Colonel Richard W. Burkholder graduated summa cum laude from the University of New Hampshire in 1948 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. As an ROTC Distinguished Military Graduate, he entered the newly-formed USAF with a Regular commission. He earned a Master of Engineering Degree at Yale the following year, and then his pilot wings in 1950, just as Korean combat began.
For four years he flew the B-29 boom tanker on deployments to England and the Pacific, also serving as a bomb wing staff officer. Following Guided Missile Training with Industry in CA, he began a series of development engineering missile management jobs at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH. His special expertise focused on large liquid rocket engines and testing inertial guidance on project NAVAHO. Later, he managed a series of advanced development aerodynamic missile projects. As a major, he was one of two Americans in 1960 to attend the small RCAF Staff College in Toronto, and he flew Canadian jets for a year. He was then sent to London to serve in the Air Ministry and with the British Joint Intelligence Bureau. Returning to the US, he served in the National Ministry Command Center of the JCS (Pentagon) for three years, analyzing and reporting on all Soviet space activity. He also had a brief assignment at nearby HQ AF Systems Command.
In South Vietnam, he joined a special night jet attack squadron flying the B-57 Canberra on night armed reconnaissance, dive-bombing moving trucks on the trail "out of country." He held leadership roles as a lieutenant colonel, ending as Operations Officer, while his squadron earned a Presidential Unit Citation for the campaign. Losses were heavy, and he survived several cannon hits while night dive-bombing close to the targets in mountainous terrain. Halfway through his tour, he was forced to eject from a burning aircraft, but evaded capture to be rescued by helicopter under fire. Following 172 combat missions, he returned as a colonel to the Air Staff at the Pentagon. There, he led three successive organizations working on technical intelligence, general estimates of foreign national capabilities, and on application of intelligence to general-purpose air warfare. He was appointed as the AF member to a national group, the Scientific Intelligence Committee, reporting to the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. He served his final six years at the Foreign Technology Division, OH, improving the national appraisal process of the maturing Soviet strategic missile posture. His efforts resulted in contributions to the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks in Geneva and the treaties that ensued.
Colonel Burkholder retired in 1978 after 32 years of active service with the rating of Command Pilot. His service includes two years in the Army Air Forces during WWII. His decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross with one cluster, the Purple Heart, ten Air Medals, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Combat Readiness Medal, and the Vietnam Service Medal with four campaign stars.
In retirement he has supported UNH causes and activities, particularly where they involve direct interaction with students in engineering, athletics, or ROTC. He has served as a judge for annual athletic awards, as an advisor to the Native American cultural group, and to international affairs programs. He has raised scholarship funds, working with the Seacoast Alumni Club and the Order of Daedalians and helped select scholarhip Winners. Off campus he has testified on several veterans' issues before state legislative committees, helped with memorial observances, and performed community services over many years as an officer in the local Rotary Club and in the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
His wife of over 55 years is the former Joan Cooper, also a UNH graduate who supported the UNH Alumni Association over the years and received the Alumni Meritorious Service Award. They have been citizens of Durham or Madbury since 1947 and all three children attended the University of New Hampshire.