Bob Friend was near and dear to the hearts of many of us at the Palm Springs Air Museum. He was a true gentleman and had a marvelous spirit about him. This will be just an overview of his USAF career. I will expand on his accomplishment in later episodes.
After flight training at Tuskegee Army Airfield, Bob Friend became a fighter pilot with the 332nd Fighter Group in Italy just in time for the Anzio Invasion. At the time, the 4 squadrons within the 332nd were flying the Bell P-39 Airacobra. Within a few months flying the P-39, the 332nd switched to the P-47 Thunderbolt which was a big step up from the P-39. But after just a couple of months, the 332nd was given the P-51 Mustang. Flying the P-51, Bob and the rest of the 332nd excelled in all of the combat roles that they were assigned. Bob’s WWII combat career consisted of 142 combat missions.
After WWII ended, Bob stayed in the US Army Air Forces, which became its separate branch in 1947, the United States Air Force.
For a few years, Bob was a test pilot performing all-weather flight tests at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. In this role, he flew almost everything that the USAF had in bad weather conditions.
From 1958 to 1963 Bob oversaw Project Blue Book, which collected and analyzed more than 12,000 reports of flying saucers and other mysterious airborne objects. He said that most of the UFOs that they investigated could be explained, but there were some that simply couldn’t be. He always had an open mind that we might not be the only beings in the universe.
Other duties with the Air Force included serving as assistant deputy of launch vehicles, working on space launch vehicles such as the Titan, Atlas and Delta rockets and the space shuttle. He served as a foreign technology program director, where he identified and monitored research and development programs related to national security.
In a 28-year military career, he also served as an operations officer in the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Now moving into civilian life, he became Executive Vice President for the Stanford Mu Corporation in Carson CA.