S2c Robert Ray Fisher,

Unknown Sailor

S2c Robert Ray Fisher

Robert Ray Fisher was born in the small farming community of Tigard, Oregon on May 14, 1923. He was the oldest of five children of Ray Sterling Fisher and Lila Jean Rogers Fisher.

Robert’s father was a roofer and the family moved several times from Oregon to California. He attended grade school in Oregon and high school in Oakland, California.

He quit McClymonds High to join the Navy. He was sworn in Jan. 28, 1941 in San Francisco. He attended basic training at the Naval Training Station in San Diego from Jan. 30 until April 10, when he was assigned to the U.S.S. Arizona. His first letter from San Diego said he’d received his uniforms — three pairs of shoes, four pair of pants, four jumpers, and socks and underwear. He was also given a hammock, two blankets, two sheets, and a mattress.

From Jan. 28 until Nov. 28 Robert wrote home nearly every week. The family saved all his postcards and letters and on Dec. 7, 2006, donated over 50 original letters and postcards to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial Museum at Pearl Harbor.

From these simple letters home his family learned about Robert and his experiences at the Training Station and on board the Arizona. His two youngest brothers wanted to preserve the letters as well as allow other generations to learn about the hopes and dreams of a young sailor who was assigned to the Arizona and gave his life for his country on Dec. 7, 1941, in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

With the collection of letters the family found a postcard dated April 10 from the U.S. Naval Training Station stating he completed “the course of training at this station and is this date being transferred to sea.” His one and only assignment was to the Arizona.

He told his family he was being sent to Hawaii on the U.S.S. Enterprise, an aircraft carrier. It left California on Monday April 21 at 1 in the afternoon and sighted Oahu on Saturday April 26 at 4 a.m. He was on board the Arizona for the first time by about 10 a.m.

His letter dated April 29 was in an envelope stamped “U.S.S. ARIZONA APR 29 12 PM 1941”. He wrote that “It’s been so hot over here we can’t sleep down below. The boys sleep on the deck last night. We run around over here in shorts and skivvies.” His letter included $1 for his mother to buy herself a present for Mother’s Day.

In several of his next letters he mentions being lonesome or homesick and asks his mother to send letters by “clipper” if she can afford it. The cost was 20 cents vs. three cents for regular mail, but clipper mail on the amphibious airplanes arrived in about four days versus two weeks for regular mail.

On May 20, he said, “One of the planes that was shot off the catapult crashed before it got into the air. Both of the men got out alright. I got a piece of the emblem for a souvenir.” 

“Well I miss you all too but you can’t have the fleet home the way the world is today so just have patience,” he wrote on June 1. “It all be over in a little while and then we can come home.” Later that month, he sent a box of cigars to his dad for Father’s Day.

From June 17 through July 1 the Arizona visited its home port at San Pedro, California, and Robert was able to briefly visit his family in Oakland. Back in Hawaii on July 12 he said he wished he was back home. He also shared the good news that his pay was about to increase to $40 a month. Money was an ongoing topic in his letters, and he aimed to send money home. That often wasn’t possible on his meager pay.

That month he also told his parents that he’d volunteered to go to China for 20 months but wasn’t sure he’d get the assignment.

On Aug. 11 he asked, “Say Mom, if you can will you try and get me a stamp album they don’t cost much, about 50 cents. One of the fellows gave me about 400 foreign stamps last week. They were some he didn’t want.”

His P.S. added: “I sure wish I was home now. It sure gets lonely out here, you don’t know any one and there’s no place to when when you go ashore.”

Then on Aug. 20, he wrote while at sea and was all business: “Monday we fired the broadside guns and the turrets. I fired with the broadside guns am a sight setter…. I think my gun made a E — that’s when you get all your shells off in a certain time and all in the targets. If we did we’ll get about $15.00 prize money a piece.”

That same month he admonished his brother Jack, who was nearly eight, “to be a good boy from now on. Mother has said that you are getting to be a pretty bad boy. If you’ll try and be a good boy you won’t be sorry.” He also sent $5 home in August.

On Sept. 1 he told his family, “We are going out to sea for patrol duty out to Wake Island & Midway. We’ll probably be out at least 30 days.” In October Robert wrote, “We fixed the broadside battery yesterday. I fixed on two guns as a sight setter. Boy you feel funny before you start to fire but after the first round you get over that feeling. We changed our working station yesterday, I’m a mess cook this quarter. It’s pretty good, made about $4.50 in tips.”

The following incident that Robert talks about on Oct. 27 is documented in many of the books written about Pearl Harbor and in Naval records. He wrote, “I received your letter last week but as things have been happening thick and fast, went to sea last week. Was in condition watches the whole time out. Last Wednesday, October 24 about 6:45 in the evening, it had been raining and a thick fog for about four days. We were making about 12 knots when the USS Oklahoma ran into us about our port beam. She shook all over. We couldn’t see anything because it was so dark. Was on watch when it happened. We came in 3 days later and went into dry dock this afternoon. She sure left a big hole in our side.”

On Nov. 9 Robert told his family “I thought I would write as I’m just sitting around doing nothing. Sunday sure is a dull day around here, especially when you rate liberty and can’t go ashore until this evening.” His last letter home was written Nov. 22 and postmarked “U.S.S. ARIZONA Nov 28 10AM 1941”. He wished his family a Happy Thanksgiving and told them, “Mom the way things are going I think we’ll leave for Long Beach about the 28th of the month. Would like to be home for Christmas.”

Robert’s letters were saved by his mother, put into a box, then found by his youngest brothers 63 years later.

All three of Robert’s brothers served in the military. Donald was in the Army and then the Air Force and was in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. Jack was in the Army from 1953 to 1956. Phillip was in the Navy from 1958 to 1961. Robert also was survived by his beloved sister, Lois.

Editor’s note: Most of this profile was written by Kathy Fisher, the wife of Robert’s brother Phillip. Many thanks to her and brother, Jack, who shared the letters and a photograph. Several letters ended with a “P.S.” to give hugs and kisses” to Jack and baby Philip.

NOTE: If you are a family member related to this crew member of the U.S.S. Arizona, or have additional information, pictures or documents to share about his life or service to our county please contact us through our FAMILY MEMBER SUBMISSION FORM