Bernard Adolph Schriever

Bernard Adolph Schriever

General Bernard Adolph Schriever
Nickname(s) Ben, Bennie
Born (1910-09-14)September 14, 1910
Bremen, Germany
Died June 20, 2005(2005-06-20) (aged 94)
Washington, D.C.
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch United States Air Force
Years of service 1931–1966
Rank General
Commands held Air Force Systems Command
Battles/wars Banana Wars
World War II

General Bernard Adolph Schriever (September 14, 1910 – June 20, 2005), also known as Bennie Schriever, was a United States Air Force general. He was born in Bremen, Germany, and after immigrating to the United States, played a major role in the U.S. Air Force programs for space and ballistic missile research.

Early years

Bernard Adolph Schriever was born in Bremen, Germany. His father was an engineering officer on a German ship which was interned in New York Harbor in 1916. His mother, Elizabeth, was able to get passage for herself and her two sons aboard a Dutch freighter bound for New York so that she could rejoin her husband. The family arrived in January 1917, just before the United States entered the war.

Schriever and his family moved to New Braunfels, Texas, a community with a large German-speaking population, and then later to San Antonio, Texas. His father died in an accident in 1918, leaving Schriever and his brother in foster care until his grandmother was able to come from Germany to take care of them so that their mother could work.

Schriever became a naturalized citizen in 1923. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Texas A&M University in 1931 while participating in the school's Corps of Cadets. He received a commission in the Army artillery, but in July 1932 began flight training at Randolph Field. He was commissioned into the Army Air Corps in June 1933. He served in Panama where he was an aide to Brigadier General George H. Brett. He met, wooed, and married the General's eldest daughter, Dora Devol Brett.


After serving in Panama at Albrook Field, Schriever was forced out of the Air Corps in 1937 due to budget cuts and became a pilot with Northwest Airlines. The following year he rejoined the military, becoming a test pilot. He graduated from the Air Corps Engineering School in July 1941, and received an M.A. in aeronautical engineering from Stanford University in 1942, also receiving a promotion to the rank of major.

Although Schriever had requested to be transferred to a combat zone after the bombing of Pearl Harbor launched the US into World War II, his request was not approved until after his studies were completed. In July 1942 he was assigned to the 19th Bomb Group in the Pacific theater as a bomber pilot.

When his unit was reassigned to the States in 1943, Schriever moved to the 5th Air Force Service Command where he eventually became commanding officer of advanced headquarters for the Far East Air Service Command, serving under General Curtis LeMay. This meant he was now in charge of maintenance for bases in New Guinea, Leyte, Manila, and Okinawa, Japan. By the end of the war he had worked his way to Colonel.

Deploying the Atlas-series ICBM was Schriever’s major achievement

After the war ended, Schriever reported to the Army Air Forces Headquarters, serving in various capacities for much of the next decade. In this time he also graduated from the National War College, and earned a promotion to Brigadier General.

In 1954 he headed a group of USAF officers who formed the Western Development Division under the Air Research Development Command. This division was responsible for creating the intercontinental ballistic missile, among others. The research also led to breakthroughs that allowed satellites to be launched into space.

Schriever’s work often brought him into conflict with the “manned” Air Force, especially his former commanding officer, Gen. Curtis LeMay. LeMay opposed Schriever’s development of rockets as strategic weapons delivery systems, correctly believing that rockets deflected resources, manpower, and funding away from LeMay’s manned bomber aircraft. LeMay believed that American nuclear superiority over (or at least parity with) the Soviet Union could only be maintained by the continued development and deployment of larger, faster, and more powerful manned bombers. After Schriever received the four stars of a full general, LeMay pointedly informed him that had it been up to LeMay, Schriever "would not have been wearing those".[1]

Schriever was promoted to full general on July 1, 1961 and became commander of a new organization, the Air Force Systems Command, which was responsible for acquiring all missiles. By 1963, he oversaw 40 percent of the Air Force budget.

Later years

He retired in 1966, although he continued to act as an advisor for various corporate and government clients. In honor of his service, on June 5, 1998, Schriever Air Force Base was named for him.

He was awarded the Delmer S. Fahrney Medal in 1982.

General Schriever had three children—Brett, Dodie, and Barbara—from his first marriage, which ended in divorce. On October 5, 1997 Schriever married his second wife, popular singer Joni James.

In 2004, the Space Foundation awarded General Schriever its highest honor, the General James E. Hill Lifetime Space Achievement Award,[2] which is presented annually to recognize outstanding individuals who have distinguished themselves through lifetime contributions to the welfare or betterment of humankind through the exploration, development and use of space, or the use of space technology, information, themes or resources in academic, cultural, industrial or other pursuits of broad benefit to humanity.

General Schriever died on June 20, 2005 at the age of 94 from complications of pneumonia.

See also


  1. Sheehan, Neil (2009). A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon.
  2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-02-03. Retrieved 2012-01-31.


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