Retired Sep. 1, 1966.
Major General Ben I. Funk, Commander of the Air Force Systems Command?s Space Systems Division, Los Angeles AFS, Calif., was a third year Denver University student majoring in chemical engineering when he decided to become a military pilot.
Winning his wings in 1936 and commissioned in 1937, he has ? in the past 28 years ? made significant contributions to the progress of aeronautical and ballistic missile systems. He has become an acknowledged military expert in the field of industrial management, and now holds a key position in the development of United States space capabilities.
His first assignment after being appointed to the regular officer corps in 1938 was with the 19th Bombardment Group at Albuquerque, N.M. When World War II broke out, General Funk was a lieutenant flying a Liberator on a ferrying mission to the Middle East. He spent several months island-hopping in the Far East during the retreat from the Philippines and Java by U.S. Forces.
His experience with B-24 and B-17 bombers during this period led to his stateside assignment at Air Materiel Headquarters at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where his combat-bred suggestions for modifications in those aircraft were carried out under his guidance. His subsequent work in helping to engineer changes in the B-29 aircraft earned him his first Legion of Merit.
In 1944 he flew missions over the Burma ?Hump? to air bases in China. In 1945, as his last wartime assignment, he headed the 346th Bombardment Group at Okinawa. There his job was to direct the proposed air strikes by B-29?s on the enemy mainland. War?s end terminated that assignment.
In August 1946, General Funk ? then a Colonel ? entered the Air Force Institute of Technology graduating in 1948 with a bachelor of science degree in industrial management. He was then assigned as chief of the Aircraft and Missile section, and later as deputy chief of the Aircraft Procurement Division at Air Materiel Command Headquarters. During this period he was engaged in increasingly responsible procurement and production duties associated with the evolution of such new Air Force aircraft as the B-36, the B-50, the B-45, the B-47, the B-84 and the F-86.
In 1949 he completed the Harvard Graduate School of Business Advanced Management Program.
Serving as Deputy Chief of Procurement at Air Materiel Command for about a year, General Funk then was assigned to Erding, Germany, and a three-year tour as commander of the 84th Air Depot Wing, USAFE. In 1953, while serving in this position, he was promoted to brigadier general.
Returning to the States on July 1, 1954, General Funk was designated Inspector General of the Air Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. In March 1956, he was transferred to Los Angeles, Calif., as AMC?s first Deputy Director for Ballistic Missiles, and as Chief of the Ballistic Missiles Office. Here he worked closely with General B.A. Schriever in the high priority ballistic missile development and acquisition program. On September 15, 1958, the Ballistic Missiles Office was elevated to Command status and was renamed the Ballistic Missiles Center with General Funk as its first commander.
On February 1, 1960, General Funk was assigned as Commander of the San Bernardino Air Materiel Area (AMC) with headquarters at Norton Air Force Base, Calif.
And in October, 1962, General Funk returned to Los Angeles as Commander of the Space Systems Division of Air Force Systems Command.
His decorations include the Legion of Merit with one oak leaf cluster, and Distinguished Flying Cross with one oak leaf cluster. He is rated a command pilot. In 1959, he was accorded an honorary doctorate degree (Public Service) from Denver University. For the past several years he has served on the University of Southern California?s Graduate School Advisory Committee on Executive Programs. He is also a consulting professor at USC.