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The Suburbanite
  • WORLD WAR II Then and Now: Navy pilot sought and destroyed enemy submarines

  • Marvin Blair Fisher, a former Canton resident who now lives near Cincinnati, served as a torpedo bomber pilot over both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans during World War II.

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  • Marvin Blair Fisher had graduated from McKinley High School and University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance before World War II interrupted his life.
    “I enlisted a month and a half prior to Pear Harbor,” recalled Fisher, who already had earned his private pilot’s license through Harry Renkert, a local flight instructor, and went on to get his commercial flying license with Renkert’s recommendation.
    The Navy turned the 26-year-old into a wartime pilot, flying torpedo bombers from aircraft carriers in the Pacific Ocean after receiving his Navy wings on July 20, 1942.
    “I flew off several carriers, including the Saratoga before it was sunk,” said Fisher. “Our job was to protect the fleet. We dropped torpedoes and bombs and went after submarines. We dropped a lot of depth charges.”
    CLOSE CALLS
    Fisher admitted that “fear was in our hearts” as the torpedo bomber pilots flew.
    “We lost a lot of planes,” he explained. “I am the luckiest man living.”
    Their enemy was an eager foe, he explained.
    “I actually saw two kamikaze planes hit each other. They were so anxious to get into one ship that they hit each other before they could hit their target.”
    Part of problem was the slow speed at which torpedo bombers flew, explained Fisher, as well as the straight ahead course that the pilots had to fly in order to aim torpedoes at their targets.
    “They were huge planes ... we were sitting ducks when we went that slow. And you can’t maneuver well with the load we carried.”
    Later in the war Blair was one of a few men trained in a four-engine sea plane, the heavily armed PB4Y2 Privateer. It was during that training that he met a young Joe Kennedy, the older brother of President John F. Kennedy, who later was killed in action.
    “He was the best of the Kennedy’s,” said Fisher, who met the Kennedy family “a couple of times.”
    “He was polished. I can’t tell you enough what a wonderful guy he was. He was a fearless individual and dedicated. He volunteered to go to Europe (on a special mission) and didn’t come back.”
    Fisher served more than six years in the military. His final assignment was in San Diego, Calif., serving as a test pilot.
    “I tested the Ryan Fireball. It was a new jet. I tried it once and it didn’t work too good, so I cut the throttle. I tried it a second time and it didn’t feel too good, so I cut the throttle. They found the flaw, they thought, and they asked me if I’d like to try it again. At the time I was about to get married, so I turned them down. It was a volunteer thing, so I had the opportunity to say no.”
    Page 2 of 2 - The fighter jet continued to have acceleration problems, and never saw combat.
    SERVICE ENDS
    Through a fellow pilot, Fisher obtained a job with Dow Corning, and built a career of nearly three decades with the company.
    “My job originally was to be on the West Coast,” he said, “but I lived all over.”
    Fisher also worked as a consultant concerning jet engines, and, in retirement, spent time buying and selling antiques.
    “In my retirement years I also had race horses. I managed to claim a couple of horses, and I got a trainer. I liked it so well I became a trainer myself,” he said, adding, with a chuckle, “I had horses that were just fair.”
    While making a home in recent years in a community near Cincinnati, Fisher remains “proud of my service” during World War II, but rarely thinks of it anymore.
    “It was a nightmare. It makes you weary when you think of it. Right now I try to think of sweetness and light.”