Bernard Schriever is the father of the United States Air Force space and missile program! Born in Germany in 1910, his parents migrated to the United States in 1917, and he became a citizen in 1923. Schriever earned a bachelor of science degree in 1931 from Texas A&M University, and also was commissioned in the Army field artillery. Two years later he transferred to the Army Air Corps and earned his pilot wings at Kelly Field, Texas. Assigned to bombers at March Field, California, he also served as a maintenance engineer under then Lieutenant Colonel Hap Arnold.
In early 1934, during the worst winter for many years, Schriever found himself flying airmail when President Roosevelt annulled government contracts with civil carriers. After a tour in the Panama Canal Zone, he left the Army Air Corps in 1937 to join Northwest Airlines, but the next year returned to military duty at Hamilton Field, California, to fly the Douglas B-18 Bolo. In 1939 he became a test pilot at Wright Field, Ohio, and sometimes flew 5 or 6 new aircraft in a day. Next, at the Air Corps Engineering School, he specialized in aeronautical engineering and, after graduation in 1941, he went to Stanford University to earn a masters degree in mechanical engineering.
During World War II, Schriever fought in the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, North American B-25 Mitchell, and the Douglas C-47 Skytrain in the Southwest Pacific and rose from captain to colonel. After the war, he made his mark in the research and development field and in 1946 was Chief of Scientific Liaison at Army Air Force Headquarters when the Air Force became a separate service. He attended the National War College and in 1950 became Assistant for Evaluation at Air Force Headquarters. In 1954 Schriever went to the Air Research and Development Center (ARDC) as Assistant to the Commander, and, concurrently assumed command of the Western Development Division.
He directed the nation's highest priority projects to develop a space and ballistic missile program. He pushed forward early reconnaissance satellite and man-in-space research, and focused efforts on the Atlas, Titan, Thor, and Minuteman missiles and their launch, tracking and support systems. In 1959 Schriever took command of ARDC and in 1961 he pinned on his fourth star as the first commander of Air Force Systems Command. In 1963, he conceived and directed Project Forecast to develop a long-range plan to assess Air Force technology needs for the next 15 years. Schriever, an undisputed aerospace pioneer, retired in 1966 after 33 years of military service. He continues to serve in many advisory roles and provides guidance and vision to the Air Force and the Department of Defense as the role of the military in space develops.
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.