First Navy SEAL to Make the Rank of Admiral Passes Away

Lyon during the Korean War (courtesy image)

By MarEx 2017-02-13 21:30:17

Rear Adm. Richard "Dick" Lyon, the first ever Navy SEAL to become a flag officer, passed away on Friday at the age of 93 at his home in Oceanside, California.

Lyon had a storied history. He was a talented swimmer, and before entering college he was selected for the U.S. team for the 1940 Olympic games in Tokyo (though ultimately the competition was canceled). Lyon attended Yale, graduating in 1944, and went on to the Naval Reserve Midshipmen School at Columbia University. He soon learned of a special unit that was recruiting for underwater demolition commandos – the Scouts and the Raiders, the early precursors of today's Navy SEALS. He passed the unit’s arduous training process, and with his team he became one of the first soldiers to touch shore in Japan after the atomic bombs were dropped.

After the war, he served the Seventh Fleet on intelligence duty in northern China, keeping tabs on Mao Zedong's People's Liberation Army. As the Chinese Civil War wound to a close in 1949, Lyon went back to the U.S. and enrolled in an an MBA program at Stanford. When the Korean War began, he was recalled to active duty for underwater demolitions, and he helped remove anti-submarine mines from the harbor at Wonsan. Later in the conflict, he and his team worked behind enemy lines to sabotage infrastructure and disrupt supply lines – an early instance of the kind of special warfare that has made the SEALs famous.

After the war, Lyon completed his MBA and went to work in finance. He remained a reservist and was well-known at the naval station at Coronado, the home base of the Navy's West Coast special warfare division. The Navy promoted him to rear admiral in 1975, and soon thereafter he was promoted to deputy chief of the Navy Reserve. He served in that position from 1978 to 1983, and retired from the post with four decades of active duty / reserve service in the Navy.

Lyon also had a local political career: he served on a number of county-level boards and commissions, and in 1992 he was elected the mayor of Oceanside, California. He was reelected in 1996 and retired from the post in 2000. 

Lyon is survived by his wife Cindy, his nine children and fourteen grandchildren. Donations in his memory may be made to the Navy SEAL Foundation at http://navysealfoundation.org.