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William C. Anderson Papers


MSS 218

William C. Anderson, author and Air Force officer, was born May 7, 1920, in La Junta Colorado. Shortly after his birth, his father Robert and mother Fannie Anderson moved to Boise, Idaho. William, also known as Andy, grew up in Boise. He graduated from Boise High School in 1938.  After high school William attended Boise Junior College and Fort Hays College in Kansas.  He put his education on hold and joined the Army Air Corps shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

Anderson chose a career as an Air Force Officer. He flew in the Berlin Airlift, piloted air-evacuation aircraft during the Korean War, and commanded a weather reconnaissance squadron during the Eniwetok H-bomb tests. He also wrote while in the Air Force, editing Air Force publications and beginning work on his first books. He ended his military career involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis and working in the Pentagon. He retired from the Air Force in 1964 and eventually moved back to his hometown of Boise.       

Love for writing kept him busy in his retirement.  His 20 books were influenced by his experience in the military and his natural wit and humor. Anderson “hit it big” with his bookBat-21, the true story of the rescue of a downed American Air Force officer in Vietnam. In 1988 he wrote the screenplay for the movie version, starring Danny Glover and Gene Hackman. This movie was a huge success and the highlight of Anderson’s career. Anderson also wrote a monthly column for Motor Home magazine.  This was a humorous column about Anderson’s journeys with his wife on the road.

Anderson married Dortha Power in 1948.  William and Dortha were the parents of three children: Ann, Scott, and Holly.

Anderson died of natural causes at the age of 83 in Fairfield, California, on May 16, 2003.

                                            -- by Jennifer Foote
                                                            May 2004

Biographical information found within the collection
Obituary,  Idaho Statesman,  May 21, 2003


The Collection

The William C. Anderson papers consist chiefly of correspondence, contracts,  business papers, clippings, fan mail, photos, and other papers, relating to his books and writing career.  Virtually every aspect of book writing, from the creative impulses through business negotiations (contracts, foreign editions, film adaptations) and promotional tours are documented here.  Altogether, the collection occupies approximately 7 linear feet of shelf space.  There is a great deal of paperwork relating to two books:  Bat-21, the story of the rescue of a downed American fighter pilot during the Vietnam War (made into a movie starring Gene Hackman and Danny Glover), and another work of nonfiction, Lady Bluebeard, about Lyda Southard, a serial husband killer in Idaho.  Most of  Anderson's other books, also represented by papers in the collection, are in the humorous vein, as are  the magazine columns he wrote about retirement travel in a motor home.  Anderson corresponded widely; that correspondence can be found throughout the collection.  Special Collections also holds foreign language editions ofBat-21 in Japanese, French, and Dutch.

For more details, consult the box and folder inventory.

A chronological list of William C. Anderson's published books follows:

Special Collections • 1910 University Drive • Boise, ID 83725-1430 • Phone: 208-426-1204 • Email: Archives