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Air Force Museum Foundation

Gen. Bernard A. Schriever


"Father of Air Force Space and Missiles"

Bernard A. Schriever was the chief architect of the U.S. Air Force's early ballistic missile and space programs. His visionary leadership in the 1950s and 1960s made the USAF a world leader in developing military science and technology. He directed the creation and deployment of strategic missiles that were crucial in nuclear deterrence throughout the Cold War, and he also fostered the development of space systems that enhanced our national security and improved the effectiveness and efficiency of the United States armed forces. 

Born in 1910 in Bremen, Germany, Bernard Schriever immigrated to the United States as a child and became a U.S. Army Air Corps pilot in 1933. In World War II, he flew 63 combat missions in B-17 bombers in the Pacific. He also worked in maintenance and engineering, eventually commanding the Far East Air Service Command's advanced headquarters. After the war, Schriever began working in technology development, focusing on new jet and rocket technologies. He served in the Pentagon as Chief of the Army Air Forces' Scientific Liaison Branch, and later as an assistant to the USAF Deputy Chief of Staff for Development.
 
Gen. Schriever's career in developing Air Force space and missile systems began in 1954 when he was assigned as Commander of the Air Research and Development Command's (ARDC's) Western Development Division, which evolved into the Air Force Ballistic Missiles Division. As commander, he oversaw the development of the Thor, Atlas, Titan, and Minuteman missile systems, all key elements in fulfilling the deterrence strategy so effective during the Cold War. He also directed USAF support to the NASA Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. It was during this period that the USAF developed, demonstrated and deployed key weather, warning, reconnaissance, and communications satellite systems. 

Developing nuclear weapons for national security was one of Gen. Schriever's top priorities. As the U.S. kept pace with Soviet arms programs, Schriever streamlined Air Force research and development by introducing the concept of "concurrency" (also known as the "systems" approach), which transformed traditional step-by-step design, production, testing, facilities preparation and training into a simultaneous, time-saving process. By integrating all the functions needed to create new systems, Schriever obtained results faster than many experts predicted. As he helped create and manage space and missile systems, Schriever became a well-known public figure, respected for his sound judgment and effective leadership during a critical period of the Cold War. 

In 1959 Schriever took command of ARDC and oversaw its transformation into the Air Force Systems Command (AFSC), later merged with the Air Force Logistics Command (AFLC) to become today's Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC). As AFSC's first commander, Schriever continued to refine Air Force science and technology by applying the systems approach to all USAF weapon development. Under his leadership, AFSC developed and acquired many aircraft, command and control, missile, and satellite systems, all crucial to strategic deterrence during the Cold War. 

Schriever retired as a general in 1966, and passed away in 2005. His legacy to the Air Force is its unrivaled ability to quickly and efficiently develop and use the latest science and technology in the execution of its air and space missions. His leadership in space and missiles ensured American strength throughout the Cold War, and he helped make the Air Force the leader in military technology development. Gen. Schriever's achievements have rightly earned him the title "father of Air Force space and missiles."

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Related Fact Sheets
Mercury Spacecraft
Gemini Spacecraft
Apollo 15 Command Module
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Other Resources
Bernard A. Schriever: Challenging the Unknown (Provided by AFHSO)
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