Brigadier General Robert L. Cardenas, USAF (Ret.)

General Cardenas began his military career in 1939 as an Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet. By 1944, he was a B-24 bomber pilot with the 8th Air Force. While leading a squadron of bombers on his 20th mission over Germany, his aircraft was shot down. Cardenas managed to evade capture, and entered neutral Switzerland, where he was interned with other Allied airmen. He eventually escaped from the camp and—guided by partisans—made his way to Paris, arriving before D-Day. After hooking up with U.S. troops, he returned to the United States.

By 1947, Cardenas was Project Operations Officer on the Super Sonic Project, and was command pilot of the B-29 that launched Capt. Chuck Yeager’s rocket-powered Bell X-1 aircraft in a successful attempt to break the sound barrier. In 1948, he was chief test pilot for the Northrop B-49 Flying Wing, and Chief of Flight Test Operations at Muroc Air Force Base. Notable assignments from 1950 to 1973 included National Nuclear War planner developing the NSTL target list, and Deputy Commander,16th Air Force in Spain. He also negotiated with dictator Moamar Khadifi on withdrawal of U.S. forces from Wheelus Air Force Base in Libya.

During the Vietnam War, Col. Cardenas flew combat missions in F-105s over North Vietnam and was promoted to Brigadier General on March 15, 1968. He then assumed command of the USAF Special Operations Command. In 1970, he was assigned as US Deputy COS Live Oak in Mons, Belgium, where he spent a year telling the Soviets, “Nyet,” and calling their bluff on closing travel to Berlin by road, rail, or air. In June, 1973, General Cardenas retired and returned to San Diego, where he lives with his wife, Gladys.

BGEN Robert L. Cardenas USAF retired web site:

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