Joseph Otto Fisher
Joseph Otto Fisher was born to parents Joseph Henry Fisher (1845 – 1910) and Eliza Emma (Leslie) Fisher (1859 – 1925) in Lewiston, Maine on March 31, 1882.
He was one of seven children. Older sister, Olive Grace Fisher, was born to mother Olive D. (Tarr) Fisher who apparently died in or around child birth. Father, Joseph Henry Fisher then remarried to Eliza in 1881.
Very little is known about Joseph's early years. The first real information starts arriving with his entrance to the Naval Academy on May 21, 1898. He was known to class mates as 'Jo'. He seems to have been a fiercely proud 'Down Easter' and he also seems to have issues with anger management as noted in the Academy 'Lucky Bag' quoted here; 'A wretched soul, bruised with adversity'.
He does seem to be one willing to join in as he was a member of the 'Poker Club' and the Academy Rowing Crew where he seems to have excelled. When he graduate his leaving the Crew was lamented in the papers.
In 1901 his younger brother, Harold, age 10, dies.
After graduation in May of 1902 he was sent home to wait orders to his first assignment. The class of 1902 had a number of significant members to join the fledgling Submarine Service. Emory Land, Donald Bingham, Edward Marquart, Kirby Chrittenden and Harold Childs.
While still at the Academy it seems the cadets were asked to participate as ushers in the wedding of Ensign Walter B Tardy and Florence Nelson, the daughter of Captain and Mrs Thomas Nelson USN retired.
His first orders were to report to the Auxiliary Cruiser, USS Buffalo which made voyages to the Philippines with replacement crews for the Asiatic Fleet. He was one of 30 midshipmen to make that voyage that year. The Buffalo left June 5, 1902 and arrived at Manila on October 13, 1902. Once in the Philippines where he was posted isn't known but he was to join the Battleship Oregon BB-3 on her return from the Bremerton Naval Shipyard, where she was overhauled, in March 1903.
On April 1, 1904 he was in receipt of orders transferring him from the Oregon to the New Orleans, a protected cruiser. In July of that year he and two others were transferred to the USS Raleigh C-8 that was cruising in Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Philippine waters in support of diplomatic missions as well as showing the flag and conducting good-will tours.
In February 1905 Joseph Otto Fisher was promoted to the Rank of Ensign. A minimum of two years in the fleet was necessary as a Midshipman before promotion to Ensign.
In June of 1905 he was detached from the Cruiser Raleigh and sent home to wait for orders. When they arrived on October 17, 1905 they sent him to the USS Galveston C-17 which was probably moored at Tompkinsville, N.Y. He was transferred off on December 20, 1905 before she left on December 28 for service in the Mediterranean with the European Squadron.
The transfer sent him to the USS Florida (BM-9) a Arkansas-class monitor (later to be renamed the USS Tallahassee) where he remained until April 10, 1906 when he was again received orders. This time to the USS Dolphin (later PG-24), a gunboat/dispatch vessel. Dolphin was originally built as a dispatch vessel, intended to courier messages as radio had not yet been invented. She was the only US naval vessel ever specifically designated as such. She was also called an 'unarmored' or 'unprotected' cruiser.
On December 1, 1906 Joseph, again received orders, this time to the USS Kentucky BB-6. We assume he was aboard for Kentucky's visit to Norfolk on April 15, 1907 to attend the Jamestown Exposition. He was admitted to Portsmouth Naval Hospital some time during this period for an undisclosed illness and wasn't released until July 19, 1907 where he was sent home on a two month recovery leave.
There is no mention of it but we are making an assumption that he participated with Kentucky in the Great White Fleet cruise that began on December 16, 1907. He is now a Lieutenant.
On September 6, 1909 Fisher was one of ten applicants accepted to enter the brand new Navy School of Engineering with the first class. By this time he was the Engineering Officer on the Armored Cruiser USS South Dakota ACR-9. After the two year study at the school it looks like he was assigned duty at the Washington Navy Yard.
In 1910 his father died.
In July 1911 he once again got orders. To where isn't said because on August 1, 1911 these orders were revoked. The new orders this time transferred him to the USS North Dakota on October 8, 1911 where he was to serve as the Engineering Officer.
In 1913 Fisher had received a lucrative offer from a large company in New York to come to work for them. He submitted his resignation to the Department of the Navy. Secretary Josephus Danials refused to forward a recommendation the the President to accept. Danials reasoning was that even though he had 15 years service he had not been long enough after his two years of schooling for the navy to benefit from this education. He was still the Engineering Officer on the North Dakota.
Two months later several other officers tried to resign and Fishers case was referenced and the resoning the same.
By March of 1914 Fisher is now the Commissioning Commanding Officer of the submarine USS K-6 at the Fore River Shipbuilding Company in Quincy, Massachusetts. On 16 November, K-6 joined the 4th Division, Atlantic Torpedo Flotilla, for shakedown and training. For almost three years, she conducted experimental and development operations along the Atlantic coast.
On May 22, 1915 the K-6 under command of Lieutenant Fisher ran aground. The K-6 struck during a dense fog in a heavy southwest wind and rough sea. She was aground off the East side of No Man's Land. The tender Fulton stood by to render aid if needed.
For the 1915 war games conducted in Florida, Fisher was the division commander for the submarine K-1, 2, 5 and 6. His executive officer was Ensign T. S. Boyd.
Now a Lieut. Commander, he was selected as being one of thirteen White House Aids in December of 1915. They were of all branches of services to assist in 'Entertaining Guests' at the White House during the social functions like dinner parties, dancing and generally helping to make sure the guests had someone to help entertain them. This resulted in many State level dinners and Diplomatic receptions including Kings and Crown Princes and Ambassadors.
On January 15, 1916 the submarine USS E-2 had a massive fire and battery explosion during testing of new batteries from the Edison Storage Battery Company. Four men were killed and seven injured. Joseph O Fisher was one of the men appointed to a committee to investigate the explosion.
In June 1916 the German Merchant Submarine Deutschland arrived in Baltimore. Fisher was a member of the Inspection team to ascertain if the giant submarine could be considered a war vessel. It was decided that the submarine, without extensive and expensive overhauling, could not be converted for war. And was allowed to load a cargo of nickel ore and return to Germany. The US was neutral, still, at this point in time. April 6, 1917 would see the US enter WW I.
During this time he was still acting as a White House Aid.
In 1917, now Commander Fisher, had become interested in camouflage and was working with the different concepts and theory of light refraction. This resulted in some unusual paint and color schemes appearing on a number of submarines being sent to the Azores. These were not wholly successful trials.
In 1918 he was transferred to the Bureau of Steam Engineering and on May 17, 1918 he was given an Emergency Passport and was sent to England and other part of Europe on '...engineering business.' He was stationed out of the American Embassy in London.
From the passport we get other information. He was 36 years old. Had gray eyes and gray/brown hair and was 6 feet 1 ½ inches tall.
It looks like he returned from Europe in October 1918 aboard the SS Minnekahda arriving in New York on October 19.
On November 19, 1919 he was promoted to full permanent rank as a Commander.
The 1920 US Census shows that he he still lists his home as Lewiston Maine and his mother and sisters Easter and Olive are still living there. Olive is listed as a teacher. In later life she will end up teaching school in Spokane, Washington.
On June 15, 1921 he was ordered from the Staff of the Commander of the Atlantic Fleet to the Naval Academy as an instructor.
He is transferred, yet again, this time on August 16, 1922 to San Francisco for duty as a member of the Board of Inspection and Survey for the Pacific Coast. A post he remained at until 1928 when he was ordered home to wait orders.
His mother passed way in 1925.
He was officially Retired at the rank of Captain on August 1, 1928. This may have to due to health. Or, because he had completed 30 years active service.
What he did after retirement is very sketchy and uncertain. We see by the 1930 census that he was living in the family home and half sister Olive Grace, known as Grace, was living there also.
Joseph Otto Fisher passed away August 25, 1933. He was 51 years old and he had never married. He is buried at Riverside Cemetery, Lewiston,Maine. Less than a mile from the home where he was born and raised and lived until his death . When Olive passed away on March 18, 1964 she was buried with her brother in the same grave.
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