Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Paul Anderson 1926-2013; Commander at Mayport Lived Boyhood Dream Always Wanted to Be a Pilot; Later Served with the Hellcats in the Pacific in World War II

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Paul Anderson 1926-2013; Commander at Mayport Lived Boyhood Dream Always Wanted to Be a Pilot; Later Served with the Hellcats in the Pacific in World War II

Article excerpt

Byline: Clifford Davis

"Feb. 22, 1945 ... Strike on Iwo Jima."

"March 1, 1945 ... Strike on Okinawa."

"May 4, 1945 ... Shot down Zeke."

Capt. Paul A. "Andy" Anderson boiled down his part in the climactic battles of the Pacific War to simple, three-word phrases scratched on the now-yellowed pages of his flight log book.

But this opening salvo would lead to a lifetime of service to his country - a life that ended Saturday at age 91.

Capt. Anderson grew up in Park River, N.D. His fascination with flying began with a lucky find in his uncle's nearby farm.

The uncle had acquired a plane that once belonged to Carl Ben Eilson, a famed explorer of the Arctic and World War I pilot. The would-be pilot would climb into the cockpit and dream of the day he would have his turn in the air.

In the meantime, he began building his own model planes, his brother Dave said, made mostly of balsa wood and paper but complete with gasoline motors.

His chance at the real thing finally came in an F6F Hellcat in the closing, savage battles of World War II. For his fighting in the skies over Iwo Jima, Okinawa and mainland Japan, off the carriers USS Yorktown and Essex, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross along with four Air Medals.

After the war, Capt. Anderson married his first wife and became one of the first jet-qualified pilots, helping the U.S. Navy enter the jet age.

After several other post-war assignments, in 1958 he was assigned to an obscure piece of New Mexico desert known as the Naval Air Special Weapons Facility.

At the now-infamous Nevada Test Site, he flew missions to test the effects of atomic radiation. Before the advent of reliable missile technology, the only means of delivering a nuclear bomb was by aircraft and it was his job to find out just how close the pilot could be to the blast.

Anderson and his detachment would fly over the bomb to a pre-determined distance when the bomb would be detonated. If the radiation detection devices strapped to various points on the pilots' bodies showed "minor" levels, the next detonation would be closer still.

In the final hours of his life, he would tell his son Phil Anderson that the last flight he took was within 15,000 feet of a 1. …

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