Richard Gerben Visser was born in Garfield, New Jersey, on 19 November 1906, son of Mrs. G. D. (Effie Kundersma) Visser and the late Mr. Gerben Dirk Visser. He attended Hopedale High School, in Hopedale, Massachusetts, where he was President of his class and President of the High School Athletic Association, and entered the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, on 11 July 1925, on appointment from Massachusetts. While a Midshipman he was a member of the Varsity Wrestling Team. Graduated and commissioned Ensign on 6 June 1929, he subsequently advanced in rank to that of Captain, to date from 30 March 1946.
Upon graduation from the Naval Academy in June 1929, he was assigned to USS Idaho, in which he served until September 1931 as a junior officer in the gunnery, engineering and communications departments. He had flight training at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, during the six months following, and from April 1932 until December 1933 had successive duty, in gunnery and communications, on board USS Bainbridge (DD-246) and USS Bernadou (DD-153). He next reported to USS Hannibal, engaged in a survey for the Hydrographic Office, of the West Coast, Panama and Costa Rico.
Detached from the Hannibal in December 1935, he had a tour of shore duty as Assistant Machine Superintendent at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and in June 1937 again went to sea, this time as Watch and Division Officer on board USS Antares. After three months he was transferred to USS Pennsylvania, for gunnery duty. In that battleship he served as Turret Officer, Main Battery Officer, aide to the Executive Officer, and Senior Watch Officer during the period September 1937 until June 1941. For six months thereafter he was a student at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island.
In December 1941 he reported to Headquarters of the Commander in Chief, US Fleet, Navy Department, Washington, DC, where he served during the first year of United States participation in World War II, in the Convoy and Routing Section. In February 1943 he assumed command of USS Daly (DD-519). Under his command, that destroyer participated in the Southwest Pacific Campaign, including eight assault landings, hit a Japanese battleship with three torpedoes, and with gunfire crippled the Japanese cruiser MOGAMI, which was sunk the following morning by American aircraft. He was awarded the Legion of Merit, with Combat “V”, and the Navy Cross for successive action in the Southwest Pacific Campaign and the Battle of Surigao Strait. The citations follow, in part:
Legion of Merit: “For exceptionally meritorious conduct…as Commanding Officer of the USS DALY, during the westward advance of Allied Forces in New Guinea, the Moluccas and Philippine Islands, from December 25, 1943, to October 24, 1944. With his vessel subjected to frequent enemy aerial attacks, Commander Visser efficiently directed the firing of his ship’s guns against hostile shore installations and concentrations during assault and landing operations at Cape Gloucester, Hollandia, Wakde, Biak, Noemfoor, Morotai and Leyte; and bombardments at Admiralty Islands, Wewak, Hansa Bay and Wakde-Sawar; thereby contributing materially to the destruction of enemy installations and to the reduction of resistance to our landing forces…”
Navy Cross: “For extraordinary heroism as Commanding Officer of the USS DALY in action against major units of the Japanese Fleet during the night Battle of Surigao Strait, October 24-25, 1944. When the large enemy Task Force…was discovered coming through Surigao Strait, (he) courageously took his ship which, implementing the fire of our battleships and cruisers, resulted in the enemy’s eventual destruction… (He) contributed materially to the great victory achieved by our forces in this historic night engagement…”
When detached from Daly in November 1944, he reported to the Commander Amphibious Forces, Pacific, for duty as Assistant Operations and Plans Officer on the Staff. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, with Combat “V”, for “meritorious service (in that capacity) during operations against enemy Japanese forces in the Western Pacific War Area from December 5, 1944, to May 17, 1945…” The citation states that he “rendered valuable assistance in the preparation of plans for the invasion and capture of Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, and of Okinawa in the Ryukyu Islands. While under repeated attacks by hostile aircraft during the assault phases of these campaigns, he assisted in directing the employment of the Joint Expeditionary Force and contributed materially to the successful completion of both operations…”
Detached from staff duty in October 1945, he served from December of that year until April 1947 as Commanding Officer of USS Manatee (AO-58), which supported Occupation Forces in Japan, China, Korea, and the Philippines. From April to June 1947 he was hospitalized (US Naval Hospitals, Aiea, Honolulu, and Chelsea, Massachusetts), and in July reported to Headquarters, Third Naval District, there he served until June 1950 as Director, Civilian Personnel, and District Director of Training. During the following year he commanded Destroyer Division 122, spending four months with the SIXTH Fleet in the Mediterranean. From July 1951 to August 1952 he was Assistant Chief of Staff (Operations and Plans) to Commander Destroyers, Atlantic.
A student at the National War College, Washington, DC, from August 1952 to June 1953, he reported in July to the Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, for duty as Assistant Chief of Staff (Administration). In July 1955 he was detached from duty on the staff of Commander in Chief, US Atlantic Fleet, and assumed command of Amphibious Transport Squadron SIX in the Atlantic Fleet. In August 1956 he was designated Chief, Navy Section Military Assistance Advisory Group, Spain, at Madrid.
In addition to the Navy Cross, Legion of Merit with Combat “V”, and the Bronze Star Medal, also with “V”, Captain Visser had the American Defense Service Medal; American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, with one silver and one bronze star (six engagements); the World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal; China Service Medal (extended); National Defense Service Medal; and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon, with two engagement stars. He also held the Navy Expert Rifleman Medal and the Navy Expert Pistol Shot Medal.
Captain Visser was a member of the US Naval Institute; the American Legion; and Veterans of Foreign Wars.