Robert Cardenas

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Brigadier General Robert L. "Bob" Cardenas, USAF (RET) has flown over 60 different aircraft in his career as a test pilot, combat leader in bombers and fighters, and Commander of the Air Force Special Operations Force. Gen. Cardenas began his military career as a private in the Army Cost Artillery. He became a pilot as a cadet in the Army Air Corps, and was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in July 1941. In 1942 he was sent to Twenty-nine Palms, CA to establish an Army Air Corps Glider School. His distinguished military career included flying combat missions in B-24 Liberators over Germany. Shot down on his 20th mission, he evaded capture and escaped. Gen. Cardinas has been a key figure in many of our foreign military operations, including Korea, India, the Himalayan Mountains, Pakistan, Thailand, and North Vietnam. Gen. Cardinas had the dubious honor of negotiating with Muammar Gadhafi the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Wheelus AFB in Libya. As a test pilot, he participated in the flight test evaluation of the German jet fighter ME-262 and the Arado 234 bomber. Cardenas was a key member of the X-1 supersonic project. He served as operations officer and command pilot of the B-29 that launched Captain Charles Yeager into the realm of supersonic flight. As the U.S. Deputy to Live Oak in Belgium his responsibility to SACEUR was to maintain open corridors to Berlin by calling the Soviets bluff to block travel to Berlin by land, air or rail. Prior to his retirement in June 1973, General Cardenas served as Chief of the JL Division of the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff (JSTPS), where he was responsible for the development of the Joint Stategic Target List of the U.S. nuclear War Plan (SIOP). In 1983 Cardenas served as the California coordinator for President Reagan's Southwest Boarder Economic Action Group. He also served as General to California Veterans, Chairman of the San Diego United Veterans Council and Director on the Board of the Veterans Memorial Center & Museum. General Cardenas has many honors, including the Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, and the Presidential Citation. Foreign decorations include the Spanish Grand Legion of Aeronautical Merit with Sash & Dagger.
Inducted in 2008.
Portrait Location: World War II Gallery

Induction Video

San Diego Air & Space Museum

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