The Gold Star Boys mural was painted right after 9/11/2001. It pictures the faces of six young men from the Cuba Area who fought in WWII and did not return to their families. The families received the Gold Star Medal that was given to families who lost a relative to war. The mural was well received and makes quite a presence on Filmore Street on Route 66 in Cuba.
What we thought…
But then we found out that there was more to the story. In the red part of the mural the names of the six young men are inscribed along with the location where they died during the war. Ralph Fishwick lost his life in the line of duty on a return convoy off the coast of Africa on December 2, 1942. We thought. Read on for the rest of the story.
What was revealed…
Ralph Fishwick was born in Cuba in 1912 and on his father’s side of the family was a member of one of the early families of Cuba that was involved in mercantile and banking. On his mother’s side of the family, he was related to the Bishs. In 1930, after he graduated from Cuba High School, he wanted to join the Navy. He was told that his eyes were bad and turned down. He was told to do eye exercises if he wanted to try again. After faithfully doing the exercises, he was accepted and began his first tour of duty. Shortly after that, his eyes worsened, and he started wearing glasses.
In the Navy he received training to become an electrician. After his tour of duty, he returned to Cuba. When World War II broke out, Fishwick reenlisted. When his convoy went down off the coast of Africa, his family was notified that he lost his life on December 2,1942. When Viva Cuba researched the mural and found an early VFW publication, this story along with a photo was used in the designing of the mural. But that was not the end of the story.
About 20 years ago, Mr. Fishwick’s niece Carol contacted the Defense Department after discovering that certain papers about his death had been declassified. What his niece found out, was quite different from what the family had been led to believe.
Mr. Fishwick had died when his small boat was hit by a mine or perhaps even hit by a German submarine off the East coast of the United States. As a matter of national security, the United States government didn’t want anyone to know that an enemy submarine could be that close to an American coast. So the story was changed when the families were notified.
Ralph Fishwick’s body along with 14 others was discovered on May 8, 1943. At that time, the real location was given. The cold waters of the Atlantic had kept their bodies perfectly preserved. He was brought back and buried in Kinder Cemetery alongside many members of the Fishwick and Bish families.
The article below was in the 1943 Cuba Review:
The Cuba Review also reported the full military funeral given to Mr. Fishwick.
Because Mr. Fishwick died while he was in the service, he is known as a Gold Star Boy. A Gold Star pin was given to his mother, showing that she had lost a son. It was worn with pride but also with a sense of loss and sadness. When the mural featuring Fishwick was painted, his brother Bob felt pride that his brother was included in the remembrance.
So the next time, that you are in the area of the mural on Filmore St., stop and pay tribute to all Cuba’s brave young men who are pictured in the mural. You will also find their names with a star by them etched on the Veterans Memorial on N. Smith Street in the Recklein Commons area.
And that’s the rest of the story.
For more info on the Gold Star Boys mural:
A version of this story was printed in a Cuba Free Press article.