Cardenas: Flew Jet Fighters During Korea and Vietnam
During the Korean War, Lieutenant Colonel Cardenas flight-tested new jet fighters and bombers and then was assigned as commander of the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing on Okinawa. On his return to the States, he was named chief of the Aircraft and Missiles Program Division at the Pentagon.
In 1962, Colonel Cardenas led a joint Army-Air Force special command into India to evaluate and improve high-altitude resupply drops in the Himalaya Mountains. The techniques the group developed were used to equip troops and prevent a Chinese incursion through the Himalayas into East Pakistan.
During the early days of the Vietnam War, Cardenas flew combat missions from Thailand over North Vietnam. He later commanded the 835th Air Division, training fighter jet crews for combat in Vietnam.
Promoted to brigadier general in 1968, Cardenas was given command of the Air Force Special Operations Force, based in Florida. He later served as vice commander of the 16th Air Force in Spain where he had what he described as the “dubious honor” of participating in the negotiations with Muammar al-Qaddafi on the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Wheless AFB in Libya.
He then was assigned as U.S. deputy to a secret group named “Live Oak,” charged with developing plans to maintain access to Berlin should the Soviets attempt to block roads, rail or air routes to the city.
Brigadier General Cardenas retired from the Air Force in 1973 with 34 years’ service. From 1973 to 1983, he worked as an executive in private industry.