Hank Fisher was born in Washington, DC on 10 January 1900, the son of Dr. and Mrs. Charles A. Fisher. The family moved to Los Angeles, California, when he was ten years old. After attending the University of Southern California for one year, he entered the Academy on 13 June 1919, as a member of the Class of 1923.
No one in E Company was ever in doubt as to where Hank hailed from. A deep “Cataline Island" tan was his trademark during summer months. This is preserved for posterity in the informal snapshot which accompanied his write-up in the 1923 HOWITZER. During periods of cold winter weather, Hank enjoyed pointing out to his less fortunate (i.e. non-Californian) classmates the advantages of Southern California's climate over that of the Hudson Valley.
His four years at the Military Academy were not easy years but they were good ones. Hank weathered occasional academic storms and, for that reason, probably appreciated being at West Point more than many of his classmates. Hank contributed his full share to life at the Academy. He was on the swimming squad Plebe year. Handball was his favorite sport, however, and he excelled at it. He won the Academy Handball Championship Second Class year and was awarded class numerals for that accomplishment.
Hank graduated from the Military Academy on 12 June 1923, and was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the Infantry. His first post was Fort Douglas, Utah. After a year in the 39th Infantry Regiment, at the end of which he was a company commander, he applied for a detail to the Army Air Service. He graduated from the Air Service Primary Flying School at Brooks Field, Texas, in March 1925. He later graduated from the Air Service Balloon and Airship School at Scott Field, Illinois, in June 1927, with the rating of Balloon and Airship Pilot. In May 1928, he was a member of the US Army Balloon Team at the National Balloon Races. The Balloon Service was deactivated in 1928 and Hank, after being promoted to 1st lieutenant, returned to his basic branch, the Infantry.
On 28 November 1925, Hank married Miss Eda Wilhelm Droosten of New York City. The marriage took place in San Antonio, Texas. A daughter, Charlotte, was born in September 1926, and a son, Charles, was born in January 1931.
In September 1930, he was assigned to the Signal School at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. Graduation from the Signal School was followed by a three-year assignment at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. For two years he served as a battalion adjutant in the 35th Infantry Regiment. (Many years later Hank was destined to achieve lasting fame as the commander of the 35th Infantry during the early tough going in the Korean War.) After a year as Commanding Officer of the 11th Signal Company, he was transferred to Fort Benning, Georgia, where he graduated from the Infantry School in 1936.
Five years later he was assigned as a student officer at the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in the Class of 1941-1942. Hank considered this to be one of the high spots in his career and modestly said he had not expected to be selected for it. After graduating from the Command and General Staff School, he was assigned to the 317th Infantry Regiment of the 80th Infantry Division. After serving as its executive officer for two years, Hank assumed command of the regiment, took it to Europe and led it through ten months of almost continuous combat in France and Germany. As part of the 80th Infantry Division of General George Patton’s Third Army, the 317th Infantry Regiment was involved in some of World War II’s heaviest combat.
Hank’s regiment landed on Utah Beach on 3 August 1944. Within five days it was in combat at Avranches. Argentan was captured on 20 August. The 317th Regiment was involved in the establishment of the Third Army’s first beachhead across the Moselle. The division was moved north on short notice when Luxembourg was threatened and halted the German advance before it reached the city. The 317th was involved in very bitter fighting for several days in late December during the relief of Bastogne. Hank had reason to feel proud of the part his regiment played in administering the knockout blow to General von Rundstedt’s attempt at a German comeback. The Rhine was crossed on 28 March, less than eight months after crossing Utah Beach. On 8 May, the 80th Infantry Division accepted the surrender of the German Sixth Army. In recognition of his outstanding leadership and personal bravery during his tour of duty as commander of the 317th Infantry Regiment, Hank was awarded the Silver Star, two Bronze Star medals and the French Croix de Guerre.
Upon his return to the United States, Hank served as G-3 of the III Corps. Then, in 1948, the Fishers were transferred to Japan where Hank was assigned to the G-3 Section of GHQ, Far East Command. In July 1948 he assumed command of the 35th Infantry Regiment of the 25th Infantry Division.
Hank’s service as commander of the 35th Infantry Regiment immediately before and during the Korean War undoubtedly constituted the highlight of his military career. The Korean War broke out on 25 June 1950. In early July the 25th Infantry Division was rushed to Korea. It landed in Pusan on July 13th and all three regiments saw immediate combat as the North Korean Naktong Offensive developed. Roy E. Appleton, army historian, in his history of the Korean War, entitled South to the Naktong—North to the Yalu, said of Hank:
“Competent observers considered the 35th Infantry Regiment’s commanding officer, Colonel Fisher, one of the ablest regimental commanders in Korean…This officer was a fine example of the professional soldier. He possessed an exact knowledge of the capabilities of the weapons used in an Infantry regiment and was skilled in their use. He was a technician in the tactical employment of troops. Of quiet temperament, he did not court publicity. One of his fellow regimental commanders called him ‘the mainstay of the Division.’ ”
Because of its overall performance under Hank’s leadership, the 35th Infantry Regiment was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. Hank himself received a well-deserved Distinguished Service Cross. Hank gave credit for the regiment’s superior rating to its officers, particularly its junior officers. He said, “Because of the nature of the combat (close combat) they bore the heaviest burden.”
Lieutenant General Sidney B. Berry, Superintendent of the Military Academy from 1974 to 1977, graduated in the Class of 1948. After a year’s training at Fort Riley and Fort Benning, 2nd Lieutenant Berry reported to Camp Otsu, Japan, to join the 35th Infantry Regiment. Thus, Hank Fisher was his first regimental commander. He served under Hank for ten months in Japan and six months in Korea. General Berry wrote a comprehensive and very informative account of the sixteen months he spent in Hank’s regiment. Several extensive quotations from General Berry’s account follow:
“Colonel Fisher was my first regimental commander in garrison and in combat. I was fortunate, both personally and professionally, to serve under Colonel Fisher’s leadership, especially during the formative days of my military service. He was a professional in the finest sense of the word. He set high standards for his soldiers and his regiment and saw to it that we lived up to his expectations for us. He drove us in training with a sense of urgency and purpose that seemed born of the expectation that the 35th Infantry Regiment would enter combat within a short time. We did—in July 1950, when the North Koreans invaded South Korea. Because ‘Hammering Hank Fisher,’ as we called him, had trained us in a tough, demanding, professional manner, we won battles in Korea from the beginning. Indeed, combat seemed easier than training under Hammering Hank Fisher! Many of us survived because of the tough, effective training Colonel Fisher had provided us.
“During the heavy fighting of those first six months of Korean combat Hank’s regiment was spread thinly over extended fronts, and he had his hands full. But every soldier in the regiment felt Colonel Fisher’s influence twenty-four hours a day. We could feel his strength and toughness, his determination and his effectiveness as a combat leader. His was a proud, combat effective regiment. We won every battle, even when we were required to withdraw because of the overall situation. We fought in battle the way Henry Fisher had trained us to fight—to win.
“I know now that those six months of early Korean combat must have sorely tried and fatigued Colonel Fisher. Those were tough and demanding days. Dig in and defend by day and early evening, and withdraw during early morning hours. Then the Pusan perimeter when Henry Fisher’s 35th Regimental Combat Team held a critical avenue of approach into the port city of Pusan, along which the 7th North Korean Division attacked with heavy armor supported by heavy artillery. Then the breakout from the Pusan perimeter and exhilarating pursuit of the enemy into North Korea. Then in late November and early December, the massive attack of Chinese Communist Forces necessitating the delay and withdrawal back into South Korea below the 38th parallel.
“I think that Colonel Fisher’s most difficult time as a soldier must have been during late November and early December 1950. His 35th Regiment was spearheading the advance towards the Yalu River in the 25th Infantry Division Zone of I Corps in the western part of the North Korean mountains. Then the Chinese Communists attacked in force. Units on the regiment’s left gave way. The right flank was open, and a great gap existed between the 25th Infantry Division and the 2nd Infantry Division to the east of us. The 2nd Infantry Division took the brunt of the Chinese attack, gave way, and was in distress. The result was that Hank Fisher’s regimental combat team had to fight fiercely, hold tenaciously, and withdraw slowly until units on both flanks could withdraw southward across the Chongchun River to the regiment’s rear. ... Here is where Hank Fisher’s leadership was tested by fire. His dilemma was this: hold long enough to permit other friendly units to withdraw but not so long as to permit his regiment to be destroyed by overwhelming odds or to be outflanked and enveloped by the enemy. At the end, out of communication with the division commander, Colonel Fisher was entirely on his own. He had to take it upon himself to decide when his mission was accomplished and when to withdraw his regimental combat team. He did both. He accomplished his mission and he saved his regiment intact to fight continuously throughout the remaining two and a half years of Korean combat.
“In his book about that phase of the Korean War, The River and the Gauntlet, S. L. A. Marshall sings the praises of Colonel Henry G. Fisher and credits him with saving many American and South Korean units and then his own regimental combat team.
“Of the dozen or so US Army colonels who commanded Infantry regiments in Japan, Colonel Henry G. Fisher is the only one who took his regiment into Korean combat and retained command as long as he did. Hammering Hank Fisher retained command of his regiment for almost six months of combat before being returned to Japan to take over the 34th Regiment.
“Colonel Fisher retired as a colonel of Infantry in 1953. A number of his West Point classmates retired as general officers. One was Chief of Staff, United States Air Force. But no person I have known has been more successful as a soldier and as a leader than Henry Granville Fisher. I and many others were privileged to serve under his leadership and to have him as an example for us to follow in our lives as soldiers. From Hammering Hank Fisher we learned the true meaning of Tough love’ and what a professional soldier—an American professional— really is.”
Following a final tour of duty at Fort Monroe, Virginia, as head of the Infantry Section, Headquarters, Army Field Forces, Hank retired on 31 August 1953, having completed thirty years of commissioned service. After retirement, Hank and his wife of twenty-eight years moved to St. Petersburg Beach, Florida, tentatively selected years earlier, when Eda and the children made it their home during World War II. Charlotte and her husband, Colonel Carl B. Smyth, Infantry Retired, and their two children also retired in St. Petersburg Beach. Colonel Smyth has the following to say of his father-in-law:
“Korea was perhaps the finest hour for this able, brave and modest officer. He was well decorated for his heroism, both in Europe and Korea but was proudest of the Presidential Unit Citation which the Regiment won for its performance in Korea.
“He was a devoted family man and, in his later years, derived much well-deserved pleasure from association with his grandchildren. He was, to me, the most responsible commander I ever met, the best teacher to both officers and enlisted men and, last but not least, a real friend.”
Five years after his retirement, in response to a query, Hank said the most satisfying experiences of his career were: (1) his tour of duty as Commander of the 317th Infantry Regiment in the European Theater during 1944 and 1945; (2) his assignment as Commander, 35th Infantry Regiment in Japan and Korea; and (3) his assignment to the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth.
Hank died in St. Petersburg, Florida, on 27 July 1970 His wife, Eda, died three years later. Both are buried in St. Petersburg. They are survived by their daughter, Charlotte Smyth of St. Petersburg, Florida, a son, Charles of Santa Cruz, California, five grandchildren and Hank’s brother, Dr. Charles Fisher of Glendale, California.
The last of Bill Kean's 25th Division major combat elements, the 35th Infantry, arrived in Pusan on July 13. It was commanded by Horton White's West Point (1923) classmate, Henry G. ("Hank") Fisher, also knows as "Hammering Hank Fisher" fifty. The 35th was mated with the 64th FAB, commanded by West Pointer (1932) Arthur H. Hogan, forty-two, to form an RCT.[6-29]
Although Hank Fisher was a year older than White - by George Marshall's reckoning too old for regimental command - his attitude was completely different from White's: He was itching for a fight.
Fisher well knew how to fight and command troops. Like Mike Michaelis, he had successfully commanded an infantry regiment (the 317th of the 80th Division) through many months of tough fighting in the ETO.
historian wrote that Fisher, "ruddy faced and possessed of a strong, compact
body," was a "fine example of the professional soldier." He was "one of the
ablest regimental commanders in Korea," who possessed an "exact knowledge" of
weaponry and tactics. One of Fisher's young West Point (1945) officers, Sydney
B. Berry wrote:
19500713 0000 154tfw0
He was a professional in the finest sense of the word. He set high standards for his soldiers and his regiment and saw to it that we lived up to his expectations for us. He drove us in training with a sense of urgency and purpose. . . . Because "Hammering Hank Fisher," as we called him, had trained us in a tough, demanding, professional manner, we won battles in Korea from the beginning. Indeed, combat seemed easier than training under Hammering Hank Fisher. Many of us survived because of the tough, effective training Colonel Fisher had provided us.[6-30]
Upon landing at Pusan, the 35th, like the 27th Infantry, was fragmented. Johnnie Walker ordered Kean to send the 1/35, commanded by West Pointer (1939) Bernard G. Teeters, thirty-five, to Pohang to relieve Michaelis's 2/27, so that the latter could rejoin its parent organization. Fisher, his regimental headquarters, and his 2/35, commanded by John L. Wilkin, Jr., forty-two, camped for a few days in a rear area near Kyŏngju. This brief interlude before battle provided Fisher and his men with time to adjust to Korea, assimilate fillers, and engage in training exercises.[6-31]
July 17, 1950
The visitors closely scrutinized Eighth Army's senior field commanders. Ridgway had nothing to say about the division commanders, but he judged that "some" regimental commanders were "very poor." They were too old and lacked "combat experience and aggressiveness." He named no names, but undoubtedly he was referring to the three regimental commanders in the 1st Cav (Rohsenberger, Nist, and Palmer) and the 24th Infantry's Horton White. Although both Dick Stephens (21st Infantry) and Hank Fisher (35th Infantry) were considerably overage for regimental command, they were doing well, as were the "youngsters," Michaelis (27th Infantry), Beauchamp (34th Infantry), and Moore (19th Infantry). Replacements being sent by the Pentagon didn't help. "Three out of five were over fifty," Ridgway wrote.*