Retired Rear Admiral (SEAL) Richard “Dick” Lyon, called an “icon and legend” within the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) community by the current commander of Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC), Rear Admiral (SEAL) Tim Szymanski, passed away on February 3, 2017. Lyon was 93 and passed after a short illness. He is survived by his widow Cindy, whom he married in 1976, as well as by his nine children, 14 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Admiral Lyon was a pioneering member of the NSW community, having served in the Scouts and Raiders, the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT), and then going on to become the first flag officer (admiral) chosen from within the NSW community.
Lyon was also the first “Bull Frog,” or longest-serving active duty SEAL, and went on after retirement to become the mayor of his hometown of Oceanside, CA, from 1992 until 2000.
Admiral Lyon was an early graduate of Scout and Raider training at Fort Pierce, Florida, and served in the Pacific Theater during World War II. The Scouts and Raiders were the earliest forerunners of the Navy SEAL teams. Lyon was released from World War II duty in 1946, and went on to affiliate with the Naval Reserves.
Lyon was called back to active duty in early 1951, and reported briefly to Beach Jumper Unit One. He was subsequently reassigned and graduated with UDT training class 2 in October of 1951 in Coronado, California. He then became a plank owner of UDT Five (UDT-5) and served in Korea until late 1952. The UDTs were the immediate pre-cursors of the SEAL teams, and a “plank owner” refers to a founding member of a particular U.S. Navy unit.
According to his obituary in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Admiral Lyon was a record-breaking swimmer as a young man, such that he was reportedly selected for the U.S. Olympic team for the 1940 games in Tokyo. Those games were canceled, however, due to the outbreak of World War II. Lyon then entered Yale University and graduated in 1944. He later saw a poster seeking strong swimmers who were interested in volunteering for a special warfare unit and who wanted to work with explosives.
Thus Lyon joined up with the Scouts and Raiders. Following his service in World War II, he went on to join the 7th Fleet in Shanghai as an intelligence officer assigned to northern China to collect intelligence information on Mao Zedong’s army.
During the Korean War, after he had joined the UDTs, Lyon operated above the 38th parallel destroying anti-submarine mines. He and his team later moved behind enemy lines, sabotaging railroads and tunnels.
Following the Korean War, Lyon left active duty service and joined the Naval Reserves. He was promoted to Rear Admiral in 1975, making him the first SEAL to achieve the rank of flag officer. Lyon was recalled to active duty again in 1978, when he became the deputy chief of the Naval Reserve. It was at this time that Lyon received the title “Bull Frog 1,” as the sailor with the longest duration of service in Naval Special Warfare.
Admiral Lyon retired from the Navy in 1983, after 40-plus years of service. He would go on to become involved in local California politics. Read more about Admiral Dick Lyon here, in the San Diego Union-Tribune.
The entire NSW community will miss the first Bull Frog, and we bid you “fair winds and following seas.” May you rest in peace, sir.
(photo: Dick Lyon, Korea 1952; courtesy of the San Diego Union-Tribune).