Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Wheelon (Albert D.) papers
View entire collection guide What's This?
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Processing Information
  • Biographical / Historical
  • Scope and Contents
  • Arrangement

  • Contributing Institution: The Huntington Library
    Title: Albert D. Wheelon papers
    Creator: Wheelon, Albert D. (Albert Dewell), 1929-2013
    Identifier/Call Number: mssWheelon
    Physical Description: 46.07 Linear Feet (111 boxes, 2 oversize folders, and 1 volume)
    Date (inclusive): 1917-2013
    Abstract: The Albert D. Wheelon papers primarily focus on his career at the United States Central Intelligence Agency, Hughes Aircraft Company, and his research on electromagnetism.
    Language of Material: The material is in English.

    Conditions Governing Access

    Open for use by qualified researchers and by appointment. Please contact Reader Services at the Huntington Library for more information.
    Restrictions apply to: Approximately 1.5 linear feet of classified documents require further review by the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO). These documents will be added to the collection, and the finding aid updated, if and when they are declassified.
    Restrictions apply to: Audiovisual materials in boxes 107, 108, 111. Not available for paging until reformatted. Please contact Reader Services for more information.

    Conditions Governing Use

    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], Albert D. Wheelon papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of Cicely Wheelon, 2014.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Gina Giang under the supervision of Lorraine Perrotta, 2019. The collection contained numerous classified documents. In coordination with the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), it was determined that many of the documents have already been declassified. In the content list, these documents are noted by the word "DECLASSIFIED." As of February 2019, we are coordinating with ISOO further review of documents for which the classification status was unclear. These are not included in the content list and we do not have a timeline for the review process. These documents will be added to the collection, and the finding aid updated, if and when they are declassified. In February 2020, approximately 0.8 linear feet of classified documents were reviewed and returned by the ISOO and they were returned to the collection.
    The contents in Series 2: Subseries 2 may not relate to the title on each folder. Most of the material arrived unorganized and the cataloger does not have a background in the field of electromagnetism.

    Biographical / Historical

    Albert D. (Albert Dewell) Wheelon, (January 18, 1929 - September 27, 2013) joined the CIA in 1962 and served as the Deputy Director for Science and Technology until 1966. During this time, he established the Agency's broad program in research and development for the collection and analysis of technical intelligence. Wheelon joined the Hughes Aircraft Company in 1966 as Vice President for Engineering. Four years later, he took on the responsibility for building the Hughes Space and Communications Group. Over the next fifteen years, this group built a wide variety and large number of military and scientific satellites. In 1986 he was named Executive Vice President for the Company at large and in 1987 was named Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Hughes. He retired in May 1988. He was appointed a visiting professor and lectured at MIT in 1989. Dr. Wheelon received a B.S. in Engineering from Stanford University in 1949 and a Ph.D. in Physics from MIT in 1952. National Academy of Engineering. Source: "Dr. Albert D. Wheelon." National Academy of Engineering. Accessed 4 February 2019. https://www.nae.edu/88479.aspx.  

    Scope and Contents

    Series 1: Subseries 1 primarily consists of personal material related to Albert D. Wheelon, however, there are some professional items related to his career. For instance, the appointment books contain professional and personal entries. The correspondence comprises much of Series 1 and spans from 1928 through 2012. The letters and e-mails are mostly personal, but due to Wheelon's scientific background and career path, there are many conversations with professionals in the public and private sector. After his career at Hughes Aircraft Company, he continued to conduct research and distributed his writings to colleagues, which is evident in the correspondence and Series 5 material. There are also numerous diaries and printed ephemera related to his travels all over the world with his first wife, Nancy Helen Hermanson and later, his second wife, Cicely Jean Evans. These entries are mostly typewritten, so they may or may have not been recorded during his trips. Also, included is material related his early education at Pacific Palisades School, Ralph Waldo Emerson Junior High School, and University High School. Loose invitations, photographs, and printed ephemera from Wheelon's time in the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are in this series; the pages that remain intact from the scrapbook are found in Series 7: Audiovisual and oversize.
    Series 1: Subseries 2 consists of material related to Wheelon's education at Stanford University, where he earned his B.S. in Engineering in 1949. This subseries primarily includes correspondence from Wheelon updating friends and family about school and social life. In one letter, he expresses his priorities to his parents: "Helen is from Salem, Oregon...She seems to like me quite a lot...She is worth hanging onto, I guess, but right now I have too much studying to do to worry about women" Box 20 (4). There is later material related to Stanford University, which includes reunions and classes taken in the late 1980s.
    Series 1: Subseries 3 consists of material related to Wheelon's education at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned his Ph.D. in Physics in 1952. This subseries also primarily consists of correspondence from Wheelon updating friends and family about school and social life. In one letter, he offers advice to his younger brother, Peter. Wheelon recommends: "You must plan to study (And I mean work hard reading books) at least two hours every night. If you can get straight A's for the first two semesters, you will find that you can get along with very little work for the rest of your stay – sliding along mostly on your good reputation" Box 25 (6). Also included are assignments, photographs, and school records.
    Series 2 includes material related to Wheelon's career at TRW Space Technology Laboratories (STL), a division of TRW Inc. from 1953 through 1962. There is only one box related to his career at STL, where he was a Senior Member working on the United States Air Force (USAF) Ballistic Missile and Space Program. A few items of interest may be the printed material, which includes five Sentinel newsletters, a directory of technical personnel at TRW, and material related to the Geneva Conference on Preventing Surprise Attack in 1958.
    The second subseries includes lectures, outlines, notes, and reprints related to Wheelon's time as visiting professor of engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). At UCLA, he taught radio wave propagation and propagation of electromagnetic waves. There may be overlapping material in Series 5, where additional notes, reprints, and writings related to scattering integrals and scintillation are found.
    Series 3 consists of material related to Wheelon's career at the CIA. Due to the sensitive nature of his work at the CIA, little was accumulated. However, one memorandum from Marshall Sylvester Carter reveals a positive impression of Wheelon at the agency: "I have been singularly impressed over the past months at the calm, unruffled, quietly analytical, and remarkably astute manner in which Bud Wheelon approaches all problem...He is one of our finest assets, and I am fearful he may be a dwindling one because of certain factors of utilization and community presence beyond his control" Box 47 (3). Included are photographs of a trip with the agency to Taiwan in 1965.
    Series 4: Subseries 1 consists of material related to Wheelon's career at Hughes Aircraft Company from 1966 through 1988. There is correspondence related to several contracts with several countries under his leadership in the Space and Communications Group, which includes Indonesia, Mexico, and Egypt. There are also numerous Hughes News newsletters spanning from 1966 through 1992. One notebook of interest is a log related to the startup of the Hughes Space and Communications Group, where he asks questions and weighs the financial impact of the new division. This subseries also includes booklets, clippings, photographs, and printed ephemera related to various satellites supplied.
    Series 4: Subseries 2 consists of material related to the corporate internal investigations and governmental investigations launched against Hughes Aircraft Company. As Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Wheelon opened an internal investigation into possible bribes on an air defense contract in Egypt in 1988. In addition to the internal probe, the United States Department of Justice started to investigate the possibility of bribes involving Wheelon in South America. In response to these inquiries, Wheelon filed a complaint against Hughes Aircraft company for breach of contract and fiduciary duty related to Hughes Long-Term Incentive Plan (LTIP) and deferred compensation. (The Department of Justice dropped the investigation into Wheelon after a five-year long investigation.) Thus, this subseries contains numerous legal correspondence, documents, exhibits, hearings, legal documents, and memorandums related to these matters. The appointment books and logs in this subseries were used to compile a profile on the extent of Wheelon's involvement at HAC. Wheelon also kept detailed notes and chronologies, which are found in this subseries.
    Series 5: Subseries 1 contains material related to awards given Wheelon and other individuals. Wheelon was the recipient of the United States Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the Baker Medal for Excellence in National Security Affairs, and the R.V. Jones Intelligence Award. The contents found in this subseries includes letters of congratulations, speeches, photographs, and printed ephemera. There is also material related to Richard L. Garwin, William J. Perry, and Sidney Drell, who were all recipients of the R.V. Jones Intelligence Award.
    Series 5: Subseries 2 consists of Wheelon's extracurricular activities. He participated in various discussion groups regarding topics such as foreign relations, civil space activities, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Wheelon was also a trustee at the California Institute of Technology, Rand Corporation, and Aerospace Corporation. This subseries also includes his contribution to several committees including the U.S. Advisory Committee on the Redesign of the Space Station, U.S. President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and U.S. Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident.
    Series 5: Subseries 3 consists of Wheelon's speeches and lectures. The lectures are from his time as visiting professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University. Also included in this subseries are talks related to the history of spy satellites, a topic frequently discussed by Wheelon after his retirement. He kept a binder with various speeches from 1969 through 1987. Those items have been removed from the binder and the speeches are listed under "Miscellaneous." Some of the speeches removed may be found elsewhere in the collection. Also included are remarks at birthdays, events, and memorials. Note: The date supplied is for the year of the lecture or speech, not the supplementary material included. In some cases, the speech or lecture may not be present in the folders, only the supplementary material.
    Series 5: Subseries 4 consists of research and reference material from Wheelon's files. Most of the declassified documents are found in this subseries. Electronic versions may be found online in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Electronic Reading Room and NRO Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Declassified Records website. This subseries primarily consists of material related to covert programs conducted by the CIA, National Reconnaissance Office, and Air Force. A letter of interest may be one written by Wheelon to former CIA director, Richard Helms, where he recollects early programs in strategic reconnaissance. In this letter, he summarizes the following programs: U2 [AQUATONE]; A11, A12, SR-71 [OXCART]; Corona; Emergence of the NRO; and HEXAGON, RYOLITE, GAMBIT, QUILL, and CRYSTAL, Box 98 (1). This subseries is organized by subject with overlapping subject matter. For example, material related to artificial satellites, may be found in the clippings folder, artificial satellites folders, and more specifically, the Corona reconnaissance satellite program.
    The fifth subseries consists of publications and writings by Wheelon. He commonly sent copies of his writings to friends and colleagues, and those replies are included. In addition to his technical publications, such as electromagnetic scintillation, Wheelon flexes his creative side with two fictional short stories.
    Series 6 is a small series with material related to Wheelon's father, Orville Albert Wheelon (June 12, 1906 – February 9, 1966), an aeronautical engineer. An item of interest is Wheelon's trip log from Maryland to California in 1933. The brief entries include location, mileage, and the cost of goods. At one point during a lonesome drive, he describes leaving "...immediately to cross the desert during the night for it was very hot. It was surely was lonely on that straight stretch of pavement. Even a telephone pole would have been great company" Box 105 (4).
    Series 7 is the last series and primarily consists of VHS tapes and oversize material.
    Note: As required by law, 1.5 linear feet of security-classified materials have been removed from the collection until they can be declassified by government officials. Please see Processing Information and Access for more information.


    The Albert D. Wheelon papers are organized into seven series with subseries:
    1. Series 1: Personal files, 1928-2012
    2. Subseries 1: General, 1928-2012
    3. Subseries 2: Stanford University, 1945-1988
    4. Subseries 3: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1948-2002
    5. Series 2: TRW Space Technology Laboratories and University of California, Los Angeles, 1926-1972
    6. • Subseries 1: TRW Space Technology Laboratories, 1951-2002
    7. • Subseries 2: University of California, Los Angeles, 1926-1972
    8. Series 3: United States. Central Intelligence Agency, 1961-1966
    9. Series 4: Hughes Aircraft Company, 1944-1997
    10. • Subseries 1: General, 1966-1995
    11. • Subseries 2: Corporate Internal Investigations and Governmental Investigations, 1973-1997
    12. Series 5: Extracurricular and post career files, 1952-2013
    13. • Subseries 1: Awards, 1961-2001
    14. • Subseries 2: Activities, 1950-2012
    15. • Subseries 3: Lectures and speeches, 1963-2008
    16. • Subseries 4: Reference and research files, 1957-2008
    17. • Subseries 5: Publications and writings, 1955-2008
    18. Series 6: Orville A. Wheelon, 1933-1953
    19. Series 7: Audiovisual and oversize, 1917-2000

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Aerial reconnaissance
    Artificial satellites, American
    Astronautics and state
    Cold War
    Corporate internal investigations
    Electronic intelligence
    Governmental investigations
    National security
    Photographic reconnaissance systems
    Radio wave propagation
    Reconnaissance aircraft
    Space surveillance
    Los Angeles (Calif.)
    Appointment books
    Clippings (information artifacts)
    Hearings (event)
    Wheelon, Albert D. (Albert Dewell), 1929-2013
    California Institute of Technology
    Domestic Strategy Group
    Hughes Aircraft Company
    Hughes Aircraft Company. Space and Communications Group
    International Telecommunication Union
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Project Corona (U.S.)
    Stanford University
    TRW Space Technology Laboratories
    United States. Advisory Committee on the Redesign of the Space Station
    United States. Central Intelligence Agency
    United States. National Reconnaissance Office
    United States. President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board
    United States. Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident