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Robert Warren Robinson
Courtesy Tyler Star News, May 21, 2003

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

Remember...

Robert Warren Robinson
1922-1941

"The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war."

Douglas MacArthur

U.S. Navy Pharmacist’s Mate Third Class Robert Warren Robinson was born in Robey, Harrison County, West Virginia, on April 23, 1922, to Willis Otho Robinson and Virginia Grace Robinson. Robert had one brother, Willis J. Robinson, who was only a year younger than he. By the time of the 1930 Federal Census, the family was living in Pine Grove, Wetzel County, where the father is listed as a clerk in a general store; the 1940 census indicates they are in Sistersville, Tyler County, where Willis Otho Robinson is listed as a carpenter.

Robert enlisted in the Navy at Baltimore, Maryland, on June 12, 1940, at the young age of 18. Navy muster rolls show Robert trained in San Diego, California, for a short amount of time. On June 7, 1941—just six months before his untimely death—he was transferred from the USS Wharton to the ill-fated USS Arizona (BB-39).

Onboard the USS Arizona, Robert acted as a pharmacist’s mate third class. His duties included taking charge of the sick bay, minor surgeries, and administering simple medicines. (“All Hands—Rates, Divisions, and Pay Scales,” USS Enterprise CV-6: The Most Decorated Ship of the Second World War, accessed 15 May 2017, http://www.cv6.org/company/muster/organization.htm.)

The USS Arizona returned to Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, on July 8 of the same year, and training and tactical exercises continued on the Hawaiian base. The last training that was conducted by the USS Arizona was carried out on December 4, 1941, in the company of division mates the USS Nevada (BB-36) and the USS Oklahoma (BB-37). The training was a night-firing exercise.

On December 7, 1941, a radio message went out to the men. An air raid was occurring. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor shocked citizens, but was seen as inevitable by the U.S. government and military; they had only been waiting for such an attack to happen somewhere.

On that “day which will live in infamy,” PhM3c Robert Warren Robinson was aboard the USS Arizona. All the battleships lined up against the harbor, as if only waiting for the inevitable. Pearl Harbor took many lives, more than 2,400, and nearly half of those casualties were entombed on the USS Arizona. Robinson died alongside of 1,103 men who were aboard the ship. The USS Arizona and Oklahoma sank that day, but the California, Nevada, and West Virginia were returned to service later. (U.S. Department of the Interior, National Parks Service, “World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument,” accessed 15 May 2017, https://www.nps.gov/valr/index.htm.)
USS Arizona

The USS Arizona (BB-39) burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. National Archives and Records Administration photo no. 195617

Mrs. Virginia Grace Robinson first received a telegram from Rear Admiral Randall Jacobs, Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, informing her that her son was missing. The telegram concludes: “The Department appreciates your great anxiety and will furnish you further information promptly when received. To prevent possible aid to our enemies please do not divulge the name of his ship or station.”

Later, in an undated letter, Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy, writes:

I desire to offer to you my personal condolence in the tragic death of your son, Robert Warren Robinson, Pharmacist’s mate third class, United States Navy, which occurred at the time of the attack by the Japanese on December seventh.

It is hoped that you may find comfort in the thought that he made the supreme sacrifice upholding the highest sacrifice upholding the highest traditions of the Navy, in the defense of his country.

memorial

The USS Arizona Memorial. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Diana Quinlan

The USS Arizona is still memorialized today, as well as the lives that were lost. A memorial, designed by Honolulu architect Alfred Preis, was built on top of—but not touching—the sunken battleship. (Juny P. La Putt, “Hawaii’s World War II Memorial,” The Hawaiian WebMaster, 20 June 2006, accessed 15 May 2017, http://worldtourist.us/memorials/memorials.html.)

Pharmacist Mate Robert Warren Robinson was memorialized in the USS Arizona memorial in Honolulu, Hawaii, as well as at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. After his death, Robert Warren Robinson was awarded several medals, including the Purple Heart, the American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with Star, and the World War II Victory Medal.”
grave marker

Courtesy Jeff Hall, Find A Grave

Article prepared by Sarah Lankas, George Washington High School Advanced Placement U.S. History
2017

Honor...

Robert Warren Robinson

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.


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