Richard Magee Osgood was born in 1920 in Malden, MA, a northern suburb of Boston. He was born into a large, loving old New England family that had settled in this country in 1636. He was the second of three close-knit sons. Early in life, Dick showed evidence of the brilliant mind that was to enrich his life and career. He was one of the younger students in his high school class and a standout in music, both in singing and the cornet. His early life also was a product of long summers on the coast of Maine and of the hard work needed to live through the Depression.
Dick knew West Point offered a superb education and a challenge, so he applied for admission and entered as one of the younger members of the Class of ’41. His youthful outlook hit the reality of Beast Barracks, and he was changed forever. He excelled in academics with a superb record in German, Spanish, and French. He sustained his love of music by singing with the Glee Club, and he developed new social skills. His greatest triumph was in wooing and winning a particularly fair and engaging lass from Westminster College, Mary Neff Russell. By graduation they were engaged, and they married on 28 Dec 1941 in Mamaroneck, NY.
After graduation, Dick was the one of the first West Point graduates to gain entrance to the Harvard (later MIT) Radio Engineering Program, working on what became known as RADAR. Entering this program was a real coup, a new engineering field for service academy graduates. After completing the program, Dick led the installation of a series of wide-ranging radar stations for defense of the Northern Pacific Coast. He was then transferred to the D-Day Planning Staff of GEN Eisenhower. For the remainder of the war, he worked as a combat Signal Corps officer until assigned to Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces. Among his tasks was to arrest and take custody of Field Marshall Keitel, who signed the unconditional surrender of Germany on 8 May 1945.
After the war, Dick, sensing the growing importance of air power and electronics technology, became a member of the Air Force after its founding in 1946. His first assignment was to the Wright Development Laboratory, where he led the Communications and Navigation Laboratory and established himself as one of the leaders of science and engineering in this new service. He was promoted to colonel, making him one of the younger officers of that rank in the Air Force. These years were very pleasant for Dick and his family; they hunted in the lovely autumn fields and enjoyed friends in the gentle ambience of the small town of Yellow Springs, OH. In the summers, his family vacationed in Rockport at the magnificent Osgood family house, which would be central to him for the rest of his life.
In 1952, Dick was assigned to the Air Force Air Research and Development (R&D) Command in Baltimore to direct the entire Air Force electronics R&D program. Two years later, he became the chief, electronics defense systems, Air Materiel Command. He led the installation of early warning radars for the air defense of CONUS during the uncertain times of the Cold War and was cited for his outstanding leadership in establishing the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE system) and the Defense Early Warning (DEW) Line.
This was a pivotal point in Dick’s career, for he loved the challenges and excitement of the service. Realizing that frequent service moves were affecting his family, however, he made the decision to return to his roots and his extended family in New England. A new era had begun, and he joined Sylvania Electric, providing senior leadership in the defense radar development and installation programs, starting with the Ballistic Missile Early Warning (BMEWS) system. He was commended in the magazine Defense Electronics for “being one of the finest managers of technical systems for the Department of Defense.” Soon afterward, he was made a senior vice president for GTE. He then moved into management of new “high-tech” areas, including a major role in developing silicon-integrated circuits, managing the rapid development of new lighting methods, and developing and molding a new GTE corporation. In 1982, he retired to another career, consulting for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Bell Laboratories, and the Princeton Plasma Laboratory. For a few years he even served as the president of a small firm called North Country Electronics—a double delight since it combined electronics with New England!
Throughout this professional period, he remained a wonderful family leader and inspiration. He and his loving wife Mary had three children: two sons, Richard Jr. (Class of ’65) and Russell; and a daughter Rebecca. He played a central role in all of their lives and those of his 11 grandchildren, three who work in the fields of science and electronics and two who are graduates of service academies. Dick played a major role in civic organizations: he was head of the Boy Scouts of America’s Fellsland Council, chaired the Winchester, MA finance committee, and was on the board of directors for the local Junior Achievement organization and for New England Villages. Throughout his later years, his house at Rockport, with its lovely gardens and striking ocean views, united the family. Not surprisingly, its beauty triggered his latent interest and talent in painting.
At the time of his passing, Dick and Mary were vacationing in Florida. He passed away suddenly while enjoying a late afternoon swim with friends. At his death, he left Mary, his three children, his grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Dick’s life was centered on his family and on the skilled management of the nation’s science and technology. “Duty, Honor, Country” is a perfect summary of his life.
- Mr. Robert P. Bigelow
- Class of 1941
- Ms. Tina Revers
- West Point Society of New England