Boatswain's mate 2nd Class - Robert G. Wilkinson Name : G Robert Wilkinson
Rate : Boatswain's mate 2nd Cl
Assigned to : USS Massachusetts
Service : United States Navy
Entered Service from : New York
Date of Birth : 14 January 1921
Awards : Good Conduct Medal
Victory Medal
APT Campaign

G Robert Wilkinson's Story ...

Bob was born in Jamaica, Long Island, New York, and grew up in the New York City area. He enlisted in the U. S. Navy after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Bob was a "plank holder" of the Battleship USS Massachusetts-a member of the first crew to take the new ship to sea.

the USS Massachusetts July 1944 with Bob probably aboard ...

The Massachusetts, called "Big Mamie," went into action on 8 November 1942, as part of Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. While cruising off Casablanca, Morocco, the Massachusetts was in a gun battle with the unfinished French battleship Jean Bart, which was moored at a pier. Jean Bart didn't score any hits on the Massachusetts, but an 8 inch shore battery hit the Massachusetts' citadel section, piercing the 1.5 inch armor of the main deck. There were no injuries to the sailors and marines aboard. Massachusetts silenced Jean Bart with five hits. Other 16" shells from Massachusetts helped sink two destroyers, two merchant ships, and a floating dry-dock. They also heavily damaged buildings and docks in Casablanca.

the French Battleship Jean Bart

During the Casablanca invasion, Bob was stationed as "smoke watch" on the conning tower. When the captain called from below, "Are you scared?" Bob replied, "Yes, Sir." But it was his job and he did it with the same perseverance and determination that characterized Bob throughout his life.

The ship returned to Boston for refitting and supply. The men of the Massachusetts were treated royally by Boston residents whenever they had liberty there. Their time in Boston ended in February 1943 when the Massachusetts went through the Panama Canal to join the action in the Pacific. There she would stay for the remainder of her 3 1/2 years of active service.


Barrage balloons and 40-mm. antiaircraft gun as defenses of the Panama Canal

The year 1944 found Bob on shore duty, working at the New London Submarine base in Connecticut. In September of that year, a young WAVE appeared on the scene, assigned to work in the public relations office at the base. Her name was Mary Alice Klites. It was love at first sight. They were married in the chapel on the base on 12 May 1945. Their first home was a small apartment by the beach near the New London Submarine Base. They had access to the water and enjoyed spending time there.


Mary Alice & Bob Wilkinson "swept" through life together ...

After their discharge, Bob and Mary Alice began their civilian life, but Bob stayed in the Naval Reserve. On 2 September 1950, he was called back to active duty when the Korean War broke out. That was a difficult time. They had just bought their first home and their daughter, Judy, was a very little girl. But, again, Bob went forth to do what had to be done. He served aboard the Destroyer Herbert J. Thomas. With other destroyers of her division the Thomas assisted in screening with the United Nations naval blockade and fire support forces off Korea. They were also engaged in supporting United Nations ground forces near the coasts of Korea and in hunting would-be blockade runners. Later the Thomas served with a carrier task force as part of an anti-submarine and anti-aircraft screen. After an injury-a ruptured eardrum-Bob was sent to Tripler Army Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he was hospitalized for three months. He was discharged on 11 April 1952 and returned to Mary Alice and Judy to resume his civilian life. When Judy was seven years old, a second daughter, Debra, completed their family.

the Destroyer Herbert J. Thomas

Bob worked in the soft drink industry, beginning his career as a route salesman and manager. Later, he was employed by the national 7-Up Company and served as a district manager throughout Pennsylvania, New York, and West Virginia. In 1969, he accepted a position as Vice President in Charge of Marketing for the Minneapolis 7-Up Company. For several years, Bob was the general manager for the 7-Up Bottling Company in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Bob & Mary Alice in their Navy-time

Bob was an active member of several fraternal and civic organizations and dedicated much of his time to service. One of his hobbies was being a clown. He had professional training, he had the costume and make-up, and he certainly had the ability to be a great clown. He did his clown act just for fun on a number of occasions. But often he would put on his clown suit and "clown" for an hour or two at a nursing home or hospital, bringing some cheer into the lives of those whose lives were often, otherwise, rather cheerless.

at the Photo Shop in the New London Submarine Base

Bob and Mary Alice were happily married for 57 years. Together they enjoyed raising two daughters and participating in the lives of four active grandsons. They shared good times with many friends, often people they met through their hobby of square dancing. After Bob could no longer clown and square dance, he still maintained his sense of humor and his love for his family and friends. He proudly wore his personalized USS Massachusetts cap until the end of his life. Bob passed away in the year 2002 ...

Bob & Mary Alice after their Navy-time

Besides Bob's story you can read the story of his wife Mary Alice Wilkinson in this same "veteran"-section.

Special thanks to the late Bob Wilkinson, his wife Mary Alice Wilkinson and Jean Woolley, who wrote this story together with Mary Alice on May 15, 2006.
published June 5, 2006