Robertson, Walter Melville “Robby”.

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Robertson, Walter Melville “Robby”, born on 15-06-1888 in Nelson County, Virginia   as the son of William Walter Robertson and his wife Mary Fannie (bornPettit). He completed the Central State Normal School in Edmond, Oklahoma in summer of 1907, then a preparatory school and subsequently enrolled the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma, where he took a special work in engineering. In May 1908, Robertson interrupted his studies, when received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.    

During his time at the Academy, he was nicknamed “Robby” by his classmates and was active in the track team, basketball squad and became an individual tennis champion during his time at the Academy. Robertson rose to the rank of Cadet Captain and graduated on 12-06-1912 with Bachelor of Science degree.

Many of his West Point classmates later became a general officers during World War II. For example:2* Army General Wade Hampton “Ham”. Haislip, General Walton Walker, 2* Major General  Raymond Oscar “Tubby”. Barton, 1* Major General Franklin Cummings. Sibert, Lieutenant General  Millard Tillmore “Miff” Harmon and 

2* Major General Robert M. Littlejohn

Upon his graduation, three days before his twenty-fourth birthday, Robertson was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Infantry and ordered to Hawaii, where he joined the 1st Infantry Regiment at Schofield Barracks. He served with that unit until mid-1915, when he was ordered to the Presidio of San Francisco for service with 24th Infantry Regiment.

In early 1916, Robertson was transferred to Fort Missoula, Montana, where he served for few months, before he was ordered to the newly established officer training school at Camp Bullis in Texas. Following the United States entry into World War I in April 1917, he served with the training units, before he embarked for France in May 1918. Robertson participated in combat operations on the Western Front in late 1918 and then took part in the occupation of the Rhineland until February 1920.

Robertson served four years in that capacity, before he was ordered to the 23rd Infantry Regiment for duty as Executive officer in July 1940. He assumed command of 9th Infantry Regiment in November that year and remained in that capacity until the United States’ entry into World War II, following an Attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

Robertson was promoted to the temporary rank of Brigadier General on 15-12-1941 and ordered to the Louisiana Maneuvers area, where he assumed duty as Assistant Division Commander, 2nd Infantry Division under Major General John Clifford Hodges Lee. The Second Division conducted intensive training in order to prepare for combat deployment in Europe for several months, and Robertson relieved Lee in May 1942 when Lee was summoned to Washington by Army Chief of Staff General George Catlett Marshall   to assume command of the Services of Supply, ETO. Robertson was promoted to the temporary rank of Major General on 17-08-1942.

After he assumed command, he led division during the four-month intensive training in winter warfare at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin and embarked for England in October 1943. Robertson then led his division during another period of training in Northern Ireland and Wales and finally deployed to France on Omaha Beach on D-Day plus 1 (June 7, 1944) near Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer.

The Second Division went into its first World War II combat on 10-06-1944 and following the crossing of Aure River, the division liberated Trévières and proceeded to assault and secure Hill 192, a key enemy strong point on the road to Saint-Lô. After three weeks of fortifying the position, General Robertson ordered the assault on Hill 192, which was subsequently captured. After exploiting the Saint-Lo breakout, the 2nd Division then advanced across the Vire to take Tinchebray on 15-08-1944 and then raced toward Brest, the heavily defended port fortress which served as a major port for German U-boats.

Robertson led his division during the Battle for Brest, which lasted for 39 days and was present during the surrender of German garrison on 19-09-1944. The Second division was subsequently ordered to the defensive positions at St. Vith, Belgium, where it remained for two weeks. For his service in Normandy, Robertson received several decorations including Silver Star, Legion of Merit and Bronze Star Medal. He was also decorated with Legion of Honor and Croix de guerre 1939-1945 with Palm by the Government of France.

The German Ardennes offensive in mid-December forced the division to withdraw to defensive positions near Elsenborn Ridge, where the German drive was halted. When the initial thrusts of a full-scale German counter offensive threatened the right flank of his division, Robertson, fully aware of the urgency of the situation, personally assumed command of the defense of a vital road junction to delay the enemy long enough for his troops to take up defensive positions. Within an hour the first hostile tanks appeared 600 yards away and were immediately taken under fire on Robertson’s orders.

Robertson giving speech to the Salzburg Radio Rot-Weiß-Rot on 06-06-1945.

Braving intense artillery and direct tank fire, he remained in complete observation of the enemy to supervise the disposition of his troops and to direct the fire of his own tanks and tank destroyers. After two hours of vicious fighting, many German tanks and vehicles were destroyed and the armored thrust in this sector was thwarted. As reinforcements arrived, Robertson proceeded immediately to a second critical area where another salient was threatening two villages along the main route of the enemy advance. He organized troops from his own command and stragglers from elements overrun by the powerful attack and, for a period of seven hours, heroically led them in deterring the advance.

Constantly exposed to intense fire from tanks, machine guns and small arms, Robertson, by his personal direction and his calm and collected demeanor, successfully rallied his men to hold their ground tenaciously. His presence among the foremost elements of his command, his exemplary courage and his self-assurance were primarily responsible for knitting the scattered troops into a cohesive fighting force and checking the forward drive of the enemy spearhead. For his gallant leadership, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty, Robertson was decorated with Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest military decorations of the United States.

On 04-03-1945, the division captured Gemünd and reached the Rhine river five days later. Robertson and his division then advanced south to take Breisig, which it seized on March 11, and then participated in the guarding of the Remagen bridge, between March 12–20. He subsequently led his division further to Germany and participated in the capture of Göttingen, Merseburg or Leipzig.

The Second Division then advanced to Czechoslovakia on 04-05-1945 and liberated the city of Pilsen on VE Day. Robertson received Army Distinguished Service Medal for his service with 2nd Infantry Division and also was decorated with Czechoslovak Order of the White Lion, 3rd Class and Czechoslovak War Cross 1939-1945.

In June, 1945, Major General Robertson was transferred to the XV Corps, where he replaced his West Point Classmate, Lieutenant General Wade Hampton “Ham”. Haislip, as a corps commander. He served with the XV Corps as the part of Occupation forces in Austria and then in Germany. In March 1946, XV Corps was inactivated and Robertson was appointed a Head of US Delegation Allied Control Commission for Bulgaria. In this capacity, he led U.S. team, which participated in the making of recommendations for Bulgaria as the defeated Axis country. Robertson stayed there until September 1947 and received second Army Distinguished Service Medal for his service in this capacity.

He was subsequently appointed a Deputy Commander of the Sixth United States Army under the command of Mark Wayne Clark with headquarters at Fort Sam Houston, Texas and served in this capacity until his retirement on 30-06-1950.

After the retirement from the Army, Robertson was appointed a California State Director of Civil Defense with the seat in Sacramento. Robertson’s nomination was opposed by unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate and highly decorated Marine officer, James Roosevelt, who described his nomination as nonentity and “no one has ever heard of General Robertson”. Fortunately the Governor of California, Earl Warren, defended Robertson’s appointment and said Roosevelt’s remark that Robertson was a “nonentity” was wholly unjustified and indecent reference to one of the nation’s most distinguished soldiers.

While in this capacity, Robertson was responsible for the administration of air raid shelters and gas masks, preparation of disaster relief plans, evacuation plans or Civil Defense drills. He held that office during the tough years of Cold War and Robertson’s main task was to prepare people of California for the possible atomic bomb attacks.

Death and burial ground of Robertson, Walter Melville “Robby”.

   her with George Patton.

In October 1954, Robertson was accepted to the Letterman Army Hospital for a minor operation, and it was discovered that he had a serious abdominal condition, for which he submitted to an operation on November 9. Unfortunately post-operative complications followed and Robertson died on 22-11-1954 at the age of 66 years.

He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia Section 2, Site: 4798-2. His honorary pallbearers were his West Point Classmates: Stephen J. Chamberlin, Roscoe C. Crawford, Wade H. Haislip, Robert M. Littlejohn and Sidney P. Spalding. Robertson’s wife, Lorene Crebs (1891-1964) is buried beside him

 

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