Robert Emil Fiss – Colonel, United States Army

Courtesy of his classmates, United States Military Academy

Robert Emil Fiss
No. 13117  •  30 June 1920 – 10 October 1998
Died in Chicago, Illinois, aged 78 years
Interment: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

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Unexpectedly entering the Academy a month late, I caught up slowly. My military career consisted of mainly Field Artillery assignments (Battery Commander in Europe in World War II, Artillery Detachment Commander at West Point, Battalion Commander in Korea, II FF Artillery Commander in Vietnam) and, after a master’s degree from Princeton, international staff assignments (AFFE/8A Japan, International Plans DA, OJCS, and SHAPE).

In my second career, I established the USAA Washington area regional office, served as Vice President and Executive Assistant to President Bob McDermott, and married Barbara Harrington, USAA’s Compensation Director. Barbara joined US OPM (now SES-4 and Assistant Director for Compensation Policy) and I started 10 years in OSD working on NATO Affairs. Barbara’s language fluency was invaluable to me as U.S. Delegate at numerous NATO meetings.

We enjoy our lakeside home in Northern Virginia where we entertain, garden, boat, fish, and swim; play golf with classmates and friends; and enjoy the cultural benefits of Washington. While I am fully retired, Barbara continues her highly successful career, which includes five years serving as a national officer of the American Compensation Association (now Chairman of the Board). We enjoy frequent visits with the families of my children (Susan and Dick), with their children (Brett, Kelley, and Stirling), and Barbara’s daughter (Kathryn), whom I consider my own. My West Point training has served me well. Also, we treasure the lasting friendships we have made.

Colonel Fiss is buried in Section 7-A of Arlington National Cemetery.

From a contemporary press report

Robert Emil Fiss, 78, a retired Army colonel who later served as a civilian specialist on NATO in the office of the assistant secretary of defense for international security policy, died of cardiopulmonary arrest October 10, 1998at a hospital in Chicago. A resident of Fairfax, Virginia, he was in Chicago for treatment of myelodysplastic syndrome, a bone marrow disorder.

Colonel Fiss was born in Minneapolis and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy with the class of January 1943. During World War II, he participated in the Allied landings at Normandy in France on June 6, 1944, and was wounded in action. He received a Purple Heart.

He was a battalion commander during the Korean War and a commander of artillery units during the war in Vietnam. While serving in the Army, he received a master's degree in international affairs at Princeton. He served three years in Paris at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, and he retired from the Army in 1971 after service in the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. His military decorations included a Legion of Merit with two Oak Leaf Clusters, a Bronze Star, a Joint Services Commendation Medal and an Army Commendation Medal.

After his military retirement, Colonel Fiss was an executive with United Services Automobile Association insurance for two years in Washington and then in San Antonio.

He returned to this area in 1973 and joined the Defense Department as a civilian NATO specialist. He was a U.S. delegate to several NATO meetings. He retired from civilian employment in 1984.

His marriage to Virginia Fiss ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of 25 years, Barbara Harrington Fiss of Fairfax; two children from his first marriage, Richard B. Fiss of Greenwich, Conn., and Susan Fiss Underhill of Dallas; one stepdaughter, Kathryn Besemer of Boulder, Colo.; and three grandchildren.


On October 10, 1998, at Rush Presbyterian Hospital while traveling in Chicago. A resident of Fairfax County, VA for the past 25 years, he is survived by his wife, Barbara Harrington Fiss; his son, Richard B. Fiss; his daughter, Susan Fiss Underhill; his step-daughter, Kathryn Besemer; and three grandchildren. Services will be held at the Old Post Chapel at Ft. Myer, VA with interment at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday, October 20 at 9 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations, in his memory, be made to the Mayo Foundation-Scottsdale, c/o Development Office, 13400 E. Shea Blvd., Scottsdale, AZ 85259.


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