Brigadier General Antonio Maldonado





Brigadier General Antonio Maldonado

The youngest pilot and Aircraft Commander of a B-52 nuclear bomber

By Tony (The Marine) Santiago

Brigadier General Antonio Maldonado

Brigadier General Antonio Maldonado (born in 1941, in Comerio, Puerto Rico), was an officer of the United States Air Force, who in who in 1967 became the youngest pilot and Aircraft Commander of a B-52 nuclear bomber. He served as Chief, U.S. Office of Defense Cooperation, Madrid, Spain. He was the senior Department of Defense representative to Spain and senior advisor to the US Ambassador to Spain. During the Persian Gulf War in 1991 he coordinated the overall US offensive operations from Spain.

Early Years 

Maldonado was born in Comerio, a town located in the center-eastern region of Puerto Rico. He is the youngest of twelve brothers and sisters born to Flor Maldonado Colón from Barranquitas and Carmen López Rodriguez from Naranjito. His family moved to the capital of the island, San Juan and there he attended Central High School.  


Maldonado graduated from high school in May 1959 and continued his academic education in the University of Puerto Rico where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration in May 1964. Upon his graduation, Maldonado received the commission of second lieutenant in the United States Air Force as a Distinguished Graduate from the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program. He married Carmen Haydee Gonzalez from San Juan in June 1964.

Military career

Maldonado was sent to Moody Air Force Base in Georgia where he completed his Air Force pilot training in August 1965. He was then assigned as a B-52 pilot, becoming at the age of 26 the youngest person to pilot said aircraft, with the 60th Bombardment Squadron, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. 

On May 1967, he was reassigned to Ramey Air Force Base in Puerto Rico, where he served as a B-52 Aircraft Commander until May 1970. During his tour at Ramey he earned his Master of Business Administration degree at the Inter American University of Puerto Rico in May 1969. In 1970,he was assigned to the 67th Tactical Fighter Wing at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, where he trained as an F-4C Phantom pilot.


Vietnam War

In January 1971, Maldonado was transferred to the 432nd Tactical Fighter Reconnaissance Wing, Udon Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand. His active participation in the Vietnam War included 183 air combat missions over North and South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia logging more than 400 combat flying hours in the F-4C Phantom.

Return to the United States

 In December 1971, Maldonado returned to the United States upon completing his tour of duty in Vietnam. He was assigned to Bergstrom Air Force Base in Texas, as an RF-4C Instructor Pilot. In December 1972 he was selected for a special assignment as an International Politico-military Affairs Officer to the U.S. Southern Command, Albrook Air Force Base in the Panama  Canal Zone. Maldonado left Panama to attend the Army Command and General Staff College from July 1976 to July 1977.

B-52 - Type of aircraft flown by Maldonado

Among the assignments which he held from 1977 to 1982 were the following: B-52 Instructor Pilot and Chief of the Command Control Division (1977-1979) for the 42nd Bombardment Wing at Loring Air Force Base, Maine; Commander of the 28th Bombardment Squadron and later Assistant Deputy Commander for Operations, 19th Bombardment Wing at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia (1979-1981). He continued his military academic education by attending the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama graduating as a Distinguished Graduate in May 1982. 

Pentagon Assignments 

Upon his graduation from the Air War College, Maldonado was assigned to Headquarters, United States Air Force at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., as Chief, Western Hemisphere Division, Office of the Deputy Director for Plans and Policy. In June 1983 he was named Chief, Strategic Offensive Forces Division, Directorate of Plans. 

In April 1984, Maldonado was transferred to K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base in Michigan. During the years which he spent there (1984-1987) he assumed  various leadership positions: Deputy Commander for Operations (1984), 410th Bombardment Wing; Vice Commander (Sept .1984)and Commander(July 1985). While commanding the 410th, General Maldonado won numerous top Air Force awards including the coveted Omaha Trophy (best combat Wing) and the 390th Bombardment Group Memorial Trophy (best Wing Commander). 

On May 1987, Maldonado was reassigned once more to the Pentagon where he served as Chief, Strategic Operations Division, Operations Directorate, Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In June 1988 he became Deputy Director for Operations, National Military Command Center, the Pentagon. On September 1 of that same year, he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General.  

On July 1989, Maldonado was named Chief, U.S. Office of Defense Cooperation, Madrid, Spain, becoming the senior Department of Defense representative to that country. His responsibilities included providing overall direction to U.S. elements in Spain on status of forces, security assistance programs and other defense and base agreement matters. He also provided overall coordination for US offensive operations out of Spain during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.  

Brigadier General Maldonado retired from the United States Air Force on September 1, 1991 with more than 4,000 hours of flight, after 27 years of service of active duty service. 

Later Years 

After Maldonado retired from the Air Force, he was named President of "Fomento Industrial de Puerto Rico" (Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company) by the Government of Puerto Rico, a position which he held until January 1993. In 1993 he became the CEO of the American Red Cross, Puerto Rico Region. In 1999 he became Executive Director of Palmas Del Mar Homeowners Association, Humacao, PR. Maldonado is a board member of the US National Marrow Donor Program and a member of the Board of Governors PR Aqueducts Authority. Maldonado is married and has three daughters: Carmen Zaydee, Joyce and Suzy. 

Awards and Recognitions 

Among Brigadier General Antonio Maldonado's decorations and medals were the following: 

Defense Superior Service Medal

Legion of Merit

Distinguished Flying Cross,

Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters,

Air Medal with 10 oak leaf clusters,

Air Force Commendation Medal

National Defense Service Medal with bronze service star,

Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal with bronze service star,

Vietnam Service Medal with bronze service star

Vietnam Campaign Medal

Inter-American Defense Board Medal 


Command pilot

Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge 


 ©AvStop Online Magazine                                                                 Contact Us                                                  Return To News

AvStop Aviation News and Resource Online Magazine

Grab this Headline Animator