry as a group executive officer for six months and then
was later promoted to wing executive officer for another year and then retired in 1982. After
retirement from the Air Force, Anderson became a manager for Frito-Lay Corporation. He then
moved on to working the command post at Denver International Airport, and then worked real
estate with his wife. He now resides in Newport Beach, California and volunteers at the Lyon Air
Museum and is also a member of the Freedom Committee of Orange County.
Anderson’s service played a big part in the war efforts in Vietnam and other conflicts
throughout the world. Even though he is now retired from the military, he serves as a mentor and
American hero. We will always be thankful for his service and the lesson he taught us. He will
always be a mentor for students and his words of “be thankful that you were born and live in the
best country in the world, live in southern California with the best weather in the world, and go
to Martin Luther King Jr. High School, a school with a program (King High Remembers) as
significant as this” will always stick with us. Major William Anderson will always be
remembered, and his entertaining stories will always be told in our future.
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William Anderson 2014

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