John Anderson was born in 1946 in Portland, Oregon. He was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Air Force through the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Oregon on June 9, 1968, and went on active duty beginning November 1, 1968. Lt Anderson next completed Undergraduate Pilot Training and was awarded his pilot wings at Laughlin AFB, Texas, in November 1969, followed by C-141 Starlifter training from December 1969 to February 1970. He served as a C-141 pilot with the 20th Airlift Squadron at Dover AFB, Delaware, from February 1970 to September 1971, and then attended fighter lead in training and F-4 Phantom II Combat Crew Training from October 1971 to March 1972. Capt Anderson served as an F-4 pilot with the 4th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Tahkli and then at Udorn Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from April 1972 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War on December 27, 1972. After spending 48 days in captivity, Capt Anderson was released during Operation Homecoming on February 12, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries, and then attended pilot requalification training at Randolph AFB, Texas, regaining his flying status in September 1972. His next assignment was as an F-4 instructor pilot with the 58th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Eglin AFB, Florida, from October 1972 to October 1975, followed by service as an F-4 instructor pilot with the 613th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Torrejon AB, Spain, from November 1975 to August 1978. Capt Anderson left active duty on October 15, 1978, and remained in the inactive reserves until joining the Vermont Air National Guard (ANG) in March 1982. He served as an F-4 pilot with the 158th Tactical Fighter Wing of the Vermont ANG from March 1982 to June 1984, and then as an F-4 and then F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot with the 187th Tactical Fighter Wing of the Alabama ANG from July 1984 to January 1991. Lt Col Anderson's final assignment was as an Intelligence Officer with the 173rd Tactical Fighter Wing of the Oregon ANG from February 1991 until his retirement on June 9, 1994. While in the reserves and Air National Guard he flew as a pilot for Eastern Airlines from December 1978 to March 1989, and with United Airlines from December 1990 to October 2006. He later flew as a Cessna Citation X charter jet pilot from September 2008 to May 2012.
His Distinguished Flying Cross Citation reads:
Captain John W. Anderson distinguished himself by extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as an F-4E Aircraft Commander over North Vietnam on 18 November 1972. On that date, Captain Anderson, despite adverse weather conditions and extreme fatigue induced by the extraordinary length of time orbiting over heavily defended enemy territory, was able to effectively protect the search and rescue forces from enemy airborne attack. His unselfish efforts were highly instrumental in the successful recovery of two downed aircrew members. The professional competence, aerial skill, and devotion to duty displayed by Captain Anderson reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.