Retired Aug. 1, 1986.
Major General Robert E. Messerli is assistant deputy chief of staff for programs and resources, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
General Messerli was born in 1929, in Monticello, Iowa. He graduated from Monticello High School in 1947 and received a bachelor of science degree in education from the University of Iowa in 1951. The general earned a master's degree in public administration from Auburn (Ala.) University in 1973. He is also a graduate of the Armed Forces Staff College at Norfolk, Va.; the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C.; and the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.
His military career began as an enlisted airman in January 1951. He entered the aviation cadet program in November 1951 and received his wings and commission as a distinguished graduate in 1952. General Messerli then was assigned to the Air Defense Command where he flew in F-94s at McChord Air Force Base, Wash., as a radar observer. He attended ground control intercept training at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., in 1953, with follow-on duty assignments at Naselle Air Force Station, Wash., and the 917th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron at Williams Lake, British Columbia, Canada. In January 1956 General Messerli returned to the United States and attended pilot training at Marana Air, Base, Ariz., and Greenville Air Force Base, Miss. Following graduation in 1957, he was assigned to the 56th Fighter-Intercepter Squadron at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, flying F-86s and F- 104s.
The general joined Tactical Air Command's 479th Tactical Fighter Wing at George Air Force Base, Calif., in 1960, as an instructor pilot and flight commander. While there he made numerous overseas tactical deployments in F-104s to Spain and Germany during the 1961 Berlin crisis. In April 1964 he was assigned to the 4510th Combat Crew Training Wing, Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., as chief of the Training Analysis and Development Branch where he was responsible for forming the initial German air force F-104 training program. He attended the Armed Forces Staff College in January 1967 and after graduating, was assigned to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., flying F-4s.
Volunteering for duty in Southeast Asia, General Messerli transferred to the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing at Da Nang Air Base, Republic of Vietnam, in January 1968. While there he served as the 390th Tactical Fighter Squadron operations officer and flew 205 combat missions in F-4s. He flew 103 of those missions over North Vietnam.
In January 1969, after his tour of duty in the Republic of Vietnam, General Messerli was assigned to Air Force headquarters as chief of the Weapons System Branch, Tactical Division, Directorate of Operations. Following his graduation from the Air War College in June 1973, he was assigned as commander of the F-4-equipped base at Camp New Amsterdam, Soesterberg, Netherlands. In July 1974 he became director of inspection for the U.S. Air Forces in Europe's inspector general at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
General Messerli took command of the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing, Royal Air Force Station Lakenheath, England, in June 1975. During his tenure the 48th became the largest tactical fighter wing in the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization when the F-4s were replaced by F-111F's. This transition involved the largest peacetime movement of aircraft in U.S. Air Force history. On March 1, 1977, he led the first flight of F-111F's non-stop from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, to their new home at Royal Air Force Station Lakenheath.
From April 1979 to June 1980, he was commander of the Strategic Air Command's 45th Air Division at Pease Air Force Base, N.H., where he was responsible for SAC's two FB-111 wings as well as two B-52 wings. General Messerli then became commander of SAC's 40th Air Division at Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Mich. His responsibilities included two B-52/KC-135 wings, a Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missile wing, a KC-135 air refueling wing, plus the 12th Ballistic Missile Early Warning Group at Thule Air Base and Distant Early Warning Support Group at Sondrestrom Air Base, Greenland. In February 1982 he became deputy chief of staff and inspector general for the commander in chief, Pacific Command, Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii. He assumed his present duties in August 1983.
A command pilot with more than 6,500 flying hours, General Messerli was the first man to fly more than 2,000 hours in F-104s. His military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with 14 oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal and Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with gold star.
He was promoted to major general June 1, 1982, with date of rank Aug. 1, 1978.