Millard Othello Anderson, also known as "Pokey," "Andy," or "Mo," was born to Joseph David and Bessie Irene Anderson in Norfolk, VA. When he was two, the family moved to Lynchburg, VA, where he grew up with two older brothers, William and Lester, a younger brother Orville, and a sister Hattie, the youngest.
As a young man, Mo was active in his church and in Boy Scouts. An accomplished saxophone player (and later a member of the West Point Concert Orchestra), he was a member of a dance band during his high school years and was able to use his musical skills to earn enough money to pay for his first year of college at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. His high school yearbook noted that his lifelong goal, however, was to attend West Point.
During his sophomore year at Virginia Tech, he was given the opportunity to realize that dream when he won an appointment from Virginia Representative Clifton A. Woodrum. By that time, of course, Mo was settled and happy at Tech, so he had quite a momentous decision to make. He opted, obviously, to start all over again at West Point. He never looked back and never for a moment regretted his decision.
WWII forced training to speed up considerably, and in just three short years, Mo completed not only his degree, but also flight training at Stewart Field, NY. Mo was selected for the Army Air Corps and the legendary GEN Henry H. "Hap" Arnold presented him with his wings on Graduation Day, 1 Jun 1943. An impressive occasion, certainly, but the main event of that day was his wedding to Mary Boettcher of Charleston, WV, in the Old Cadet Chapel. The marriage culminated a long-term, long-distance courtship that had begun Mary’s freshman year at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, in Lynchburg, VA, while Mo was still at Virginia Tech. Theirs was a romance that would last a lifetime.
Following graduation and the nuptials, Mo received an additional year of flight training at Tifton, GA, and Tallahassee, Bartow, and Tampa, FL, in that order. On 26 Jul 1944, while assigned to Drew Field, Tampa, Mary presented him with their first child, a son, Millard Othello, Jr., who grew up to later serve in Viet Nam during 1969-70 as an Army helicopter pilot.
Answering the call to "Duty, Honor, Country" in September of that year, Mo tore himself from wife and child and reported to Wormingford, England, where he joined the 55th Fighter Group, Eighth Air Force. There Mo flew the famous P-51 Mustang, escorting bombers over Germany. In the 13 months of action there, he completed 53 missions. For one of those missions he was awarded the Air Medal for his heroic rescue of a B-17 Flying Fortress that had been incapacitated during a bombing run. The bomber pilot had been seriously injured and the left engines and instrument panel had been destroyed. As a result, instead of returning home, the bomber was heading deeper into enemy territory. When Mo realized this, he risked not only being shot down himself, but also running out of fuel in order to turn the bomber around and escort it back to safety. The bomber was just barely able to cross friendly lines before the pilot was forced to land in the middle of an artillery barrage and within sight of the German lines. All personnel on board survived.
On 25 Feb 1945, Mo was awarded the Silver Star after he bravely intercepted and shot down an ME-262 German jet fighter and returned injured from a mission in an incapacitated aircraft.
Once he was back in the States, Mo attended a war-shortened Command and Staff School at Ft. Leavenworth, KS, before returning to Germany to serve in the German Occupation. This time, Mary and Mo, Jr., accompanied him, arriving on the first transport ship of family members. In 1947 the family returned to the States, where Mo was assigned to Mitchell Field, NY, training civilian and reserve "weekend warriors." In 1948 their second son was born, Richard Victor (COL, JA, USAR, Ret.), named for Mo’s classmate Richard Victor Miracle.
The year 1950 brought another combat tour: this time 13 months in Iwo Kuni, Japan, where Mo flew the B-26 bomber in 63 missions over Korea. Upon his return stateside, he was assigned to Langley Air Force Base Headquarters during 1951—53 and the Air Command and Staff School during 1953-54. At Langley, their daughter Mary Lisa (LTC, JA, USA) was born in 1954.
During 1955-57, Mo was selected to return to West Point as an instructor in military psychology and leadership. So as not to lose his flight status, the tour was curtailed a year, and in July 1957 he was reassigned to Luke Air Force Base, AZ, where his flight status was upgraded to jets. While at Luke, a fourth child, Julie Baker, was born. During 1959—61, the family was transferred to Izmir, Turkey, where Mo was assigned to NATO Headquarters, Sixth Allied Tactical Air Force. After Turkey, Mo served in the Inspector General’s Office at Twelfth Air Force Headquarters, Waco, TX, during 1961— 64. He then became commander of the USAF ROTC Detachment at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, VA, during 1964—67.
Upon his retirement in February 1968, the Anderson family moved to Mo’s hometown of Lynchburg, where he began his second career as a nuclear products specialist with Babcock & Wilcox. In 1985, he retired from that company and remained in the area, except of course for extended winter trips to Florida, where he fine- tuned his other two lifelong loves: fishing and golf.
For much of his last years, Mo struggled with serious, painful, and debilitating illness yet he never despaired and refused to complain. He endured his hardships like the true and good soldier that he was: thankful for his many blessings and for the fact that he was able, until the last month, to be cared for in his own home.
Mo was called home on 23 Jan 2001. On 6 May 2001, Mary and many family members and friends gathered for Mo’s memorial service in the same Old Cadet Chapel, where the couple had been married 58 years before. His ashes then were placed in the recently established columbarium.
Mo and Mary’s steadfast love of God, country, and each other sustained them in good times and bad, times of plenty and of sacrifice, through blessings and hardships. Their example has left a profound and lasting legacy for their children and their families and for all who know and love them.
- Mrs. Millard O. Anderson
- Mrs. George G. Cantlay
- Class of 1943 June
- Mrs. Jeptha C. Tanksley