Posted 11/09/11 (Wed)
By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer
Growing up southwest of Alexander as a young boy, Stanley Robinson had never heard of Pearl Harbor. Nor could he have ever imagined that he would be a survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. But, for Robinson, like so many other McKenzie County veterans of World War II, the day he enlisted to serve and defend his country, his life changed.
“My father fought in World War I and told him never to join the Army,” states Robinson. “All they do is walk.”
After spending his boyhood watching Navy movies, and figuring that all they did was sit around while the ship took them places, Robinson naively decided that was the life for him.
Robinson enlisted in the Navy in 1940. And on Jan. 7, 1941, 11 months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he was sworn in and stationed to the base at Pearl Harbor.
“We were tied up in port on the day the Japanese attacked,” remembered Robinson. “I was three decks below when the first wave hit. Our ship took a bomb and torpedo, but we were in shallow water, so we didn’t sink, and a barge was brought in so we didn’t roll over.”
Robinson states that there wasn’t a casualty on his ship, but remembers that the USS Utah wasn’t so lucky.
“The Utah had been doing drills a few days before the attack,” states Robinson. “The deck of the ship was covered in wooden planks to protect it during the drills. When the ship took a torpedo, they think those planks were what caused the ship to overturn and trap the men in.”
Robinson tells of another Pearl Harbor memory that has not been mentioned in the history books.
“After the attacks, bodies were washing up on shore,” Robinson begins. “The men who survived worked to pull them ashore, and local prostitutes worked alongside us.”
Robinson states that he always felt they should have gotten credit for their work, but they were never recognized.
After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the United States entered World War II. Robinson, being stationed in Pearl Harbor, fought for his country in the Pacific against Japan.
“There are a lot of things you want to say about how you were fighting for your country,” states Robinson, “but the truth is you are fighting to save your butt.”
Robinson spent most of World War II fighting in the Pacific. About six months before the war against Japan ended, Robinson was sent to Order School in Jacksonville, Fla. It was there that he learned of the United States’ victory in the Pacific.
“We were so happy that we were going to go to the beach to celebrate,” Robinson states. “However, we never made it, because our car got a flat tire.”
Robinson really enjoyed his time spent in the Navy.
“I have been all over the South Pacific, up and down the east and west coasts of South America, North Africa, Spain, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Scotland and Iceland,” Robinson states.
Robinson was in the Navy for 20 years and was stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Norfolk, Va.; Panama; Rhode Island; as well as Jacksonville and Key West, Fla.
When Robinson was in his 30s, and stationed in Norfolk, he met his wife. They were married in June of 1951.
In 1961, while stationed in Key West, Fla., Robinson retired from the Navy.
He moved into a house he had purchased while living in Jacksonville earlier in his career and began to work with the United States Postal Service. He worked there for the next 18 years.
In 1994, while still living in Jacksonville, Robinson’s wife passed away. They never had any children, but Robinson’s wife had a daughter (his stepdaughter) who has also passed away.
In 2006, Robinson came to North Dakota to see family. While here, he fell and broke his hip, and wound up staying. He now resides in the Good Shepherd Home where he loves to sit down and talk with anyone who is willing to listen.