'We walked with a legend'
By retired Gen. Lance Lord, Air Force Space Command
/ Published July 11, 2006
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Editor's Note: General Lord was commander, Air Force Space Command, when this commentary originally ran June 23, 2005.
In a world where it is so easy to marvel at the achievements of athletes or movie stars, we sometimes miss the more monumental events of our time. These colossal events and people will go down in history because they fundamentally changed our world and the way we live. The life and accomplishments of General Bennie Schriever fits into this category.
For 94 years, we were privileged to share the world with a visionary leader whose achievements will stand the test of time with those of Giulio Douhet, Alfred Mahan, Sylvanus Thayer, Hap Arnold and Billy Mitchell. A true American story, he and his family immigrated to our shores when he was a young boy in 1917. He went on to earn degrees from Texas A&M and Stanford before joining the Army Air Corps. He would realize his true calling though as commander of the Air Force Western Development Division during the 1950s.
On numerous occasions, General Schriever was the lone voice advocating the space and missile capabilities many now take for granted. Like Billy Mitchell and so many other pioneers, he was chastised for his outspokenness. He talked openly of Space Supremacy and Space Superiority well before the launch of Sputnik. Following one notable speech, the Secretary of Defense admonished him, "Do not use ‘Space' in any of your speeches in the future."
After the first Soviet space launch in October 1957, everything changed.
When the nation needed him, he delivered. Future historians will look back upon the Cold War and point to General Bennie Schriever as a decisive factor in our victory. General Schriever was there when his nation needed a measured response to Sputnik. Later, President Kennedy could stand toe-to-toe with Premier Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis because of General Schriever's leadership. His determination spearheaded the development of the Minuteman missile system in less than five years, and he had the system deployed in silos by 1962. President Kennedy would later say the intercontinental ballistic missile was his "ace in the hole."
Today, many of the technologies once championed by General Schriever are still the bedrock of our nation's space capabilities. Where would we be without General Schriever? Technologically, we would be decades behind where we are now.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of presenting General Schriever with the first new Space Badge, which will soon be worn by space and missile warriors around the world. The General's strength was leaving him as was his voice. However, his failing health could not diminish the spark in his eyes. The look on his face as his eyes lit up with pride reassured me that he fully appreciated the moment and its significance. This was indeed a fitting tribute to the father of our nation's space and missile forces. General Schriever will continue to be a role model for me and for so many others.
In 1962, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur delivered his now famous "Duty, Honor, Country" address to the Corps of Cadets at the U.S. Military Academy. General MacArthur stated, "You now face a new world, a world of change. The thrust into outer space of the satellite, spheres and missiles marked the beginning of another epoch in the long story of mankind: the chapter of the space age. … There has never been a greater, a more abrupt or staggering evolution. We deal now not with things of this world alone, but with the illimitable distances and as yet unfathomed mysteries of the universe."
Standing on the fulcrum of mankind's greatest era of discovery stood General Bennie Schriever. Generations from now, those who wear the uniform of our armed services will regard us with envy, for we had the opportunity to walk with, and stand watch with, a legend.
Beccy and I join the nearly 40,000 men and women of Air Force Space Command in sending our condolences to General Schriever's wife Joni and their family. We cherish their friendship and will forever consider them a part of our Air Force Space Command family.