If you are a first-timer at this web site, or have not spent serious time aboard the USS Robinson, there are some things about the names "Robinson" and "Robbie" that you should know before continuing.
In the beginning …. of the Revolutionary War, that is …. there was, in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, one Isaiah Robinson - ship owner and master. We know almost nothing of his upbringing, except that he showed early promise as a privateer in the company of one Joshua Barney sailing out of Baltimore. In those days, capture of a British merchantman could get you on the front page of the Inquirer, so it was no surprise when, in February of 1776, the newly formed Continental Navy offered Isaiah the captaincy of the 10-gun sloop of war Sachem, recently fitted out by the Marine Committee. In it he cruised the "middle states", and that July, in sight of the Virginia Capes, he captured a 6-gun British letter-of-marque vessel. In October he graduated to command of the 14-gun brig Andrew Doria The very next month, he captured the British 12-gun sloop of war Racehorse in a 2-hour dust-up near Puerto Rico. A few days later, he took another British prize, but then, unhappily, lost it to the enemy. He next returned to Philadelphia in triumph with Racehorse as prize. Shortly thereafter his fortunes changed. Blockaded in the Delaware River by the British while helping defend Philadelphia, he was forced to burn the Andrew Doria, to deny her to the enemy. But he staged a comeback in 1779 in the 12-gun Pennsylvania privateer Pomona. Several more British ships fell victim to his craft before the end of the war. He is believed to have died in 1781 in Philadelphia.
So now you know whence came the name Robinson. You should also know that our ship, destroyer DD 562, was the second U.S. Navy ship to be named USS Robinson. The first was torpedo boat destroyer DD 88, commissioned at Mare Island Navy Yard on 19 October 1918. That was before the Navy decided to shorten the class name to just ‘destroyer’ to encourage their crews to take on all manner of enemy targets: air-born, land-based and sea-born; not just submarines and torpedo boats. Too late for WW1, she spent her days in training and flag-showing. She was one of the station ships in support of the historic first trans-Atlantic flight of the Navy’s NC-1 to 4 seaplanes, in May 1919. Later that year she participated in honor escorts for visiting royalty from Belgium and, ironically, Britain. One wonders if the Prince of Wales, in HMS Renown, knew of the ancestry of that DD88 on his port quarter!
She was decommissioned in August 1922 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. There she rested until 23 August 1940. Her second wake-up call came early in WW2 as part of the 1940 "destroyers for bases" agreement brokered by President Roosevelt with the British. She was recommissioned, transferred to the Canadian Navy at Halifax, renamed the HMS Newmarket, and finally, on 5 December 1940, commissioned in the Royal Navy. How ironic that the British should be given a ship originally named for one of their early tormentors! (Perhaps they did know, and chose to dishonor the memory with the tasteless name Newmarket). The next two years she spent in Atlantic convoy duties under the Western Approaches Command. She was retired from active duty in September 1943, and scrapped at the end of the war in Europe.
Our (second) USS Robinson, DD562, came late to WW2. Commissioned on 31 January 1944, she, like her sister fighting ships, was designed, built and intended to ‘sail in harm’s way’ and, while there, exude a bit of harm in return. And so she did, from the moment of her first enemy submarine contact on 14 June 1944 until the Japanese surrendered on the deck of the USS Missouri on 2 September 1945. In tough campaigns from Saipan to Guam to Tinian to Peleliu to Leyte to Tarakan to Mindoro to Lingayen to Zamboanga and Mindinao, she dished out plenty of harm to the enemy, yet suffered no serious hits or casualties of her own. And she was the only destroyer in her original squadron of eight able to make that claim. What was it, just dumb luck? Her consorts were equally equipped, trained, and motivated, yet they were hit time and again, sunk even, and suffered significant casualties.
It didn’t take the crew very long to conclude that they had something more going for them than Navy issue. Our ship’s log fails to record the exact time and place when the crew first recognized the ‘something’ as a ‘mythical mascot’ or ‘guardian angel’ and gave him the name "Robby". It probably happened off Guam. Since then there have been several crew-reported sightings of Robby, but none more revealing than just a furtive shadow or glint of light high up on the mast. It was from just such fuzzy observations that his size and agility were later equated with those of our Philippine monkey mascot "Damon". You should know Damon was a small, deck and crew-quarters monkey - definitely not a mast monkey - so there was no hint of mistaken identity here. But this is the explanation for the "little" in the oft-used "Little Robby", and the belief that he spent his days on the mast, sometimes perched atop the surface search antenna, sometimes pacing back and forth along the signal yard, always keeping a weather eye out for incoming harm.
There’s more. We don’t know where Isaiah Robinson’s European ancestors lived, but, judging from what we know of his namesake spirit Robby, we would infer he was of Scotch-Irish, rather than English, stock. Our legendary luck in war was distinctly Irish, and the ‘little guy topside’ was a crew charmer in the best of Irish tradition. But there was, in our performance, evidence of canniness and prudence of the sort bred in the highlands of Scotland. Add to that the reports of several gun crews of hearing snatches of "Scotland the Brave" as well as "Danny Boy" skirled out by a solo piper on the battle circuits while at general quarters one night in Surigao Strait. Plus, the discovery of a scrap of tartan wool found in a flag bag at Lingayen Gulf. All evidence enough, we thought, to justify a slight spelling change from Robby to Robbie. And so you will see it spelled elsewhere at this site.
The name Robbie, of course, was also used as an affectionate nickname for our ship. To distinguish between Robbie the guardian angel, and Robbie the ship, we relied upon sex. Our guardian is male to distinguish him from our ship which is, like all ships everywhere, by obscure definition, female. But truth be told, the distinction has largely blurred over the years to the point where the name Robbie really should be understood as the combination of the spirit Robbie, the steel Robbie, and those who trod her decks over the years and around the world. Robbie’s good luck charm never deserted her, neither in wartime, nor peacetime, nor retirement, nor even in death and burial. Little Robbie still is in evidence at our annual reunions - he’s there in an old friend found, a story told, a joke shared, a smile and a handshake, a toast to a missing comrade, a prayer of thanks. If we could but see and hear him, we are sure he would have a Scotch-Irish smile on his face and a "well done" for us all.