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Joel Hilton Fisher
Born March 28, 1918
Died September 27, 1997 (aged 79)
Place of birth New York, NY
Place of death Baltimore, MD
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Coast Guard
Rank Lieutenant Commander
Battles/wars World War II
Spouse(s) Mary Jane Johnson and Helene A. Rich
Relations children: Susan Fisher Sullam and John B. Fisher; stepchildren: Frank Rich and Polly Rich
Other work Lawyer

Joel Hilton Fisher (1918 - September 27, 1997) was a Lieutenant Commander of the US Coast Guard and member of the G-5 Intelligence Division of the US Army in World War II.

Education and early careerEdit

Fisher graduated from Syracuse University magna cum laude[1] in 1939, and was a Phi Beta Kappa scholar.[2] He graduated from Syracuse University College of Law in 1941. After college, he became an attorney for the United States Department of the Treasury.

Coast Guard experienceEdit

After the US entered World War II, Fisher initially tried to enlist in the US Army, but was turned down because of poor eyesight and flat feet.[3] He then enlisted in the United States Coast Guard, where he passed the physical examinations and was commissioned an ensign in 1942. His early assignments were organizing Port Security facilities in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska.

SHAEF assignmentEdit

Fisher served 16 months as chief of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF)'s freezing and blocking foreign exchange and property controls section. He reported to Colonel Bernard Bernstein, deputy chief of SHAEF's Financial Division.

Task Force FisherEdit

The team of 75 members of the US armed forces working with Fisher became informally known as "Task Force Fisher". Their assignment was to track down stolen valuables taken by the Nazis during the war. They were "...charged with locating and securing the enemy gold and loot before it could be destroyed or moved away."[4] The small unit advanced with combat troops and were sometimes under artillery fire. Once they fired a volley at a German observation post. During the last few months of the war, the Task Force Fisher traveled 1,900 miles and located 6.65 tons of gold and 198,000 pounds of silver.

RecoveriesEdit

Task Force Fisher recovered gold, silver, gemstones and art from various locations in Germany as the Allied Forces advanced in the European Theater of Operations United States Army (ETO). Aue (Zwickau) Reichsbank- 41 sacks of gold bars= 82 gold bars. All bars are re-smelted Belgian gold.[5] Eschwege Reichsbank- 82 gold bars were found. Magdeburg Reichsbank- 6,074 bars of silver and 536 boxes of silver, which were looted from the Hungarian silver reserve. Merkers-Kieselbach- The Merkers mine held most of Germany's precious metals reserves. " Lt. Comdr. Joel H. Fisher, chief, Foreign Exchange and Property Control Section, Financial Branch, G-5 SHAEF... Fisher was assigned the responsibility for preparing inventories of all other mines in the immediate vicinity and to analyze all the testimony developed in interrogations to date with a view toward finding further gold and currency deposits as well as gathering financial and property control intelligence information."[6] Nuremberg Reichsbank had burned 750 million French Francs, valued at the time at $17.2. Plauen- 35 bags of gold coins, 17 bags of US gold dollars, 1 million Swiss gold francs, 151,560 Norwegian gold kroner, 22 bags of German silver coins and 98,450 Dutch guilders. The gold coins, weighing over a ton, had been placed in the Reichsbank by orders of SS Chief Heinrich Himmler in April 1944.[7]

Legal aid to displaced Jews in GermanyEdit

In 1946, he married Mary Jane Johnson and, in 1947, the couple moved to Paris, where he was general counsel for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Europe, which helped to resettle Jewish refugees. Joel Fisher returned to Germany to assist in giving American legal aid to displaced Jews in Germany.[8]

Post war law careerEdit

For nearly four decades until his retirement in 1989, Fisher headed Fisher, Sharlitt and Gelband, a legal firm that specialized in aviation law. From 1993 to 1997, Fisher also served as a consultant to the director general of UNESCO.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Fisher, Joel H. "Morganthau's Plan." Free World, November 1945, p. 91.
  2. "Saga of Task Force Fisher: Coast Guard Officer Tells of his ETO Treasure Hunt." Evening News. North Tonawandas, NY, August 15, 1945. Page not given.
  3. Sallam, Susan Fisher. 2014. "The Art of War: A daughter's discovery of a father's quest to bring back what the Nazis stole." Washington Post Magazine. June 22, 2014. Page 12
  4. "Saga of Task Force Fisher: Coast Guard Officer Tells of his ETO Treasure Hunt." Evening News. North Tonawandas, NY, August 15, 1945. Page not given.
  5. Memo from Lt. Commander Joel Fisher, 89tb Infantry Division to Brig. General Frank 1. McSherry, Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-5, April 27, 1945, NACP RG 338, Entry: USFET G-5, Box 13, File: 12312 Correspondence. [213654]
  6. Bradsher, Greg. "Nazi Gold: The Merkers Mine Treasure". Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration. Spring 1999, vol. 31, no. 1.
  7. Inventory of Contents of Plauen Reichsbank Vault for Shipment No.4. I.1. Commander Joel A. Fisher, G-5 Div., SHAEF, April 26, 1945 to CIS 87th Inf. Division. NACP RG 260, Entry FED, Box 427. [219755].
  8. [Documents\NY_AR_45-54\NY_AR45-54_Count\NY_AR45-54_00029\NY_AR45-54_00029_00821.pdf Letter from Joel H. Fisher to Dr. J. J. Schwarz and Mr. M. W. Beckelman, Re: Legal AID Program in Germany - Field Trip. June 15–24, 1948.]

BibliographyEdit

  • Memo from Lt. Commander Joel Fisher, 89tb Infantry Division to Brig. General Frank 1. McSherry, Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-5, April 27, 1945, NACP RG 338"Entry: USFET G-5, Box 13, File: 12312 Correspondence. [213654]
  • "Coast Guard Officer Tells of Difficulties in Rounding Up Hoards of Nazi Loot." New York Times. August 12, 1945.
  • "Saga of Task Force Fisher: Coast Guard Officer Tells of his ETO Treasure Hunt." Evening News. North Tonawandas, NY, August 15, 1945. Page not given.
  • "Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees--Correspondence with Joel Fisher, 1946-47" Box 14, Bernard Bernstein Papers, Harry S. Truman Library.
  • Sullam, Susan Fisher. 2014. "The Art of War: A daughter's discovery of a father's quest to bring back what the Nazis stole." Washington Post Magazine. June 22, 2014. Pages 10–17.

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