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Ben R. Rich Papers: Finding Aid
mssRich papers  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Related material in the Huntington Library
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: Ben R. Rich Papers
    Dates (inclusive): 1940-1995
    Collection Number: mssRich papers
    Creator: Rich, Ben R.
    Extent: Approximately 1,000 items. 13 boxes.
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts Department
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2129
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: This collection contains the papers of aerospace engineer Ben Rich (1925-1995), who served as the second director of Lockheed's Skunk Works in Southern California and was involved in the development of the F-117 stealth aircraft. The papers date from the 1940s to the early 1990s.
    Language: English.


    Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item]. Ben R. Rich Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    Gift of Michael and Karen Rich, July 15, 2008.

    Related material in the Huntington Library

    Some books that came with the collection have been added to the Huntington Library reference collection; searching under Ben Rich in the library catalog will retrieve these items. The following books represent an incomplete list:
    • Roy Blay, ed., Lockheed Horizons, no. 12 (Burbank, CA, 1983)
    • Roy Blay, ed., Lockheed Horizons, no. 27 (Calabasas, CA, 1988)
    • Walter J. Boyne, The Smithsonian Book of Flight (Washington, DC, 1987)
    • Clyde W. Burleson, The Jennifer Project (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1977)
    • Paul F. Crickmore, Lockheed R-71 Blackbird (London, 1987)
    • Paul F. Crickmore, Lockheed SR-71: The Secret Missions Exposed (London, 1993)
    • Thomas J. Doubek, ed., Strategic Reconnaissance 1956-1976: A History of the 4080th/100th SRW (Dallas, TX, 1976.)
    • Lou Drendel, SR-71 Blackbird in Action (Carrollton, TX, 1982)
    • Jim Goodall, F-117 Stealth in Action (Carrollton, TX, 1991)
    • James C. Goodall, America’s Stealth Fighters and Bombers (Osceola, WI, 1992)
    • Richard P. Hallion, Designers and Test Pilots (Alexandria, VA, 1983)
    • Lockheed Aircraft, Days of Trial and Triumph:A Pictorial History of Lockheed (Burbank, CA, 1969)
    • Lockheed Aircraft, Dateline Lockheed (Burbank, CA, 1982)
    • Robert and Melinda Macy, Destination Baghdad (Las Vegas, NV, 1991)
    • Mark Meyer and Chuck Yeager, Wings (Charlottesville, VA, 1984)
    • Jay Miller, Lockheed U-2 (Austin, TX, 1983)
    • Jay Miller, Lockheed’s Skunk Works: The First Fifty Years (Arlington, TX, 1993)
    • Michael O’Leary, Fighting Lightnings: The Complete Story of Lockheed’s Fabulous P-38 Lightning During World War Two (Canoga Park, CA, 1988)
    • Steve Pace, Lockheed Skunk Works (Osceola, WI, 1992)
    • Chris Pocock, Dragon Lady: The History of the U-2 Spyplane (Shrewsbury, UK, 1989)
    • John Riley, ed., Alcoa and Aerospace, 1888-1988, vol. 8, Alcoa Technology Report, Feb 1989 (Pittsburgh, PA)
    • Brian Shul, Sled Driver: Flying the World’s Fastest Jet (Chico, CA, 1991)
    • Bill Sweetman, Stealth Aircraft (Osceola, WI, 1986)
    • Bill Sweetman and James Goodall, Lockheed F-117A: Operation and Development of the Stealth Fighter (Osceola, WI, 1990)
    • Bill Sweetman, Aurora: The Pentagon’s Secret Hypersonic Spyplane (Osceola, WI, 1993)
    • William Wagner, Lightning Bugs and Other Reconnaissance Drones (Fallbrook, CA, 1982)
    • Bill Yenne, Lockheed (Greenwich, CT 1987).

    Biographical Note

    Ben Robert Rich (1925-1995) was born as Ben Reich in Manila, in the Philippines, on June 18, 1925. He was the second youngest of six children of Jewish middle-class parents. His British father was born in India, his French mother in Egypt. He came to the U.S. in May 1941 with his family and changed his last name to Rich when he was naturalized as a US citizen, in 1947. His father lost his Manila lumber mill to the Japanese invasion, and the family struggled financially through the war in the U.S.
    Rich worked as a machinist during the war and started college at war’s end at UCLA before transferring his senior year to Berkeley. He received a B.S. in mechanical engineering from UC Berkeley in 1949 and an M.S. in mechanical engineering from UCLA in 1950. On June 25, 1950 he married Faye Mayer; they had two children, Michael (b. 1953) and Karen (b. 1956).
    Rich joined Lockheed in 1950 as a design specialist in thermodynamics, aerodynamics, and propulsion, working on the F-94, F-90, C-130, and F-104 aircraft. In 1955 he joined Lockheed’s Advanced Development Projects, also known as the Skunk Works, a group formed by Clarence “Kelly” Johnson in the 1940s. As a senior design specialist he worked on the U-2 aircraft and, from 1956 to 1958, helped design the CL-400, a reconnaissance plane for the secret Air Force program known as Project Suntan, to develop liquid hydrogen as aircraft fuel. He then worked on what became known as the SR-71 aircraft, a Mach 3 high-altitude reconnaissance plane; in particular he helped solve difficult aerodynamic and thermodynamic problems on the SR-71 engine inlets.
    Rich earned promotion to more senior engineering and managing positions, and upon Johnson’s retirement in 1975 Rich became head of the Skunk Works. His most notable achievement was supervising the development of Stealth technology, for low radar signatures, incorporated on the F-117A aircraft. He was known for his genial management style and his enthusiastic salesmanship, leavening briefings with mischievous jokes and anecdotes. He retired on December 31, 1990. Much of his career at the Skunk Works involved highly classified projects, but as these projects were declassified Rich gained public notice and acclaim. He published his memoirs, Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed, co-authored with Leo Janos, in 1994.
    Rich died January 5, 1995, of cancer. His first wife Faye died in 1980; in 1982 he married Hilda Herman. His son Michael received a law degree and became a senior executive at the RAND Corporation; his daughter Karen is a botanist at the San Diego Natural History Museum.

    Scope and Content

    This collection contains the papers of aerospace engineer Ben Rich (1925-1995), who served as the second director of Lockheed's Skunk Works in Southern California and was involved in the development of the F-117 stealth aircraft. The collection contains approximately 1,000 items and has been organized by subject, although some subjects can be found throughout the collection. Chronological coverage is from the 1950s to 1990s; much material is from the 1980s and early 1990s, save for selected documents and the Technical Notes and Data series from the 1950s. The files contain many clippings and speeches; there is relatively little daily correspondence, except for scattered letters in the Personal and Projects series. The Technical Notes and Data series contains binders of detailed lecture notes, handwritten calculations, technical articles, data tables, and graphs. This material is from the mid to late 1950s, when Rich was working on the U-2, SR-71, and other reconnaissance aircraft. Much of the collection otherwise involves few technical details, except for a few technical articles under Publications and a few blueprints under Projects.
    There is a separate series for Rich’s memoir, Skunk Works. This includes research material, draft chapters, published reviews and private feedback, discussion of potential co-authors, and classification issues. Talks are filed by subject and date in the Speeches series. Photos have been organized in a separate series; these include images of various aircraft, Lockheed events, and portraits of Rich at various phases of his career. Many photos are unlabeled. An Oversize series includes large photos and binders of notes from his retirement events.
    Articles on particular aircraft are filed under the Projects series instead of Publications. For Projects, note that aircraft often had different designations at different times. The D- 21 drone was also known as Q-12 and Tagboard. The A-12 was also called Oxcart, A-11, F-12, R-12, and SR-71. The CL-400 started under Project Suntan. Project names mentioned for Stealth aircraft, what became the F-117A, include XST (Experimental Stealth Testbed), Harvey, Have Blue, Tacit Gold, Girlfriend, and Boyfriend. A Stealth cruise missile program was known as Senior High and Senior Prom (the Kelly Johnson folder includes a small card with the note, “I bet Ben on Prom launch, my $5.00 vs this quarter May 17 ‘80—I won”). The Sea Shadow project, for Stealth ships, is referred to elsewhere in the files by the name of Ugo Coty, who was Lockheed manager for Navy programs.
    Similarly, initial plans for a Trans Atmospheric Vehicle in the early 1980s referred to a single-stage-to-orbit reconnaissance aircraft designed to make a couple orbits and then land on an airstrip. This concept then shifted to the National Aerospace Plane, or NASP, which was sometimes conflated with, sometimes differentiated from the Orient Express. The SR-71 folder includes material linking SR-71 design concepts to NASP (and its predecessor, the SST); since some NASP designs contemplated liquid-hydrogen fuel they also drew on CL-400 experience. Also, in addition to the “Projects—Cost” file, there is cost information in the files for particular projects.
    There are a few items of particular interest. The F-117 file includes an “XST log” by Rich, with brief entries describing the development of Stealth on an almost daily basis from March 1975 through December 1977. Similar logs or handwritten histories are in the folders for the D-21 drone and Senior Prom cruise missile. The Kelly Johnson file includes the document “Sighting of a flying saucer by certain Lockheed Aircraft Corporation personnel on 16 December 1953.” “Lockheed in 1951,” in Speeches, describes the increase of women in the workforce owing to the Korean War buildup; there is also some discussion of women in the military in the Sheila Widnall speeches in the file for ProjectsDefense Planning.
    The collection included cassette tapes of several interviews and two DVDs: “Blackbird: the Movie,” and “Ben Rich: Father of the Stealth Fighter.” The interviews will be transcribed and listed in the Huntington catalog. The collection also includes ephemera, such as trophies and plaques, which have been omitted. The technical notes also included a well-worn copy of Ralph G. Hudson, The engineers’ manual, 2nd edition (New York, 1945), likewise omitted.


    The collection is arranged in the following series:
    • Personal (Box 1)
    • Projects (Boxes 2-3)
    • Speeches (Box 4)
    • Lockheed (Box 5)
    • Publications (Box 5)
    • Memoirs (Box 6)
    • Technical notes and data (Boxes 7-10)
    • Photographs (Box 11)
    • and Oversize/Ephemera (Boxes 12-13)

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  


    Rich, Ben R. -- Archives.
    Lockheed Aircraft Corporation.
    A-12 Blackbird (Jet reconnaissance plane)
    Aeronautical engineers -- United States -- Archives.
    Aeronautics -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources.
    Aerospace engineering -- United States.
    Aerospace engineers -- United States.
    Aerospace industries -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources.
    Aircraft industry -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources.
    Airplanes -- Design and construction.
    Airplanes, Military.
    Engineering -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources.
    Engineers -- United States.
    F-117 (Jet attack plane)
    Fighter planes.
    High-speed aeronautics.
    Jet planes, Military.
    Lockheed aircraft.
    Reconnaissance aircraft.
    SR-71 Blackbird (Jet reconnaissance plane)
    Stealth aircraft.
    Supersonic planes.
    Transonic planes.
    U-2 (Reconnaissance aircraft)
    California -- History -- 20th century -- Sources.


    Articles -- United States -- 20th century.
    Clippings -- United States -- 20th century.
    Documents -- United States -- 20th century.
    Ephemera -- United States -- 20th century.
    Photocopies -- United States -- 20th century.
    Photographs -- United States -- 20th century.
    Slides (photographs) -- United States -- 20th century.
    Videodiscs (video recording disks) -- United States -- 20th century.