World War II hero James Robinson

By: Robert Gamboa, Board of Contributors, Waco Tribune-Herald

May 29, 2005

The Medal of Honor, America's highest award for combat valor, is awarded "for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty, in action involving actual conflict with an opposing armed force."

The deed must involve a clear risk of life.

The medal is only presented by the president and is awarded in the name of Congress.

President Harry S. Truman, himself a World War I combat veteran, once told a gathering of World War II Medal of Honor recipients: "I'd rather have this medal than be president."

Gen. George S. Patton told a man, as he placed one around the hero's neck: "I'd give my immortal soul for that medal."

Four hundred and sixty-four veterans earned the Medal of Honor in World War II — 324 in the Army, 57 in the Navy, 82 in the Marines and one in the Coast Guard.

Of that total, 266 of the medals were awarded posthumously.

That was the case with Army First Lt. James E. Robinson Jr. of Waco.

Born in Toledo, Ohio, he and his family moved to Mexia when he was 6. Two years later, they moved to Waco. He attended South Waco Elementary and South Junior High schools. He graduated from Waco High School on May 27, 1937.

Immediately after graduation, Robinson enlisted in the Army National Guard. Two years later, he would join the regular Army.

In the interim, he worked for the Waco Bone-Crow Co. as an artist and later for the former W.T. Grant Co. He had set his career goal to be a commercial artist. The impending war would ultimately alter his future.

Standing 5-11, blond-haired, blue-eyed, he was a member of the Catholic Church of the Assumption of Waco, today referred to as St. Mary's.

He married Vina Crawson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Crawson, who resided at 2119 Alexander Ave. The new couple later would celebrate a new daughter, Martha Delores.

With an increasing demand for artillery officers at the outbreak of World War II, Jimmy joined field artillery officer candidate school, where he earned his second lieutenant's bars.

Unbeknownst to them, Jimmy and Vina's final kiss would be on Christmas Day 1944, at Camp Van Dorn, Miss. There he bid his farewell to his wife and 2-year daughter.

He shipped out to the ETO (European Theater of Operations) with the 63rd Infantry Division. The final offensive against Germany lay ahead in places from Sarreguemines through the Rhineland (Siegfried Line) to Worms, Mannheim, Heidelberg, Gunzburg and Landsberg, Germany.

A month after arriving at the European theater, Robinson was in the thick of it in Saar Valley with Battery A, 861st Field Artillery Battalion.

Objective: to prevent the enemy from demolishing the bridges of the Baar-Moselle-Rhine River triangle that would play an important part in the Battle of the Saar. The Allies would fight to contain and then destroy the forces of Hitler's final offensive in the West.

Jimmy was already steeled to harsh battle conditions. He had earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

On April 6, 1945, the insanity of war was taking its final toll on the Germans. Lt. Robinson, 23, a field artillery forward observer attached to Company A, 253rd Infantry, 63rd Infantry Division had maneuvered his unit through areas of heavy artillery, mortar and machine-gun fire.

The attack was now against strong enemy positions in the vicinity of Untergriesheim.

Eight hours of fierce machine gun and mortar fire that swept the open terrain had all but decimated Company A, robbing it of its commanding officer and most of its personnel.

The only ones left were Lt. Robinson, a few uninjured riflemen and some walking wounded. Inspired by Robinson's example, his comrades advanced in the face of savage enemy fire. He fired at enemy emplacements with such devastating rifle and pistol accuracy that he killed 10 enemies and destroyed their machine guns.

Though exhausted, the soldiers got orders to seize the defended town of Kressbach. Robinson went to each of the 19 remaining survivors with cheering words, instilling courage and renewed strength. Then the little band moved forward once more.

In the advance, a shell fragment tore into his throat. Bleeding profusely, he refused medical attention. He continued to direct supporting artillery fire.

Finally, the lieutenant was unable to speak. But he and his men had succeeded in routing the enemy. The town was taken and secured.

Robinson slowly walked nearly two miles to an aid station, where he died of his wound. His Medal of Honor was awarded to his wife at a ceremony in Dallas on Dec. 22, 1945, almost a year to the day from when they shared their parting farewell.

First Lt. James E. Robinson Jr. (World War II), US Army, Battery A, 861st Field Artillery Battalion, 63rd Infantry Division, is buried in Section T, Grave 98 at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio.

Welcome Home First Lieutenant James E. Robinson Jr.

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