Olympic athletes are known for their sport. Their histories are often limited to what they have done in the sport so far, compared to how they performed in the past. Broader conversations usually focus on their sporting futures.
However, one Winter Olympian had a very interesting life.
William Meade Lindsley Fiske III was a Chicago native, born there in 1911. His father was a very wealthy banker in New England.
While Fiske went to school in Chicago, he left the area in 1924 to move to France. There he fell in love with bobsledding. The 1928 Winter Olympics were held in St. Moritz, Switzerland. At the time, Fiske was 16-years-old.
He and the U.S. bobsled team won the Olympic gold. The victory constituted a couple of firsts. The first win for the five member U.S. team, and the youngest gold medalist in all of the winter sports.
Fiske’s record of the youngest Olympian was not beat until 1992. Fiske has a knack for sports. In 1931, he did the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race.
In the 1932 Olympics, he brought home the gold medal as the driver of the four-person U.S. team. However, he declined the 1936 Winter Olympics, which were being held in Germany, due to his deep disapproval of Germany.
World War II
Fiske was working at the London office of Dillon, Reed Co. when WWII began. Immediately, the bank brought him back to their headquarters in New York.
In 1939 he went back to London, accompanying a colleague who was an Auxiliary Air Force Squadron Member. This piqued Fiske’s interest in the RAF.
He gained entry by claiming he was Canadian. In 1940, he became a Pilot Officer, and after his training, he joined No. 601 Squadron RAF. He patrolled in the Hawker Hurricane with his squadron. Fighting the Germans, he flew many combat missions.
Intercepting the Germans
He and his squadron were to cut off a group of Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive-bombers. They were able to shoot down eight of the planes. However, Fiske was hit.
The Hurricane’s fuel tank was hit and caught on fire. His hands and ankles caught fire along with it. Somehow he landed the plane before it exploded. He was pulled from the wreckage and treated a the hospital. Sadly, he died from shock.
He was buried with both flags. A plaque is in the St. Paul’s Cathedral honoring his service to Britain as an American.