Retired Brig. Gen. Robert Cardenas, attended SDSU and was shot down over Germany before becoming a general.
Retired Brig. Gen. Robert Cardenas speaks at Miramar National Cemetery in 2018. Photo by Chris Stone

Brig. Gen. Robert L. Cardenas, a pioneering Air Force officer who grew up in San Diego and retired here, will be laid to rest at Miramar National Cemetery on Thursday.

Cardenas, who died March 10 at the age of 102, will be buried at the cemetery that he helped create during his retirement.

The general was born in Yucatan, Mexico in 1920. He attended schools in San Diego, and graduated from the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque in 1955.

His military career began in 1939 when he joined the California National Guard. During World War II, he served as a B-24 Liberator pilot in Europe. After being shot down over Germany, he made it back to Allied territory.

After the war, Cardenas became a test pilot, flying early jet fighters and bombers. He piloted the B-29 Superfortress that carried Chuck Yeager’s X-1 rocket plane for the first faster-than-sound flight.

He flew combat missions during Vietnam and went on to leadership positions with the Air Force in Spain and at NATO headquarters. He retired in 1973 and resided in San Diego.

The ceremony on Thursday will include a flyover in tribute to a man described as “one of the most influential military minds of the 20th century.”

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.