Eagle Profile

Bernard Adolph Schriever, the father of the Air Force Space and Missile Program, was born in Germany in 1910.  At the age of six, Schriever came to the US and settled with his family in New Braunfels, Texas before becoming a naturalized citizen in 1923. He graduated from Texas A&M University in 1931 with a BS in Engineering and a reserve commission in the field artillery. Schriever entered flight training in July 1932, earning his wings and commission in the U.S. Air Corps Reserve in June 1933.

He served as a bomber pilot and engineering maintenance officer at March Field, California. In 1937 Schriever left the U.S. Air Corps to fly with Northwest Airlines, but he reentered active service in 1938 with a regular commission. He was assigned to the 7th Bombardment Group at Hamilton Field, California, as a McDonnell Douglas B-18 Bolo instrument flying instructor. Due to his flying and engineering background, Schriever was sent to Wright Field, Ohio, as an engineering officer and test pilot. He attended the Air Corps Engineering School in 1941, and graduated Stanford University in 1942 with an MS in Aeronautical Engineering. During WW II, Schriever flew 38 missions in the Solomons, New Guinea, Philippines, and the Ryukyus in the North American B-25 Mitchell, the Douglas C-47 Skytrain, and the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.

After the war, he served in numerous positions in the research and development field until his selection for National War College in August 1949. After War College, Schriever remained in Washington, DC, in research and development at the Pentagon. Recognized as a ” visionary enthusiast” in the developing missile field, Schriever assumed command of the Air Force Western Development Division of Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) in 1954. He directed the nation’s highest priority projects; the development of a ballistic missile program and the Air Force’s initial space programs. He pushed forward research and development of the Atlas, Titan, Thor, and Minuteman ballistic missiles, concurrently fielding the launch sites, tracking facilities, and ground support equipment.

He earned the title of “Missileman Schriever” appearing on the cover of TIME magazine in 1957. He became the ARDC Commander in 1959 and was promoted to general in 1961 when ARDC became Air Force Systems Command. Since his retirement in 1966, he has worked as an engineering and military strategy consultant. He was inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame in 1980, served on President Reagan’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and was honored by the USAF in 1998 when Falcon AFB in Colorado was renamed Schriever Air Force Base in his honor, the first time an Air Force installation has been named in honor of a living individual. General Schriever passed away on June 20, 2005 at the age of 94.  General Schriever was selected as an inaugural eagle of the Air Command and Staff College’s Gathering of Eagles in 1987, and subsequently honored in 1997 and 2001, respectively.

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1987 Lithograph
1997 Lithograph
2001 Lithograph

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In 1953, ARDC needed a "missile-minded" man to develop ICBMs. "Actually, we didn't appoint him--'Benny' was born for the job," a Pentagon general said. "There wasn't another soul we knew who could handle it, .so 'Benny' walked in and took over." On 4 March 1957, General Schriever stated, "Several decades from now, the important battles may not be sea battles but space battles.and we should be spending a certain fraction of our national resources to ensure that we do not lag in obtaining space supremacy.The mission is to maintain the peace."

Pacific Ocean. The C-119 snagged the parachute and made the first midair recovery of a film return capsule! The day before, the Discoverer had been launched into orbit. The satellite carried a camera, which took the first intelligence photos of the Soviet Union from space and verified Schrievers vision of the Air Forces future beyond earth's atmosphere.

October 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis is in full swing. Ten Minuteman I Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles are now on combat alert at Malmstrom AFB, Montana. President Kennedy referred to this new capability as his "ace in the hole," a capability that helped prevent escalation of the Cuban Missile Crisis. General Schriever's vision of a solid fuel ICBM was now a reality. It had gone from program go-ahead to combat alert in just four years and eight months, the hallmark of General Schriever's organizational skills and leadership.