PILOTING A HERO HOME
By Jeanne Brooks
The Greenville News
As if it had skimmed the tops of trees and will now flatten the arc of
Wings at a tilt, nose slightly down. The dull-silver F-86 Sabrejet seems frozen
mid-flight. The zoo ahead, on the left. But after decades, yet unreached.
For years, Jack Parillo drove through Cleveland Park, past the plane. Parillo,
had spent some time in the Air Force. One day, about 12 years ago, he parked his
car and got out.
"I looked at the plane," he recalls. "I read the little monument."
Inscribed on the monument are these words: "Greater love hath no man than
that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13."
And these words: "In a period of great international stress he performed
his duty of
great responsibility with honor."
And the name: Maj. Rudolf Anderson.
Anderson was shot down in 1962 while flying a secret high-altitude one-man
surveillance plane, the U-2. Photographs that Anderson and another U-2 pilot took
provided evidence that the Soviet Union was installing missiles in Cuba, 90 miles
from the U.S.
President John Kennedy demanded the Soviets remove the missiles or feel
American power. For a number of tense days in a row, the world teetered at the
brink of World War III.
A surface-to-air missile brought down Anderson's plane on Oct. 27, 40 years
this year. Kennedy's demand changed to an ultimatum. And within 24 hours, the
Soviets backed down. The missiles were dismantled.
Anderson was a hometown boy. He grew up on Tomassee Avenue. There's a
picture of him as a kid, shirtless, one knee in the grass. He's holding up for the
camera a model plane he built.
In another picture, he's in the middle row of Boy Scout Troop 19. Taken
Anderson went to Greenville High School. He played on the Buncombe Street
Methodist Church softball team. He graduated from Clemson University, class of
1948. In his yearbook picture, he's got a crewcut.
Anderson worked in textiles a while. And then he stepped directly into
current. In 1951, he joined the Air Force. He flew F-86 Sabrejets in the Korean
Decades later, Parillo stared up at the F-86 becalmed in the quiet of Cleveland
Park, and a mission was born. It began as a matter of precision. Anderson died
flying a U-2. Why wasn't the plane in the memorial a U-2?
Parillo began a campaign, as yet unsuccessful, to acquire a U-2. He began
to people and writing letters. The more he did so, the more he learned about
Anderson. A distant cousin of Anderson's suggested that the flyer, the lone
casualty of the Cuban Missile Crisis, deserved a Medal of Honor.
Over his career, Anderson received a number of medals, including the
Distinguished Flying Cross, a Purple Heart, the Air Force Cross. But no Medal of
Honor. Parillo began to campaign for that, too.
Now, Parillo's file folders are several inches thick of letters and documents.
has another idea: to name one of Greenville County's new schools for the
A long time ago, a newspaper columnist once wrote, "I cannot get Maj. Rudolf
Anderson Jr. out of my mind."
Anderson may never get the Medal of Honor. Greenville may never get a U-2.
Parillo has helped us another way. With remembering.
We should remember.