Tuesday, May 9, 2017

USNA Band Hosts 98-Old-Year Former Member, World War II Veteran

The U.S. Naval Academy Band and the USNA Chiefs' Mess hosted a 98-year old former band member and director today.

MUC (ret.) Peter Lisko visited the academy to witness the band play at morning colors. Members of the band also presented him with a USNA Chiefs' Association coin.

The Navy stationed Lisko on board USS Honolulu (CL 48) out of Pearl Harbor, HI, and on December 7, 1941, Lisko survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Though Honolulu did not sink that day, the Navy elected to disband the musicians attached to the ship. Lisko’s new orders stationed him on board USS Helena (CL 50), the ship on which his brother, Aleck, performed and served.

Playing together on board Helena, the musician brothers observed the ship’s integral participation in the Guadalcanal campaign. Lisko saw Helena thwart the advancing enemy fleet and prevent Japanese troops from landing on Guadalcanal. He watched his ship sink the Japanese heavy cruiser Furutaka and destroyer Fubuki and witnessed Helena rescue 400 members from USS Wasp (CV 7).

Sadly, Peter and Aleck Lisko witnessed together the sinking of USS Juneau (CL 52), the famous ship that took with it the lives of the five Sullivan brothers.

On July 6, 1943, after repairs in Australia following the Guadalcanal campaign, Helena finally sank during the Japanese attack in Kula Gulf. Lisko recounts being knocked unconscious early in the Japanese engagement. By the time he regained his faculties, only one of his shipmates remained on board out of the original nine-hundred officers and enlisted men stationed on the Helena. Lisko quickly realized his companion could not swim. Forced to compartmentalize the stress of the unknown whereabouts of his brother, Lisko waited until the absolute last second, placed the remaining crewmember on his back, and swam to the nearest life raft.

Lisko remembers floating on the life raft for three days while the survivors attempted to propel themselves towards the Island of Vella Lavella. Once they reached shore, Lisko discovered that his brother had died the day before while attempting to hold onto the side of another liferaft. The survivors on the beach evaded into the jungle line, and remained hidden for eight days until friendly forces rescued them on July 16, 1943.

Lisko returned to the U.S. with orders to the U.S. Naval Academy. He performed with the  Naval Academy Band, eventually earning the title of Band Director. On April 16, 1959, Lisko made Chief before retiring from 20 years of distinguished naval service.

He became a park ranger for the state of Maryland and dedicated the next 20 years of his life to the park ranger service. He continues to live here in Annapolis.

See more photos of today's event on the USNA Flickr site.

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