Col. Henry Edward "Pete" Warden, age 91, died November 15, 2007 at Baptist Memorial Hospital. Services will be held at Main Street Presbyterian Church on Monday, November 19 at 11:00 with Dr. Bernhard Kuiper officiating. Burial will follow at Friendship Cemetery. Visitation will be at the church from 9:30 to 11 preceding the service. Memorial Funeral Home of Columbus has charge of arrangements
Col. Warden, called "the Father of the B-52," conceived and nurtured the B-52 Stratofortess program from concept through production into operational deployment. He was also instrumental in the B-47 program.
Henry "Pete" Warden was born in McKinney, Texas on December 26, 1915 to the late Brigadier-General John A. Warden and the late Jane Abernathy Warden.
At age 13, his father was serving on Long Island, New York, where young Warden got his first flight in an airplane wearing the parachute of then lieutenant Jimmy Doolittle!
After studying architecture at Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College for two years, Warden earned a degree in aeronautical engineering from Catholic University in Washington , D.C. He then spent 3 years as a graduate student and teaching assistant at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He helped design the Institute's first closed circuit wind tunnel which is still in use today!
Warden had completed his masters of science program (lacking only his dissertation) when Germany invaded Poland in September, 1939. Convinced that the U.S. would be in the war shortly, he decided to join the military and in November 1939, Warden entered the Air Corps as a lieutenant and trained at Love Field, Texas .
After winning his wings in 1940, Warden was assigned to Hamilton Airfield, near San Francisco, where he first flew the Curtiss P-36 Mohawk and then the P-40 Mohawk. During the course of his long career he flew over 43 different military aircraft.
His unit, the 20th Pursuit Squadron, was sent to Nichols Field, near Manila in the Philippines, where he served as a fighter pilot and also worked as a depot inspector. After the Japanese attacked Hawaii and Philippines, MacArthur ordered American and Philippine forces to positions on the Bataan Peninsula. Warden requested to stay behind to repair and assemble P-40's to keep them from falling into Japanese hands. Warden managed to save at least eight aircraft, flying the last one out of Manila, himself, literally in front of Japanese forces. He was sent from Bataan to Mindanao to find more airplanes. He found three planes in packing crates and while testing one that he had assembled, shot down a Japanese transport.
When Bataan fell, Warden was ordered to Australia that he reached on a Consolidated LB-30 Liberator. From 1942 to 1944, he was a key figure in the Army Air Force logistics System in Australia where he developed many innovations which improved the performance of American aircraft. In June 1944, he was assigned to Wright Field, Ohio to work on the Convair XB-36 and the Northrop XB-35 programs. Promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1945, he was named Chief of Bombardment Branch, Engineering Division. Warden was responsible for many projects, including the Douglas XB-47, the Martin,XB-48, and XB-51, and the Boeing XB-52. In December 1945, he and copilot Glen Edwards (the man for whom Edwards Air Force Base was named) set a transcontinental speed record, as the pusher-puller Douglas XB-42 Mixmaster light bomber flew from California to Washington, D.C. in just 5 hours. Warden had a major impact on the two most important bombers ever employed by Strategic Air Command, the B-47 Stratojet and the B-52 Stratofortress. The B-52 is still flying after 50 years and is considered one of the best designed aircraft ever built. A full account of the origin of the B-52 is available in Lori Tagg's book, Development of the B-52: The Wright Field Story and in a number of other books and articles. Col. Warden was honored in 1996 by being invited to be a member of the Gathering of the Eagles which also includes other aviation luminaries such as Churck Yeager, Larry Tibbets, and Robin Olds.
During WW II, he took part in 25 combat missions in the Southwest Pacific. Among his decorations and awards are the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, and the Distinguished Unit Citation with three Oak Leaf Clusters.
Leaving Wright Field, Warden attended Air War College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama where he met and married Joanna Shields Johnson. He remained there as an instructor until late 1953. Next, as a staff officer in the Pentagon, he worked long range plans as Chief, Air Warfare Systems Division. From 1957 to 1960 he was Deputy Commander for Tests at the Air Force Missile Test Center, Patrick AFB, Florida. Then, until he retired in 1964, Warden was assigned to Air Force Systems Command at Andrews, AFB, Maryland where he was one of the principle officers involved in Project Forecast that set the technological direction for the Air Force over the next two decades. After his retirement from active duty Warden was the Corporate Director of Plans for North American Aviation (the company that was responsible for the Apollo Command and Service Module and the XB-70 Valkyrie Mach-3 Strategic Bomber) in Los Angeles, California.
In 1970 Warden moved to Columbus, Mississippi with his wife Joanna and three children and took up farming. He and his wife started the Warden Carden School which they operated for over 20 years, without compensation, as a ministry to the youth of Columbus. He was a member of Main Street Presbyterian Church.
As important and busy as Pete Warden was, his greatest priority and joy was spending time with his family. He made it easy to understand how God as our Heavenly Father desires to spend time with His children. Warden was a humble and modest man of great integrity. He will be greatly missed by family and friends.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Joanna Shields Johnson Warden. He is survived by: sons, Henry Edward "Hank" Warden, (Susan) of Columbus, William A. "Billy" Warden (Deborah), of Madison; daughter, Joanna "Cissie" Posey (Phil), of Madison; three grandchildren, Daniel Evans Warden, David Edward Warden, and Elizabeth Arrington Posey, of Madison; nephew, John A. Warden III of Montgomery, Ala.; nieces, Fran Johnson Turner, of Tuscaloosa, Ala., Lu Love Kingsley, and Majie Love Alley; as well as a number of great and great-great nieces and nephews.
Pallbearers will be: John Warden III, John Warden IV, Britt Turner, Ralph Stewart, Gary Holtman, Jerry Gibson. Honorary pallbearers are Richard "Poogie" Laws, and Bob Rhett.
Memorials may be made to Main Street Presbyterian Church, the American Legion, Palmer Home, or the Gideons.
Published by Clarion Ledger on Nov. 18, 2007.