Bergen graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1937 and went to work for the Martin Company. He immediately distinguished himself by solving a wing flutter problem with Martin's new PBM-1 seaplane. By 1945 he was made chief of Martin's missile department, and under his management the Matador cruise missile and Viking sounding rocket were designed and developed. From 1948 he served in ever-higher executive positions, finally being made President in 1959. He remained in charge of the aerospace division when Martin was bought by Marietta 1961. During this period he oversaw design and development of the Titan I and Titan II ICBM's as well as the XB-51 jet bomber and XP6M jet seaplane.
William Bergen was a suave sophisticate among engineers, often dressed in immaculate pinstripe blue suits, and purportedly a lady killer. He was fit, an enthusiastic oarsman since his college days, also finding time for horseback riding, golf, tennis, hunting, and fishing. He held both single and multiengine pilot certificates. Bergen was an inspired engineer and a demanding but even-handed manager, fair but demanding. He didn't expect his subordinates to do what he would not do himself, and he used humour to keep an even strain during tense periods of work.
In 1961 he personally led the Martin engineering team that produced the most technically-accomplished Apollo spacecraft proposal, a 9,000-page opus that recommended Martin's manoeuvring re-entry vehicle. Martin received the highest ranking of the NASA Apollo Source Evaluation Board. Unofficially the award of the contract was announced to cheering workers within the company. But when the official announcement came the next day, North American was the winner.
Bergen continued to serve as President of Aerospace Division of the now Martin-Marietta Corporation, overseeing development of space-launch derivatives of the Titan II rocket, the Pershing II tactical missile, and the Sprint ABM. After the Apollo fire killed three astronauts, North American dismissed the project's top management, and hired Bergen, and several of his top managers, to replace them. Bergen's team saw the spacecraft through its reworking to a safer design, and the subsequent successful landing on the moon.
In 1970 Bergen was made President of the North American Aerospace Group, the company having been acquired by Rockwell. From that position he led the company to successful completion of the Apollo program, and won the contracts for development of NASA's Space Shuttle and the US Air Force's B-1 Bomber
In 1975 Bergen retired to his home in St. Michaels, Maryland. He continued to act as a consultant to the aerospace industry, including a stint in England as Director of the Commercial Engine Division of Rolls-Royce. But his beloved Chesapeake Bay area continued to be his home until his death.
Birth Place: Floral Park, Long Island, New York.