Eugene Francis "Gene" Kranz (born August 17, 1933) is a retired NASA Flight Director and manager. Kranz served as a Flight Director, the successor to NASA founding Flight Director Chris Kraft, during the Gemini and Apollo programs, and is best known for his role in directing the successful Mission Control team efforts to save the crew of Apollo 13, which later became the subject story of a major motion picture of the same name. He is also noted for his trademark close-cut flattop hairstyle, and the wearing of dapper white "mission" vests (waistcoats), of different styles and materials made by Mrs. Kranz, during missions for which he acted as Flight Director. A personal friend to the American astronauts of his time, Kranz remains a prominent and colorful figure in the history of U.S. manned space exploration, literally, the embodiment of 'NASA tough-and-competent' of the Kranz Dictum. Kranz has been the subject of movies, documentary films, and books and periodical articles. Kranz is the recipient of a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Kranz was born in Toledo, Ohio and attended Central Catholic High School. He grew up on a farm that overlooked the Willys-Overland Jeep production plant. His father, Leo Peter Kranz, was the son of a German immigrant, and served as an Army medic during World War I. His father died in 1940, when Eugene F. was only seven years old. Kranz has two older sisters, Louise and Helen.
His early fascination with flight was apparent in the topic of his high school thesis, entitled "The Design and Possibilities of the Interplanetary Rocket." Kranz graduated from Parks College of Saint Louis University in 1954, and received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, completing pilot training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas in 1955. Shortly after receiving his wings, Kranz married Marta Cadena, a daughter of Mexican immigrants who fled from Mexico during the Mexican Revolution. Kranz was sent to South Korea to fly the F-86 Sabre aircraft for patrol operations around the Korean DMZ.