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They Also Served

Irwin "Rocky" Robinson earned his nickname as an amateur boxer. Robinson was a shipping clerk when he enlisted in the Coast Guard—sweet-talked into that branch by a clever recruiter who saw him standing in a long line to join the Navy. Robinson became a Pharmacist’s Mate aboard the convoy’s lead ship, which had the only doctor for miles and miles. Their patients included a German prisoner with whom the Jewish Robinson was able to communicate in Yiddish. He saw action in North Africa, where he attended services in a historic temple during the High Holy Days; in Sicily; and in the Pacific, where he and his comrades dodged Japanese kamikaze fighter pilots.

Setting the course to victory with the U.S. Coast Guard. 1942. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZC4-2513 (color film copy transparency); Call No.: POS - WWII - US .J26 (C size) [P&P]. Catalog Record: (on right) with friend on board ship, Ethel, Scotland. 1944. Charles Jesse Phillips Collection. Veterans History Project. Reproduction Information: Not available for reproduction.

Merchant Mariner William Chambers was 18 years old when he entered the Pennsylvania State Nautical School in October 1939, shortly after World War II broke out in Europe. Chambers was en route to Hawaii on a cargo ship when his captain announced news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He recalled many dangerous journeys during his career, none worse than a 1942 trip to Russia, during which his flotilla lost three ships to torpedoes or mines. At the war’s end, he was still at sea, carrying supplies for the invasion of Japan.

These are just a few stories from "They Also Served," a website feature from the Veterans History Project (VHP) that comprises a dozen first-person accounts of those who went to sea to transport troops, deliver vital supplies, protect our shores, and patrol enemy waters.

“They Also Served” is part of VHP’s ongoing “Experiencing War” series, which chronicles Americans in conflict using firsthand accounts and narratives.

Commissioned by Congress to collect and preserve the recollections of Americans who served during wartime, the VHP relies on volunteers to interview veterans and submit their recollections, along with letters, photographs, memoirs and other documents, to the Library of Congress to be archived and shared with future generations.