Rear Admiral Rembrandt C. Robinson, U.S. Navy, at age 47, was Commander Cruiser Destroyer Flotilla 11 and Commander Seventh Fleet Cruisers and Destroyers. Admiral Robinson was killed in a helicopter crash in the Gulf of Tonkin on May 8, 1972, during a late night landing approach to his flagship, the guided missile light cruiser USS Providence (CLG-6) immediately preceding the cruiser-destroyer attack on the Don Son Peninsula and Haiphong, North Vietnam. Also killed were Captain Edmund B. Taylor, Jr., USN, the Chief of Staff and Commander John Leaver, USN, the Operations Officer.
The Admiral and his staff were returning from a planning meeting aboard USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) to ensure close cooperation between the naval surface and air components of the attacks scheduled May 9 and 10, 1972.
Admiral Robinson was born in Clearfield, Pennsylvania on October 2, 1924, son of Issac H. and Helen M. (Bailey) Robinson. Mr. Isaac Robinson was a Navy veteran of the First World War. Admiral Robinson attended Pennsylvania State College before enlisting in the U.S. Naval Reserve on June 5, 1943. He was appointed Midshipman and attended the Naval Reserve Midshipmen School on board USS Prairie State in the V-12 program. He was commissioned in 1944, augmented in the Regular Navy in 1946, and advanced to the rank of Rear Admiral on September 1, 1970. At this time, Admiral Robinson, at age 44, was one of the youngest officers selected to Flag rank in the history of the U.S. Navy and was the third time he had been selected for early promotion.
Following his commissioning, he had two months duty at the Administrative Command, Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet, and in December 1944 joined USS LST-485. While serving in the Pacific in World War Two, Admiral Robinson saw extensive combat action including the invasion of Okinawa. Following the end of the war, his ship was engaged in the evacuation of refugees fleeing from the advancing Communist forces in China. From July to September 1946 he was assigned to Headquarters, Twelfth Naval District, San Francisco, California and for one month was attached to Headquarters, Fourth Naval District, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During the period from October 1946 through July 1948, he served successively aboard USS LST-1032, USS LST-601, and USS LST-912, and then reported for instruction at the Naval General Line School, Newport, Rhode Island after which he moved to the Destroyer Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.
In June 1949 he joined USS English (DD-696) as the Engineer Officer. During combat action in the Korean War, Admiral Robinson was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” “For meritorious service…when the (English) was attacked by enemy shore batteries while at anchor at Wonson…” English was one of the first Atlantic Fleet ships to enter the Korean War. He was assigned in March 1952 to the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Navy Department, Washington, D.C., and in September 1954, reported for instruction at the Fleet Sonar School, San Diego, California. He served as Executive Officer of USS Walker (DD-517) from November 1954 to July 1956, after which began a course of instruction at the Armed Forces Staff College, Norfolk, Virginia. He became Assistant Head of the Command Policy Section, Strategic Plans Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in January 1957.
Between June and August 1959 he attended the Fleet Sonar School, Key West, Florida and had fitting out duty aboard USS Charles Berry (DE-1052) at the Avondale, Louisiana Marine Ways, Inc. He assumed command of that destroyer escort upon her commissioning on November 25, 1959. Detached from Charles Berry in November 1960, he next had a month of duty on the staff of Commander Cruiser Destroyer Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. He assumed command of USS Bradford (DD-545) in December 1960, and in January 1962 returned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, where he served as Objectives Plans Officer in the Strategic Plans Division. While there, he received the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences from George Washington University in 1964.
During the period August 1964 through August 1968 he was Executive Assistant and Aide to the Commander in Chief, Pacific. “…For providing personal assistance and advice to the Commander in Chief, Pacific in matters ranging from current combat operations in Vietnam to the long range aspects of national and international strategy and policy…” he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.
He had one month of instruction at the Fleet Anti-Air Warfare Training Center, San Diego, California, during August and September 1968 and then assumed command of Destroyer Squadron Thirty-One. He was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of the second Bronze Star Medal for “Meritorious achievement…as commander Destroyer Squadron Thirty-One from September 28, 1969 to January 30, 1969 during combat operations in Vietnam." He was also entitled to wear the Meritorious Unit Commendation for this period. In March 1969 he was assigned to the Chairman’s Staff Group, Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, D.C. where “For exceptionally meritorious service…as the personal liaison between the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and as Special Member of the Chairman’s Staff Group…” he was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of the second Distinguished Service Medal. In July 1971, he assumed command of Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla Eleven and deployed to Vietnam in early 1972.
In addition to the Distinguished Service Medal with Gold Star, the Bronze Star with Gold Star and with Combat “V”, and the Meritorious Unit Commendation ribbon, Rear Admiral Robinson was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Navy Occupation Service Meal (Asia and Europe Clasps), China Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal with bronze star, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with silver star, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with Device. Additionally, he was awarded the Korean Presidential Unit Citation, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross. The Combat Action Ribbon (retroactive, posthumous) and the National Order of Vietnam (Knight) posthumous were also awarded.