Richard Lyon, the first Navy seal to accede to the rank of Admiral, has passed away at the age of 93. At the time of his death he had the distinction of being the oldest-serving Navy seal, which had earned him the sobriquet “Bullfrog.” The term, “Bullfrog” is an honorarium give to the Underwater Demolition Team Seal with the largest amount of cumulative service, regardless of rank. The label is derived from the traditional depiction of seals as “frogmen” in recruiting posters, movies and books. The superior “frogman” became known as “Bull Frog.”
Lyon was born on July 14, 1923 in Pasadena, CA. Like most Seals, he was very athletic. In fact, he was such a proficient swimmer that he qualified for the 1940 US Olympic swim team. Unfortunately, as we know, due to the advent of WWII those Olympics were cancelled, and Lyon never got to compete.
Instead, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Lyon entered the Navy, serving in the Pacific Theatre. He served in various roles, much of which was and is classified, including that of “Intelligence Officer” (in China). Following Japan’s surrender Lyon was one of the first American military personnel to enter Japan.
Lyon served some 40 years in the Navy and fought in two wars (Korea as well as WWII). He retired from the Navy in 1983, but he did not retire from life. He had a successful business career in retail and finance. He served two terms as mayor of Oceanside, CA and as a member of various boards of directors. For recreation, he piloted private planes, body surfed and played golf. In 2013 he was the recipient of the prestigious Yale University George H. W. Bush Lifetime of Leadership Award.
Over the course of his long and distinguished life and career, Lyon earned, perhaps, the greatest award of all – the respect of his peers. Rear Admiral Tim Szymanski, commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, characterized him as a “legend.” Said lifelong friend, Kelly Sarber, who first met Lyon as a child through her own father, also a seal: “He reminded me of James Bond. I never saw him lose his cool. … He was a real class act.”
Lyon passed away on February 3, 2017. Rest in peace Admiral. You made your mark and served your country with great distinction. You will be sorely missed.