Robert Ralph Fishel
Colonel, United States Air Force
of His Classmates
United States Military Academy Class of 1943
Robert Ralph Fishel
A determination molded by the soaring Colorado mountains, a sense of adventure derived from his years in the Air Force, and a pride in the future generations of his sons and grandsons are the true essence of Bob Fishel. Born in Denver, on 25 June 1918, the oldest of three children of Ralph Miller and Ruth Bradley Fishel, Bob always was seeking a new challenge.
At the age of 12 he won a trophy for ski jumping, a feat of great endurance as well as skill because then there were no lifts to carry the skiers back to the top of the run! Chair lifts were a dream of the future when Bob and his friends devised a way to experience the exhilaration of a long ski run down Berthoud Pass. A “designated driver” took three others to the top of the mountain and dropped them off to schuss their way down the slope in the fresh powder snow. The driver returned to the bottom of the pass to pick up his buddies after their run, but could now look forward to his own run as the mantle of “lift operator” fell to another skiing companion.
In his teens, Bob learned to surf on the shores of La Jolla, California, manhandling the huge wooden boards then in use. This early conditioning led him to excel in many sports and to become a Western States wrestling champion during his pre-Academy days at the University of Colorado. At West Point, he was a member of the varsity soccer and wrestling teams.
Bob’s early admiration of the “barnstormers” led him to seek an appointment to the Academy. Upon graduation he chose the Air Corps and was assigned to fighters. He joined the 358th Fighter Group with Buckner, DeGruchy, Hackler, and Wilson, and arrived in Europe in the fall. His 101 combat missions from December 1943 to May 1945 earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with 17 oak leaf clusters, three unit citations, six Battle Stars, the Purple Heart, and the French Croix de Guerre.
After serving with the Occupation Forces in Europe, he was assigned to the Air Force Headquarters for two tours and attended Georgetown University, studying international relations. In 1954, he was selected to command the first All Weather Interceptor Squadron sent to Europe. In 1955, the 496th was named the outstanding Fighter Interceptor Squadron in the Air Force and was awarded the Hughes Trophy.
Assignments as advisor to the Colorado Air National Guard, transitioning to F100s, and to IG and Air Operations for AF Logistics Command and Air Defense Command culminated with his final assignment as DO of the 314th Air Division in Korea.
Upon retirement, he returned to Southern California, where his parents and sisters were then living, and worked for Orange County in their Environmental Management Agency until his second retirement in 1984.
On a 1951 ski trip to Colorado, Bob met Shirley Jeanne Johnson, a stewardess with United Airlines. After a multi-city courtship they were married that August, and became the proud parents of four sons: Rick, Rob, Randy, and Gary. “The Troops” inherited their father’s abilities in many sports and his gift for the sciences. Each holds a responsible position in cancer research, computer engineering, and wireless communication.
After a valiant 10-year battle with cancer,
Bob succumbed on 21 March 1994, surrounded by his sons, their wives, and
two grandsons. A fighter to the end, he attended the 50th Class Reunion,
his World War II Unit Reunion, and even the class mini cruise during the
last year. Bob was a devoted husband and father, an outstanding airman,
and a loyal friend. We shall remember his love of music, his joy in gardening,
and his dedication to family, Duty, Honor, and Country.