Eagle Profile

Henry E. “Pete” Warden saved the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress program from termination. Warden was born in 1915 in Texas. His father, an Army general, was then stationed in the Philippines. At age 13, his father was serving on Long Island, New York, where young Warden got his first flight in an airplane, wearing the parachute of then-lieutenant Jimmy Doolittle! After first studying architecture at Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College for 2 years, Warden earned a degree in aeronautical engineering from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. He then spent 3 more years at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He conducted wind tunnel tests while he worked for 2 years as a teaching assistant. In November 1939, Warden entered the Air Corps as a lieutenant and trained at Love Field, Texas.

Gaining his wings in 1940, Warden was assigned to airfields near San Francisco, where he first flew the Curtiss P-36 Mohawk and then the P-40 Warhawk. His unit, the 20th Pursuit Squadron, was sent to Nichols Field, near Manila in the Philippines, where he worked as a depot inspector. When the Japanese attacked Hawaii and the Philippines, MacArthur ordered American and Philippine forces to positions on the Bataan Peninsula. Warden requested to stay at Nichols to repair and assemble P-40’s. He saved one requiring an engine change for himself and flew to Bataan, narrowly escaping capture by the Japanese. Warden was sent from Bataan to Mindanao to find more airplanes. He found three planes in packing crates and, while testing one that he had assembled, shot down a Japanese transport.

When Bataan fell, Warden flew to Australia on a Consolidated LB-30 Liberator. From 1942 to 1944, he was a key figure in the Army Air Force logistics system in Australia. In June 1944, he was assigned to Wright Field, Ohio, to work on the Convair XB-36 and the Northrop XB-35 programs. Promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1945, he was named Chief of Bombardment Branch, Engineering Division. Warden was responsible for many projects, including the Douglas XB-47, the Martin XB-48 and XB-51, and the Boeing XB-52. In December 1946, he helped set a transcontinental speed record, as the pusher-puller Douglas XB-42 Mixmaster light bomber flew from California to Washington, D.C. in just 5 hours. Warden had a major impact on the two most important bombers ever employed by Strategic Air Command, the B-47 Stratojet and the B-52 Stratofortress.

He put jet engines on these aircraft! Leaving Wright Field, Warden attended Air War College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, and remained there as an instructor until late 1953. Next, as a staff officer in the Pentagon, he worked long range plans as Chief, Air Warfare Systems Division. From 1957 to 1960, he was Deputy Commander for Tests at the Air Force Missile Test Center, Patrick AFB, Florida. Then, until he retired in 1964, Warden was assigned to Air Force Systems Command at Andrews AFB, Maryland. After his retirement from active duty, Warden was the Corporate Director of Plans for North American Aviation.

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1996 Lithograph

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From the mid-1940's, when the first proposals for the XB-52 were made, the airplane was controversial. Armament didn't like it, because it didn't have enough defensive turrets. Some questioned its range and load capacity due to the use of turboprop engines. Others wanted a totally new concept that would launch from rails. His German engineers, brought over under Operation Paper Clip convinced warden, that the XB-52 must have jet engines. He had quietly and unofficially fostered Pratt & Whitney's development of the JT-3 turbojet. On 21 October 1948, in a meeting at the Van Cleve Hotel in Dayton, Ohio, Warden surprised Boeing's engineers with a challenge: design an XB-52 that would use the JT-3. Seventy-two hours later, the aircraft had taken shape, and a program that had often faced cancellation was on its way.