National University

Miltary Alumni Profile: Robert L. Cardenas (MBA, 1984)

Retired Brigadier General of the United States Air Force

Robert Cardenas is a retired Brigadier General with the U.S. Air Force. Over the length of his impressive military career, he distinguished himself as a bomber pilot, a test pilot and a fighter pilot.

During World War II as a pilot with the 506th Bombardment Squadron of the 44th Bomb Group, Cardenas’ B-24 was shot down over Germany. He avoided capture and escaped to Switzerland. After the war, he started piloting experimental aircraft and became lead test pilot for the YB-49 Flying Wing program.

In 1947, he was assigned the Officer in Charge of Operations and was the command pilot for the B-29 Superfortress that launched Captain Chuck Yeager on one of aviation’s most historic flights in the supersonic experimental aircraft, Bell X-1. During the Korean War he tested new military aircraft. Later Cardenas flew F-105s on combat missions over North Vietnam.

In 1968, Cardenas was promoted to Brigadier General and assigned to Command of the Air Force Special Operations Force at Eglin Air Force Base. Following his assignment there, he became Vice Commander of the 16th Air Force in Spain.

Following his assignment in Spain, Cardenas was assigned to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Belgium, where he served as U.S. Deputy to LIVE OAK, a joint military planning operation of the United States, Great Britain and France. His final duty assignment was Chief of National Strategic Target List Division, Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff. He retired from the Air Force in 1973.

After retirement, Cardenas earned his MBA from National University in 1984. In 1987, California Governor Deukmejian appointed him to the California Veterans Board, where he eventually became the Chairman. He has since served appointments with the Veterans Administration Memorials and Cemetery Committee and the San Diego Mayor’s Veterans Advisory Council, and has served as president of the Veteran’s Museum and Memorial Center in San Diego. 

At age 92, Gen. Cardenas remains active in civic and veterans affairs. He is currently is a member of the Veteran Administration’s Memorials and Cemetery Committee, and  is also a Trustee of the Flight Test Historical Foundation at Edwards AFB.