Richard Fiske was born in Boston, Massachusetts on March 26, 1922. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in February 1940. Following Field Music School, he was assigned to the USS West Virginia (BB-48) as a Marine Private bugler on July 6, 1940.
On December 7, 1941, Dick was on the quarter deck when the attack began at 07:55. He witnessed the Japanese planes coming in and launching their torpedoes towards his ship. There were nine torpedoes and two bombs that would eventually destroy the West Virginia. After the first torpedo hits, Dick rushed to his battle station which was on the navigation bridge. A few minutes later, he witnessed the captain’s death. At about 0930, the men were order to abandon ship and he swam to Ford Island.
Dick remained assigned to his ship until January 1944 when he was promoted to Field Musician Sergeant and was transferred to the 5th Marine Division. He participated in the landing and the bloody battle for the Japanese stronghold on Iwo Jima in 1945. Pacific island. The fighting went on for 36 days and exacted a huge human toll: 6,800 Americans dead and more than 19,000 wounded. Of 20,000 Japanese defenders, only 1,083 survived. Fiske once described Iwo Jima as “36 straight days of Pearl Harbor.”
After the war, Dick enlisted in the newly established U.S. Air Force in 1948. He served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars as a Crew Chief. He retired from the Air Force in 1969 with the rank of Master Sergeant.
Richard Fiske had been a volunteer at the USS Arizona Memorial since 1982.. Dick was given the honor to dedicate two roses once a month at the USS Arizona Memorial on behalf of Mr. Zenji Abe, (a Japanese pilot who participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor). After placing the flowers in front of the names of the USS Arizona casualties, he played “Taps” on his bugle. The flowers are paid by Mr. Abe and Dick will continue to do this special tribute for as long as he can.
Richard Fiske passed away in 2004.