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Rembrandt C. Robinson
Born (1924-10-02)October 2, 1924
Died May 8, 1972(1972-05-08) (aged 47)
Place of birth Clearfield, Pennsylvania
Place of death Gulf of Tonkin, off the coast of Vietnam
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1943-1972
Rank US-O8 insignia.svg Rear Admiral
Commands held USS Charles Berry
USS Bradford
Destroyer Squadron 31
Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla 11/Task Force 75

Rear Admiral Rembrandt Cecil Robinson (October 2, 1924 - May 8, 1972) was a United States Navy flag officer who served as Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla 11 and Commander, Task Force 75, stationed in the Tonkin Gulf, during the Vietnam War. Robinson died in 1972, in a helicopter crash; he was the only Navy flag officer killed during the Vietnam War. He is interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

Early life

Rembrandt C. Robinson was born October 2, 1924, in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, the son of Issac, a World War I Navy veteran, and Helen Bailey Robinson. He attended Pennsylvania State College for a time before enlisting in the Navy Reserve as a Midshipman in 1943. He was commissioned in the Navy Reserve as an Ensign in 1944.[1]


World War 2

Upon commissioning, Robinson was assigned to the amphibious force, first on the staff of Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet, then aboard LST-485. While aboard LST-485, he participates in significant combat operations, including the Invasion of Okinawa, and also participated in the post-war evacuation of Chinese refugees fleeing from advancing Communist forces. Following this tour, Robinson served at the headquarters of the Fourth and Twelfth Naval Districts, and served aboard three additional LST's, before transferring to the destroyer force.[2]

Korean War and service before Vietnam

In 1949, Robinson reported aboard USS English as chief engineer. While aboard English, Robinson received the first of two Bronze Stars, for meritorious service after North Korean shore batteries attacked the ship at Wonson. Upon completing this tour in 1952, Robinson served at the Bureau of Naval Personnel. From 1954 to 1956, Robinson served as executive officer of USS Walker, after which he attended the Armed Forces Staff College. Following his studies, Robinson reported for duty at the assistant head of the Command Policy Section, Strategic Plans Division, within the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.[3]

In 1959, Robinson reported aboard USS Charles Berry, then under construction at the Avondale Yards in Louisiana, as prospective commanding officer, and assumed command upon the ship's commissioning on November 25, 1959. A year later, Robinson served a brief tour of the staff of Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Force, Pacific Fleet, and in December 1960 assumed command of USS Bradford. In January 1962, Robinson returned to Washington for a second tour of duty, this time as Objective Plans Officer, Strategic Plans Division, of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations; during this tour, he completed his college education, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Sciences from George Washington University. In August 1964, Robinson returned to the West Coast as Executive Assistant and Aide to the Commander In Chief, Pacific Fleet; during this tour he received the first of two Distinguished Service Medals.[4]

Vietnam Service

Robinson assumed command of Destroyer Squadron 31 in September 1968. During this tour, he received his second Bronze Star, for leading the squadron during combat operations in Vietnam. In 1969, he returned to Washington for a third time, as a member of the Chairman's Staff Group within the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; during this assignment, he served as the liaison between Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, the then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and President's Assistant for National Security Affairs Dr. Henry Kissinger. While serving in this capacity, Robinson received a second Distinguished Service Medal, and in 1970 was promoted to Rear Admiral; at the time of his promotion, he was one of the youngest flag officers in the Navy, and marked the third time he had been selected for early promotion. Also during this tour, Robinson helped update potential plans for the mining of Haiphong Harbor, first conceived in 1965. In 1971, Robinson returned to sea, taking command of Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla 11 and Task Force 75.[5]

Operation Pocket Money

While heading up Kissinger's military staff in 1969, Robinson had helped to update plans for the blockading or mining of Haiphong Harbor, originally drawn in 1965. The plans became the basis of Operation Pocket Money, which called for the mining of Haiphong Harbor and a naval gunfire attack of the Do Son Peninsula. On May 8, 1972, President Richard Nixon ordered Pocket Money executed.[6]


After receiving the execute order for Pocket Money, Robinson flew with his Chief of Staff, Captain Edmund Taylor Jr.; Operations Officer, Commander John Leaver; and Aviation Officer, Commander M.L. "Marty" McCullough, from his flagship, USS Providence to USS Coral Sea, for an air and surface attack coordination meeting with Rear Admiral Damon Cooper, Commander, Attack Carrier Striking Force, Seventh Fleet. Later that evening, as the helicopter was attempting to land aboard Providence with the four men aboard, an engine failed, causing the helicopter to crash into the Gulf of Tonkin. Robinson was pronounced dead aboard Providence after his body was recovered by ship's crewmembers; Taylor and Leaver's remains were never found, and McCullough survived the crash, as well as the helicopter's crew.[7] Robinson is interred in Arlington National Cemetery, Section MF, Site 30-5.[8] He was survived by his wife, Joan, and his children.[9]


Robinson's awards include:


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