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Obituary: George Pearson Fisher / Ball turret gunner in WWII, pressman for The Pittsburgh Press


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#1 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 02:36 AM

Obituary: George Pearson Fisher / Ball turret gunner in WWII, pressman for The Pittsburgh Press
June 21, 1923-Sept. 1, 2008
Saturday, September 06, 2008
By Torsten Ove, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
George P. Fisher, a decorated B-17 ball turret gunner who survived the harrowing 1943 Schweinfurt-Regensburg raid over Germany and a midair bomber collision a year later in Florida, died Monday and was laid to rest yesterday in Monroeville with a 21-gun salute.
He was 85 and had lived in Monroeville since 1952, raising three children with his wife, Magdalen, and working 48 years for The Pittsburgh Press and Post-Gazette as a pressman.
After joining the Army Air Forces in 1942, Mr. Fisher flew 25 combat missions suspended in the ball turret of three different B-17s. The Army said it needed ball turret gunners, so he volunteered to be one and headed overseas to Thurleigh, England.
Ball turret gunner was the most dangerous job aboard a Flying Fortress because the space was too cramped for a parachute. Encased in a Plexiglas sphere inserted in the belly of the plane, the gunner was also completely exposed to withering fire from Luftwaffe fighters and fields of flak from the ground.
"He said that when he was up he didn't think about it," said Mrs. Fisher, 82. "Before they went up, they tried not to think about it, but they were all scared."
Mr. Fisher, who earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and other honors, is mentioned in several books about the air war and his name is inscribed at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Savannah, Ga.
For decades he kept his Army memorabilia in a duffel bag in the attic, but in recent years donated it to Soldiers & Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial in Oakland.
Mr. Fisher and his two brothers grew up in Nanty Glo, near Johnstown, the sons of a pressman at the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat. The family later moved to the North Hills after Mr. Fisher's father got a job at The Press.
Mr. Fisher also took a job as a pressman there, starting at age 17. When the war came, he joined the Army Air Forces after being rejected by the Navy and Marines because of color-blindness.
On Aug. 17, 1943, his 16th mission, the Germans shot up his plane during the disastrous raid on the Schweinfurt ball-bearing plants that saw 60 bombers shot from the sky.
The tail gunner on Mr. Fisher's ship bailed out and was later held captive in the infamous Stalag 17 prison camp. The rest of the crew made it back to England, where the pilot put the plane down in a buttercup field.
Mr. Fisher flew eight more missions on a second plane, nicknamed "Buttercup" in honor of the first, and made his final combat flight on the "Eager Beaver" over Norway before heading home to become a gunnery instructor.
Training in those days was dangerous. Thousands of airmen were killed in accidents in the United States during the war.
During a training flight at Drew Field in Tampa on July 20, 1944, Mr. Fisher was flying on a B-17 when a second B-17 hit his from below. Everyone on the second plane died. As the pilot on the first prepared to crash-land, Mr. Fisher ordered the greenhorn crew to bail out.
All the trainees parachuted into swamp land, with Mr. Fisher the last to bail. On the ground, he administered morphine to the injured airmen and launched a flare to alert authorities to their position. All of his crew survived.
Mr. Fisher was hospitalized in St. Petersburg and discharged from the service in October 1945.
He came home and went back to work at The Press. He and Magdalen, who grew up in Johnstown, married that year and lived in Crafton until 1952, when they moved to Monroeville.
Mr. Fisher retired as a foreman in the pressroom in 1988.
He was a quiet, easygoing man, his wife said, and like many veterans kept his war experiences to himself.
But in later years he did open up; the couple especially liked traveling to Eighth Air Force reunions around the country.
A few years ago, while signing copies of a book, "Silent Heroes Among Us," at the Allegheny County Airport, he toured a restored B-17 on display there. To the delight of a group of children, he once again squeezed himself inside the ball turret of the relic.
"You should have seen all those kids crowding around," said Mrs. Fisher. "You'd be surprised at how interested they were."

Obituary: George Pearson Fisher / Ball turret gunner in WWII, pressman for The Pittsburgh Press
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For the first time I have seen "History" at close quarters,and I know that its actual process is very different from what is presented to Posterity. - WWI General Max Hoffman.

#2 Skipper

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 09:42 AM

They are going away so fast. RIP Sir. :poppy:

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