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Interview on experiences in World War II

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INTERVIEWEE: J.R. ``Ray'' Fisher


DATE: April 2, 2007

LOCATION: Sterling, Kansas (Sterling Presbyterian Manor)

(His daughter, Mona Ball, is also present for the interview)

POE: This is interviewer, Marian Poe, here today in the residence of Ray Fisher of Sterling, Kansas. With us also today is his daughter… [turning camera] of which I have half of your head [laughing].

MRS BALL: That's okay [laughing].

POE: Mona Ball. We are here today on the 2nd of April 2007. May I call you `Ray'?


POE: Okay. What is your birth date? December…

MRS BALL: No, October.

FISHER: October the 25th 1918.

POE: 1918. And where were you born?

FISHER: In Polk County, Missouri.

POE: Really!? Okay. And did you grow up there in Polk County or…?

FISHER: Until I was possibly… what? [Inaudible].

POE: Were you still in school?


MRS BALL: I don't remember when you moved to Mullinville.

POE: But you moved from Polk County to Mullinville, Kansas?

MRS BALL: Uh huh.


POE: Okay.

FISHER: Oh, I don't…

MRS BALL: You were probably still grade school age, right?

FISHER: Yeah. Oh yeah.

POE: Okay.

FISHER: Had an uncle that lived out there and he came back one time and was telling dad what a wonderful place it was and how much money he would make working for the farmers. So we loaded up and moved out there. Dad didn't like it and mom did, so he divorced mom and moved back to Missouri and we lived out there. So I was taking care of my mother and my sister and working for a gas company. And course, [to daughter] I don't know if I ever told you this or not, but I was going with a girl in Cimarron, Kansas.

MRS BALL: [Chuckling] Yeah.

FISHER: So every week I'd borrow some money from the bank and drive out there. Get money for gasoline and running around. And the board was… what you call it, the Services thought I'd just as well be in the service then running around and spending money for gasoline. So they drafted me.

POE: They drafted you?


POE: And what branch of service did you go into?

FISHER: To the Corp. of Engineers.

POE: That's in the Army, right?

MRS BALL: Uh huh.


POE: The Army Corp. of Engineers.

FISHER: And the gas company that I was working for had a clerk that had information about the Army, what was going on and where. And he wrote to the Corp. of Engineers, told `em my experience working with natural gas. So, I was drafted in at Ft. Leavenworth. They drafted me and I had seven days to straighten out my business. Course, I didn't have any [all laughing]. But anyway, in seven days I went back up there and by then they had already scheduled me to go to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. And I went down there and it just wasn't long until they had me on my way over to North Africa.

POE: North Africa.

FISHER: Uh huh. And landed in North Africa and we learned how to live in the open. Was there about thirty days till they moved us on down, er, on up the coast. Went to Bizerte. [Inaudible] And they loaded us on a liberty ship assigned to the English Navy. So we were on this ship that they were in charge of so we ate their rations, which was tea and stuff like that. And then the night before Thanksgiving there was a boat that pulled up beside ours and they brought Thanksgiving dinner for us GI's. Course that upset the English because they had to eat their C-rations while we ate turkey dinner [all chuckling]. And anyhow, then we… that was the night before Thanksgiving and I always forget what year that was. But I think I already mentioned it. And anyway, we moved up the coast and all that. Then we crossed over into Naples, Italy. And then the Standard Oil Company of America owned a refinery there and the Germans, before they left, they sabotaged all the tanks and things where the gasoline was stored. So our people went in there and repaired the tanks. The ships were lying in the ports there and unloading gasoline onto those tanks that had been repaired. So we stayed there until the front moved on up. But we furnished, transported the gasoline up to the front to the tanks and what have you there. Then later we moved on into Rome. From there then we eventually went on up the coast a ways and that's where, oh… [inaudible]

MRS BALL: Bob Dole?

FISHER: Bob Dole.

MRS BALL: Uh huh.

FISHER: Yes. Bob Dole was there. Then went on up into northern Italy. Venice, somewhere up in there. Then the war ended.

POE: Hum. Okay.

FISHER: We stayed there a while, then they sent me back to the United States. And I got my discharge from the service in Texas. Caught a bus, took it back to Sterling.

MRS BALL: You mean to Mullinville.

FISHER: Mullinville.

MRS BALL: Uh huh.

FISHER: And my wife, Ramona, she was my girlfriend when I left there, and she was still there when I got back.

POE: Now is this the girl from Cimarron or is this a different girl?

MRS BALL: No, this is a different girl [chuckling].

POE: Oh, okay.

FISHER: [Chuckling] My wife never did know about this other one.

POE: [Laughing] Oh… okay.

FISHER: Anyway…

POE: I'm sorry, what was her name again?

MRS BALL: Ramona.

FISHER: Ramona.

POE: Ramona.

MRS BALL: Uh huh. Do you remember how long it took you to get by boat to North Africa?

FISHER: Oh, it was thirteen days.

POE: Thirteen days. Did you run across any storms going over?

FISHER: All the time and other boats that was enemies. And I remember one morning in particular well, I had to live on the deck from midnight to daylight and at daylight I'd go down below and sleep in a bunk down there. And this one morning a fighter, a boat with the U.S., pulled up beside us and told us to get it in gear and get up with the rest of the convoy. Because, he said, ``We just don't sail alone out here in these waters.''

POE: I've heard that.

FISHER: So those `ol boys didn't always do what they do best, but we caught up to the rest of the convoy then. Went on into North Africa.

POE: Were you seasick at all?

FISHER: Pardon?

POE: Were you seasick at all?

FISHER: The whole time [all laughing].

POE: Well, I'm thinking, you know, Kansas and Missouri. We're not talking about ocean folk here [laughing].

FISHER: Well, where I sat…

MRS BALL: These are the stories I remember him telling about.

FISHER: When I got to go to bed, was down below, was on the elevator deck where the planes…

POE: Oh…

FISHER: They were the it was a…

MRS BALL: Aircraft carrier?

FISHER: Aircraft carrier.

POE: Okay.

FISHER: And these planes, they'd bring `em up from below onto this elevator deck and then they'd bring out there onto the flight deck and they'd take off. And it was my turn to sleep from the daylight till midnight and I was still in bed one morning and the Captain of the ship had assigned KP duty, Kitchen Patrol duty, for that section. So I was supposed to be working on KP that week. [Chuckling] And this `ol boy came up and I was still in bed and told me that I was supposed to be on duty. I said, ``Well, when I get to where I can eat, I'll work.'' He said, ``You'll work anyway.'' And I looked at him and found out who he was, well, I got up and went to work [all laughing].

POE: He was the Captain or somebody?

FISHER: He was the Captain of the ship [laughing].

POE: Oh, okay [laughing].

FISHER: [Chuckling] So that's the way that went.

POE: [Chuckling] Yeah.

FISHER: So we landed in North Africa. Were there for, I don't know, thirty days maybe and moved on up the coast to, I think Bizerte was where we were when we left there. And then we crossed to Naples. And then what? Oh, had a chance to see a little bit of Naples that we hadn't before. Anyway, I had to… I forget. Oh…

MRS BALL: Is that where you guys rode the motorcycles?

FISHER: Well, yeah [laughing].

MRS BALL: We have pictures of them on motorcycles…

POE: Oh…

MRS BALL: …outside their barracks.

FISHER: The Sergeant that was in communications had a motorcycle to ride. Course, he wasn't working all the time and when he wasn't working I was on his motorcycle, riding it [chuckling]. That's where I learned how to ride or not to ride a motorcycle [chuckling]. And anyway, they were gonna send us home because - they thought we might go from there over on to where was…?

POE: Pacific.

FISHER: [Inaudible].


POE: Yeah.

FISHER: And anyhow, left there and landed in Texas somewhere and got a ticket home to well, by then the war had ended and they just went ahead and was gonna discharge us. Those that were on their way to, scheduled to go to the Pacific.

POE: So then you moved, I mean, you went back to Mullinville and you reunited with your sweetheart.


POE: And you got married. Did you get married right away or did you wait awhile?

FISHER: As quick as I could. [all laughing]. I got a bus ticket from Dallas, Texas, I think it was, where I got my discharge and bought a bus ticket to Mullinville. Then when the bus stopped in Pratt, my wife's sister, married sister, Beverly, got on the bus…

MRS BALL: You mean Aunt Jean?

FISHER: Yeah. Jean and Beverly.

MRS BALL: And Beverly, cousin Beverly.


MRS BALL: Uh huh.

FISHER: And they got on and sat down up in the front and I stayed in the back and kind of hid. Didn't know whether I wanted to be seen yet or not [laughing].

MRS BALL: How cute.

FISHER: So when I got to Mullinville then, why, her folks were there to greet them. And course, [inaudible]. He was there, granddad [inaudible].

MRS BALL: Uh huh.

FISHER: And when he saw me, everybody in town knew I was there.


FISHER: So, kind of the rest of it's history.

POE: How many children did you have?

FISHER: Three.

POE: Three?

FISHER: This girl [referring to his daughter, Mona Ball] and two boys.

POE: Now, how long did you stay in Mullinville then after that? A long time? Did you grow up in…?



POE: Okay.


MRS BALL: I was born in Humansville, Missouri.

POE: Humansville, Missouri?

MRS BALL: Uh huh.


POE: Okay, so you did you moved back to Missouri then?

MRS BALL: In '46.

FISHER: We were moving west [laughing].

MRS BALL: But that didn't last very long what? You were driving a bread truck for your brother?

FISHER: Well, I…

MRS BALL: Or is that when you were hauling hay?

FISHER: No, I was…

MRS BALL: For your other brother-in-law?

FISHER: My brother, he had me a job with a bakery.

POE: Oh…

FISHER: I was selling donuts in Springfield.

POE: Oh…

FISHER: And then my brother, he… oh, a cousin from California came down [chuckling] and told us how good the money was out in California.

POE: Ahh…

FISHER: So he moved out there and there I was, no place to live. So his mother-in-law offered me a room in her house, upstairs. Well, the first thing I had to do was buy an alarm clock so I'd know when to get up, because always before somebody would wake me. Well, this could go on forever, you know [chuckling].

MRS BALL: Yeah, it could [laughing].

FISHER: That's about the way it ended.

MRS BALL: But they left Missouri and then came back to Kansas, right?

FISHER: Gus did?

MRS BALL: No, you.


MRS BALL: You got started working for a Michigan/Wisconsin…

FISHER: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

MRS BALL: …pipeline gas station. Northern Natural.

FISHER: Yeah. I worked for Northern before I went in, but then I… well, I was still working for `em out at Sublet, Kansas, wasn't it?

MRS BALL: Uh huh.

FISHER: When one of the operators there went to Texas, er, down in Oklahoma…

MRS BALL: Uh huh.

FISHER: …and when he went down there he told `em that he might be able to get me to come down. And I knew that guy because I'd worked with him at Northern.

MRS BALL: Uh huh.

FISHER: So we drove down there, er, I did one day and he said sure, he'd give me a job. I said, ``Well, if you can give me two weeks to notify my superintendent up at Sublet.'' ``Oh, sure,'' he said. And the very next day, he called up and wanted me down there that day. [Chuckling] Well, wasn't anything else to do but go out and tell him I'm through. [Inaudible].

MRS BALL: And that's where my youngest brother, Paul, was born.


MRS BALL: And I was four, Carl was two, and Paul was a baby. Then we moved to Sterling in 1950. Right?

FISHER: Yeah, it was no, it was '51.

MRS BALL: '51, okay.


MRS BALL: Then he eventually retired as a superintendent at Alden, at the pipeline station over there.

POE: Okay.

FISHER: Yeah. I spent 34 years there, driving from Sterling over to Alden.

POE: Uh huh.

FISHER: And one day, one of the operators that had missed our safety meeting one time, was mowing down around the pipelines, gates and valves, and he stuttered a lot, you know. It'd take him forever to say something. And I was home in town for lunch one day and he called and he'd broken a half-inch pipeline, a pipe, off of a valve and he was trying to tell me what was happening, cause if you lowered the pressure down too fast it would shut the plant down. So I hung up on him while he was still stuttering [laughing] and drove to Alden and got there and shut that line off. Kept it from shutting the station down. [Laughing] And since then I've gotten a speeding ticket for making that same run.

POE: [Laughing] You didn't get one that day though?

FISHER: [Chuckling] No.

POE: [Chuckling] Okay. Good.

FISHER: They might have been after me, but they couldn't catch me cause I had business to take care of [chuckling].

POE: [Chuckling] Right.

FISHER: That brings us up to today?

MRS BALL: Uh hum. Well, sort of.

POE: Well, you mentioned something something about Bob Dole being injured. Did you serve with Bob Dole? Or did you just know about that because you read about it later?

FISHER: No, I knew him and at the time - and he, of course, got home and called for money one time, a project, and because it was Bob Dole, I made a donation. I got on his list and every time he needed some money… [all laughing]. So I soon broke that up.

POE: Did you make any friends while you were in service that, outside of Bob Dole [laughing], that you've kept in touch with after you got out of service?

FISHER: Yes, I have. I can't… I can't recall right now who any of them were, but seems like I have corresponded with one or two of `em. But all these things that I've had in my head for so long, it's kind of hard to put `em all back together.

MRS BALL: Uh huh.

POE: What was your highest rank when you got out of service?

FISHER: I was a T-5. Which was a…

POE: Sergeant?

MRS BALL: Same as a Sergeant?

FISHER: It was the same as a Staff Sergeant, yeah.

POE: Do you remember your service number? And it's okay if you don't.

FISHER: 37503855 [laughing].

POE: [Laughing] I didn't…

MRS BALL: 3750…

FISHER: 3855.

POE: See? You've got a good memory [chuckling].

MRS BALL: He does [chuckling].

POE: [Laughing] That's amazing! You remember what date when you went into service and when you got out?

FISHER: I went in…

POE: Was it '42?

FISHER: I think…

MRS BALL: Or was it '40?

FISHER: No, I think it was…

POE: As fast as he went overseas, it would have been after Pearl Harbor.


POE: So it'd be '42 or '43.

FISHER: I think it was '42.

POE: Okay. And then you got out after the war, so that would've been 1946?

FISHER: Yeah. No, wait a minute…

POE: Or '45.

FISHER: '45.

MRS BALL: '45.

POE: Okay, yeah. What am I saying?


POE: Yeah, that's three years.

MRS BALL: Uh huh.

POE: Were you hurt or injured at all while you were in service?

FISHER: [Laughing] Funny that you ask. I was a heavy equipment operator…

POE: Okay…

FISHER: …and had a big 6-ton truck with what they called a `low-boy' trailer that you hauled equipment on pumps, cause we had pumps and we pumped the gasoline and one day I pulled in with a big pump on the low-boy and I put one of the ramps down and fastened it on the back of the trailer and down on to the ground. And then I just kinda scooted it sideways to get it lined up and it was just like a knife was cutting me in the back. I couldn't sit down. I sent my helper to call the medics and they came and picked me up in a Jeep and I had to stand up cause I couldn't sit down in this Jeep. They took me to the medic. And all they did was give me some big white pills. I don't know what they did, but they didn't do me any good. And then I listed that when I was discharged from the service and went to doctor, Doctor Gill.

MRS BALL: Uh huh.

FISHER: And he had me stand about that far from the wall [indicating length with hands off camera] and put my hands up on the wall and just lean like that. But he taped me, with big wide tape, taped my back and when I turned loose, why, I didn't have any pain there at all.

POE: Hum…

FISHER: So from then on, every time my back would hurt any, my wife would tape my back from this side around to the other side with 3-inch tape about that far up my back. And my last meeting I went to, I had to stand up on the plane, from Liberal to West Virginia, where the meeting was. I rode that whole distance standing up on the plane [chuckling].

POE: Oh my!

MRS BALL: His back had gone out on him.

POE: Did you get any special medals or service awards?

FISHER: No. I was just thankful to get out [laughing]. No. They asked me to, you know, list anything. Well, course I listed that, but I didn't anything out of it.

POE: Right. I think I asked this earlier, before the tape was on, but did you join the American Legion or the VFW when you got out of service?

FISHER: I joined the American Legion there at Greensburg when I got out. Because it was the only thing that they offered, you know, to join. And then after that, wherever I was, I joined the… what was it?

POE: The VFW? The Rotary?

MRS BALL: He belonged to Sterling Rotary, but…

FISHER: But this was…

MRS BALL: The American Legion?

FISHER: The American Legion, I guess.

POE: Yeah. There's the two things. The VFW, the Veteran's of Foreign Wars, and the American Legion.

MRS BALL: Uh huh.

POE: Those are the two things.

FISHER: Veteran's of Foreign Wars I think it was.

MRS BALL: Yeah, I bet that's what it was.


POE: Okay.

MRS BALL: I bet that's what it was.

POE: Did you ever use the GI Bill benefits? Did you go to school, or get a new job or supplementation, or anything when you got out of service?

FISHER: I got some compensation from the VFW, wasn't it?

POE: From the VA?


POE: Okay.

FISHER: That was when I was - that might have been back when I worked for the gas company. I got some compensation from them.

POE: Yeah. They paid you so much and they gave the people you worked for so much. That was one of the programs they had…


POE: …to get people hired.

MRS BALL: Oh really?

POE: Uh hum. At the time.

FISHER: Well, I did get something from them.

POE: Okay.

FISHER: But can't remember now. That's about my story [chuckling].

POE: That's your story, huh? [Laughing] And you're sticking to it?

FISHER: [Laughing] Well, no. If I had a chance, I'd run.

POE: [Laughing] Yeah. Okay. Well, I want to thank you very much. [Speaking to Mona Ball] Is there any other stories that you know of that you want to remind him, I mean, that he needs to tell about?

MRS BALL: No. I just remember the pictures of the fellows on the motorcycles outside the barracks in Italy. Was that Italy or North Africa? Those pictures. Do you know the ones I'm talking about?

FISHER: That was in Italy.

MRS BALL: Okay. And then he always wrote interesting letters to his mother and to his sisters. And one of my cousins saved all of those letters.

POE: Oh, how nice!

MRS BALL: The ones that you sent to Aunt Ruby.

FISHER: Oh, yeah.

MRS BALL: And when Aunt Ruby died, remember…?

FISHER: Did Darlene get them then?

MRS BALL: Darlene gave them to me.

FISHER: Oh, did she?


FISHER: Well, good for her. I was afraid she would've held on to `em.

MRS BALL: No, she gave them to me. She gave me letters and pictures that daddy had sent while he was in the service. But he was a very good writer. Very faithful at writing, almost every week, wasn't it?

FISHER: Yeah. I… oh, I never did have a whole lot to say. Course, it was just those little V-mails, you know.

MRS BALL: Uh huh.

FISHER: Wasn't it V-mail?

MRS BALL: Uh huh. They were called that.

FISHER: [Chuckling] And I tried to give `em some idea of where I was without…

MRS BALL: Uh huh.

FISHER: …letting the enemy know that I was over there. [Laughing] Course, they couldn't their imagination didn't work like mine so they didn't have any idea where I was.

POE: Anything else you'd like to add?

FISHER: Yeah, I just hope nobody sees this [all laughing].

POE: [Laughing] Well, I already told you I'm gonna give you a DVD copy of it.


POE: So you know people will [chuckling].

MRS BALL: You can show it to Andy.

FISHER: [Chuckling] Give it to him. I don't want it back.

POE: [Chuckling] Well, I thank you very much Ray Fisher for allowing me to come today. And Mona Ball, thank you.

MRS BALL: You're welcome.

POE: This is Marian Poe, interviewer, concluding the interview today, April the 2nd 2007. Now see, that didn't hurt, now did it?

FISHER: That part didn't.

[Marian turns the digital camcorder off and the interview is concluded at this time]

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