Longtime Washington broadcaster and commentator, Fred Fiske, marks the 64th anniversary of his radio career with a look back at his life and some final words.
Tomorrow, Sept. 27 is a meaningful date for me for three reasons.
Sept. 27 of 1944 is the date of the famous Castle Mission in World War II. I was in the 8th Air Force, a radio operator-aerial gunner on a B-24 Liberator. We were bombing the locomotive works in Castle, Germany, when we were attacked by 150 Focke-Wulf 190s. In six minutes, 31 of our 34 planes were shot down in the greatest loss of any group in the whole history of the war. I crash-landed in Metz, France and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
On Sept. 27, 1947, I came to Washington to work as an announcer for WOL and the Mutual Broadcasting System. WOL became WWDC, and I stayed there for 30 years as an announcer, a disc jockey and a talk show host. They were fascinating years for me. I became the announcer on Meet the Press and on Mutual, presidential announcer during the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, and commentator on the only nationwide veteran’s program ever, The Veteran Wants To Know. I also was privileged to broadcast many special events: three inaugurations, two political conventions, and several parades and congressional hearings.
In the 17 years I worked as a DJ, I enjoyed meeting and knowing many of the most famous recording artists in the country. I interviewed many of them, including Elvis Presley on the day he was inducted into the U.S. Army.
Perhaps the role I enjoyed most and was best suited for, was talk show host. For 8 years, I did the only talk show in Washington on WWDC. We first called it Empathy, then The Fred Fiske Show. I didn’t tell you how many interesting people you meet as a talk show host. The Washington audience is especially good for talk shows. The audience is the best educated in the country. That’s why I was very happy to be invited to come to WAMU in 1977 where I did a 3-hour Fred Fiske Show nightly, Monday through Friday, and then Saturday mornings. It was hard work, but I loved every minute of it.
I’m very proud to say that of all of these years, I read every book of every author I interviewed. I felt I owed it to the authors, and to the audience too. When my late wife, Ruth, became ill, I had to cut back. That was in 1991 when I became senior commentator on WAMU. I’ve done hundreds of commentaries since then, some controversial, occasionally I tried a little humor.
I said at the outset that there were three reasons why Sept. 27 is important to me: The Castle Mission in 1944, coming to Washington on that date in 1947, and tomorrow, my 64th anniversary, marking the longest radio career in Washington history – and the date in which I pack it in. This is my final program. Thanks to WAMU, thanks to my wife, Sandy, thanks to you – it’s been a wonderful ride.
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