The Online Blackbird Museum

Col. Richard Graham (USAF-Ret)

photo copyright © Rich Graham

Colonel (ret) Richard Graham was born August 19, 1942 in New Castle, Pa.   He graduated from the University of Akron, Akron, Ohio, in 1964 and received a master's degree in sociology in 1977 and in Public Administration in 1979 from Pepperdine Univerisy, Los Angeles, California.   He graduated from Air War College in residence in 1982.

After receiving his commission from AFROTC he entered pilot training at Craig AFB, Alabama.   In 1965 he graduated from pilot training and remained at Craig AFB as a T-37 instructor pilot and flight examiner.   In August 1970 he was assigned to Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, to begin F-4 training.   Upon completion of his training he was assigned to the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron ("Triple Nickel") at Udorn RTAFB, Thailand from March 1971 to March 1972.   During that time he flew 145 combat missions over North Vietnam and Laos in the F-4C/D aircraft.

In April 1972 he was assigned to the 44th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Kadena AFB, Okinawa, Japan, flying F-4D aircraft.   Four months later he volunteered for, and joined, the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron as an F-4C "Wild Weasel" pilot.   In September 1972, until February 1973, Colonel Graham was deployed with his squadron to Korat RTAFB, Thailand, to augment F-105 "Wild Weasel" aircraft.   At Korat he flew 60 combat missions, suppressing enemy surface-to-air missile sites in North Vietnam.   During Christmas 1972 he participated in six Linebacker II sorties over Hanoi.   In March 1973 his squadron joined the 17th Tactical Fighter Wing deployed to CCK Air Base, Taiwan.   He departed Kadena as the F-4 Standardization/Evaluation Branch Chief.

Colonel Graham was selected to enter the SR-71 strategic reconnaissance program in 1974 at Beale AFB, California.   After several years as a crew member, he was further selected to become an instructor pilot, and in 1978 was selected as the Chief, Standardization/Evaluation Division, which included the SR-71, U-2 and T-38 aircraft.   In January 1980 he was selected to be the SR-71 Squadron Commander, 1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, where he served until his assignment to Air War College, Maxwell AFB, Alabama in 1981.

Following Air War College in June of 1982, he was assigned to the Headquarters USAF (Pentagon) to work in Programs and Resources as a strategic force programmer.  In April 1984, he was selected to work in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower, Reserve Affairs and Installations.   As the Director of Program Integration, he worked Air Force budgetary matters closely with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Air Staff.

In June of 1986 Colonel Graham was selected to be the Vice Wing Commander, 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing (SRW), Beale AFB, California.   In that capacity, he was able to fly all of the wing's aircraft:  the U-2, T-38, KC-135Q, and SR-71.   In June of 1987 he was selected to become the Wing Commander of the 9th SRW, where he remained until November 1988.   As the Wing Commander, he was responsible for 10,000 personnel and their dependents on base, over 85 Air Force aircraft deployed around the globe, and a base of 22,000 acres in northern California.   He was assigned to the 14th Air Division, Beale AFB, until he retired on 30 September 1989.

Colonel Graham was a command pilot with more than 4,600 military flying hours.   His military decorations and awards include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with 18 oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award wtih "V" device and one oak leaf cluster, Air Force Organizational Excellence Award, Combat Readiness Medal with one oak leaf cluster, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with four service stars, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with palm, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

Upon retirement from the Air Force he joined American Airlines in Dallas, Texas.  He flew with them for 13 years, and in August 2002 he retired as a Captain on the MD-80 aircraft amassing 7,500 hours.  His wife's name is Pat and they have five children and four grandchildren.

Col. Graham has recently published a second volume on the SR-71, entitled SR-71 Blackbird: Stories, Tales and Legends. His first book, "SR-71 Revealed: The Inside Story" tells the crew's story of how they lived and flew the world's fastest and highest flying aircraft, the SR-71 Blackbird.  A veteran of 15 years of assignments within the SR-71 community, he is uniquely qualified to tell their story.  Col. Graham frequently speaks about the SR-71 program at aviation events across the United States.

Rich Graham delivering the Keynote Address at the 1999 Blackbird Reunion, June 5, 1999, Reno, Nevada

SR-71 Revealed: The Inside Story

SR-71 Blackbird: Stories, Tales and Legends

Flying the SR-71 Blackbird: In the Cockpit On a Secret Operational Mission

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