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Anna Marie Fisher

Courtesy Richard André and Stan Cohen,
Roar Lions Roar: Charleston High School: A Pictorial History

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

Remember...

Anna Marie Fisher
1921-1945

"But most of these women—the famous and the obscure—had one thing in common: they did not think of themselves as heroes."

Kathryn J. Atwood

U.S. Army First Lieutenant Anna Marie Fisher was born in Charleston, West Virginia, on September 29, 1921, and died in the Mediterranean Area in a plane crash on April 20, 1945. Anna and her four-year younger brother Steve were the daughter and son of Ernest S. and Stella Fisher.

Before entering into the military, Anna completed four years of high school at Charleston High School in Kanawha County in West Virginia. Anna Fisher and her family were very close; she and her brother would both go on to serve in the military. In letters written home to Anna’s mother, Anna explains how much she misses Charleston and being away from her family. Further details written within the letters show how being away in service had an impact on her outlook of family and the values of being with family members, specifically gathering together during the holiday season. Nevertheless, according to U.S. Army World War II Enlistment Records, 1938-1946, on October 24, 1942, Anna enlisted in the military at Fort Hayes, Columbus, Ohio.

In late April 1943, Anna was stationed in Fort Devens, Massachusetts, after finishing her training at the Women’s Army Corps training camp in Daytona, Florida. During her time at the training camp, Anna wrote letters back to her family explaining the conditions at the camp. She told them about the troubles the women were having adjusting to being away from home and adjusting to military life, like fainting and falling ill due to the new conditions. She also describes how crowded the city was with soldiers as if they were running them out of the town. Once sent to Massachusetts, Anna wrote about being very anxious to be sent away; however, she was ready to be given a job so that she was not sitting around and waiting. Anna did not enjoy Massachusetts once she was there. In letters from Anna’s time in Massachusetts, she explains that she was trying to “make things as normal as possible,” for example, tanning outdoors, going on dates, going to dance clubs, and participating in other social activities. She said doing “normal” things helped to pass the time and service transpired easier. Anna was frustrated about being unassigned in Massachusetts and had tried to travel around town or even home but was unsuccessful until May of 1943, when she was able to travel home to visit her family.

By June 10, 1943, Anna was back in Massachusetts. She wrote home about “150 rookies will descend on me” meaning she now had responsibility for mentoring newer recruits. However, Anna had finally been given an assignment—stay in Massachusetts and work in an office and attend meetings every day; this was far from what Anna had in mind. In a letter written shortly after this, Anna writes of her transfer to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.

Once there, she explains, “It’s horribly hot here, damp and humid. I just live in a haze of heat and look like a peeled onion,” meaning she was not fond of Georgia. One week after writing her first letter from Georgia, Anna wrote back to her mother telling her that she would be receiving leave home in early October 1943.

While on leave back in West Virginia, Anna requested acceptance for overseas service; however, she was not immediately accepted due to her lack of experience. In early 1944, after spending time at home and with her family, Anna Fisher was stationed in North Africa. Letters from this time have not survived. One thing about her time in North Africa that is known is that she was stationed there with her brother, Steve Fisher.

As of December 20, 1944, Anna was in New York preparing to be sent back overseas to Italy but had wanted to be home with her family for the holidays. In the letter sent home from New York, Anna wrote about her time in North Africa and a previous tour to Italy where she was accompanied by the House Military Affairs Committee. The committee is responsible for the funding and oversight of the Department of Defense and the United States armed forces as well as the Department of Energy. In Italy, she toured the war-ravaged peninsula. Details of the letter tell about her seeing the bridges built by other military officers in order to cross the rivers. The bridges had to be rebuilt due to the demolishing by Germany. Anna spent the rest of her time in the service in Italy where she struggled for months to live with the conditions of that country. Anna Marie had one of the most vibrant social lives of her service during her time in Italy. Everywhere she went she found a way to take her mind off of the harsh conditions and the situation where she was stationed. The majority of letters written by Anna Marie in 1945 are about socializing in Italy and other activities that she and other women partook in while in Italy. These other activities were part of the social change happening involving gender conventions. The women of the Women’s Army Corps adopted the philosophy that while stationed away from home, the normal standards of social life were quite different. (Source: Judith A. Bellafaire, “The Women’s Army Corps: A Commemoration of World War II Service,” U.S. Army Center of Military History, Web, accessed 4 May 2015.)

In 1944, on Christmas Day, Anna Marie wrote a letter to her mother about her disappointment that she was not going to be home for Christmas. Although she would have rather been at home for the holidays, Anna realized that holidays overseas were actually not that bad. She talked about the happy holiday spirit that the WAC was in despite that many were away from home and their family members. Anna writes: “We decided to forget about giving gifts . . . . Our lounge is decorated beautifully and we have a big tree—open house will be all day tomorrow . . . .” They hung up socks and had hot chocolate—sort of homey and they liked it. Although Christmas was not what Anna had expected, the simple creation of a holiday atmosphere made Anna feel much more at home. Another thing that helped Anna Marie through the holidays was the excitement for her upcoming trip to Capri. The last letter of 1944 is dated December 26. In the letter, Anna Marie talked about the social scene on Christmas Day and her future plans for New Years.

Letters from January 1945 follow the same topics as many of her letters from previous months—topics mainly concerning her social life. One of Anna’s friends who was also stationed in Italy believed that she was pregnant, which was grounds for dismissal from the WAC. Anna never goes into detail about what happened to her friend, but in her twelve-page letter she frantically describes the nature of the corps.

A couple of weeks later, Anna had been given a new job. She was “teaching the women classes on operations on the basis of my survey—just finished an hour of it this morning—they will continue for three weeks.” She also writes about her anticipation for the end of the war and that she was “awaiting orders—may be a month or more yet and I have no idea what kind of a job I shall get—everything is so indefinite now. The Russians will be in Berlin soon and what happens after this is debatable—we’ve been so excited over the news.” Anna describes the next couple of days in Italy as being very tough. In a letter from February 2, 1945, she says, “I hope that I shall never have to experience another week like the past one—last Sunday part of the aqueduct caved in and we have been without water ever since—taking a bath requires the services of four Italian women who lug the water upstairs from a tank truck and heat it on our wood stove—it is a problem and, while this primitive way of life was fun at first, it is becoming rather disagreeable.”

In a February letter, Anna Marie wrote about wanting to come back home to Charleston. She also included her future plans for school and when she would be home on leave. She writes: “As for coming home in the near future—I can’t tell you anything definite as I don’t know myself—I am waiting right now to see what will happen to me before I go asking for things—would hate to come home for thirty days and miss a longer stay at home a few months later.” Concerning her future plans, she wrote “If things don’t work out as I want them to—after the war I shall attend the University of Wisconsin and study journalism and get a degree—of course, I’ll be rather old but I would really love to do it . . . . There’s a move afoot to the effect that the WAC will provide education for its veterans if they so desire.” Anna Marie was looking forward to returning home to her family from service and had made plans for when she returned. She also mentions in the letter about going to dances and other social events to fill up her time. These changes in atmosphere of women’s social lives are most likely the result of stresses of life in the military and because military service could often be overbearing for soldiers.

In her final letter from February 13, 1945, Anna wrote about being “somewhat blue” because of her workload and her friend, Smitty, had been upset because she had not be granted leave to go home and visit her family. She writes: “Due to the shortage of officers, we pull the evening shifts more often—I just finished the midnight till eight and am now on the seven till midnight—definitely anti-social—but it keeps me out of trouble” concerning her workload. Her anti-social period, however, did not last long. Anna wanted to be transferred to France; she writes: “That fair country was always my first love—Cannes has been turned into a rest camp for our troops and so has Mont St. Michel—someday I must visit that place . . . . The Army has blasted my hopes to bits in its usual fashion—a new circular from the War Department states that a soldier must have twenty-four months service overseas in order to even be eligible—my eighteen will be up in April!” Anna Marie continued to show her frustration at this subject, writing, “Combat troops only have to have a year only we’re not classified as such—after what we have been through I feel we deserve that title—being outnumbered twenty to one will give you some idea.”

In a six-page letter written February 17, Anna Marie writes: “I’m assigned to the 15th Air Force Headquarters and am one of two WAC’s working in it . . . . I’m in the communication section doing cryptographic work—vitally interesting and includes the coding and decoding of messages to and from our headquarters.” While Anna Marie was interested in her work, she wrote about being lonely and not having female companionship, since there were only three other WAC officers, and Anna did not see them very often. At previous posts, Anna Marie’s work had been easy, but at her new post, the duty that she was assigned to learn was one that Anna explained she knew nothing about and was finding it hard to learn.

As the war in Europe neared the end, Anna longed for leave or a permanent return home. She was worried about the chance that she would be transferred into the Asian theater. Anna writes: “If I have to go to China or India without a leave I fear that my passion for the Army shall suffer—I feel just like an open drawer that someone has been throwing things into for the past two years—need to come home and get all straightened out. My wanderlust is beginning to pale a bit and jouncing about the world is not as exciting as it once was—Charleston will look fine to me.” Although she had plans for her new civilian life after the war, Anna worried about adjusting to life in the states when she came home. She explained “the tension around here is increasing everyday—we all want this war to end quickly and expect it to be before September—golly, I don’t know how to conduct myself in America—shall probably talk in pidgin English and forget to pay bills.” Unfortunately, Anna would never make the trip home that she longed for. March was the last month she served in the WAC.

Letters from Anna’s last month express her growing desire for the war to end and her return home. In her letter from March 7, 1945, Anna talked about her friends transferring and also mentioned applying for a permanent transfer station in the United States as well as her growing weariness of service overseas. Anna wrote two letters on March 11th and March 13th in which she asked for civilian clothing items and other things that she needed from home. Anna also caught her mother up on the gossip traveling around the WAC base and of all the rumors that surrounded the end of the war. Her letter on March 19th described the end of the war as imminent. She wrote to her mother that “I would like to have the last few things that I requested but no more—reason being that the close of the war seems fairly imminent and I don’t expect to be in this part of the world long after it is over.”

Anna would not see the end of the war; however, her statement about the war was completely accurate. This statement serves as a good insight into the lives of the men and women serving in World War II—that she was able to accurately predict the end of the war, even though she was not directly stationed at the center of the battle.

Anna Marie’s brother was stationed in Great Britain at the time she wrote a letter to her mother explaining that she had a letter prepared to send her brother if she could find his most recent address. Anna was excited to hear from her brother who was taking part in bombing missions over Germany at the time.

Anna Marie’s last letter is from March 28, 1945. In a two-page, typed letter, Anna discusses her friends and her new accommodations. As usual she made sure to inform her mother about the gossip going around the base and again mentioned the end of the war. She writes: “News from the front is amazingly good—all of us are betting furiously on the date that hostilities will cease—which brings me to another subject—if the war will be over by the end of June or July I want to wait and come home then—you said that you were glad that I hadn’t gone to the Pacific—well, still have a 100 to 1 chance of going.” The end of the war was greatly impacting Anna Marie as her final letter was upbeat, optimistic, and positive; one in which she looked forward to coming home. She also told her mother that when she returns home, she intends on helping her mother and that she often wonders that she is abandoning her responsibilities at home while in the WAC.

Anna Marie was never able to see how she would act at home and was never able to pick up the responsibilities that she wrote to her mother about. First Lieutenant Anna Marie Fisher was killed in a plane crash on April 20, 1945, in northern Italy, where she is also buried in the Sicily- Rome American Cemetery. Ironically, her brother was also in a plane crash; however, he survived and after being held prisoner of the Germans, he would return home by the end of the war. The accident report shows that Anna’s plane crash could have been caused by either bad weather or pilot error.

Anna’s letters home throughout the war show new insight into the lives of female soldiers serving in the WAC. They also demonstrate the changes that occurred between gender conventions during the three and a half years that the WAC were in service. It is clear from Anna’s letters that she felt she was just a small part of the bigger picture of American servicewomen in World War II.
Sicily-Rome American Cemetery

Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, Nettuno, Italy. Courtesy American Battle Monuments Commission

Article prepared by Hope Fisher, George Washington High School, Advanced Placement U.S. History
May 2015

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Anna Marie Fisher

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