Springboro man who played key role in Cold War has died

A three-star Air Force general who managed a key nuclear weapons program during the Cold War has died.

Lt. Gen Richard K. Saxer, died at age 88 in Springboro on Oct. 18. The retired high-ranking officer died from complications after breaking his hip in a fall, according to his son, Robert K. Saxer of Southlake, Texas.

“He was a great man, committed to service to the country, believed in public service,” Saxer, 59, said in a telephone interview Monday. “Great dad. Really from the Greatest Generation.”

Richard Saxer, a Toledo native, was the director of the Defense Nuclear Agency in Washington, D.C., for nearly two years in the early 1980s. As agency leader, he managed the Defense Department nuclear stockpile and, among other responsibilities, conducted underground nuclear tests, studied the effects of nuclear weapons and maintained nuclear testing facilities in the South Pacific.

Loren B. Thompson, a senior defense analyst who once taught nuclear strategy at Georgetown University, said the agency’s mission was “crucial to U.S. security during the Cold War.”

“The Defense Nuclear Agency assured that U.S. nuclear weapons were always available and working so no enemy could ever doubt the consequences of attacking America,” Thompson said in an email Monday. “It is no exaggeration to say that America survived the Cold War because of the work done at places like the Defense Nuclear Agency.”

The agency was in operation a half century between 1947-97. “At the time it was a consolidated command (and) he reported to the secretary of defense,” Robert Saxer said.

Richard Saxer, who retired in 1985 and was married for 65 years, had five assignments at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, his son said, including commander of the Air Force Material Laboratory and vice commander of the Aeronautical Systems Division. “It was always home for him,” said Robert Saxer, a retired Air Force colonel. “He had spent so much time (there) as an officer.”

At the Space and Missile Systems Division in Los Angeles, he worked on the M-X and Trident ballistic missile programs, according to his biography. Among other posts, he was a professor at the both the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Naval Academy graduate who first attended Bowling Green State University earned a master’s degree in aeromechanics at AFIT and a doctorate in metallurgical engineering from Ohio State University in Columbus.

After graduating from the Naval Academy in 1952, a lottery system selected him for commissioning as a second lieutenant in the Air Force, the younger Saxer said. The Air Force Academy had not yet formed and the service branch was in need of service academy graduates.

Saxer said his father was a “man of the water” who spent the summers of his youth on Lake Erie.

A memorial service and internment ceremony will occur at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. A date had not been set Monday, according to an academy spokeswoman.

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