Finding Marty Robbins in the South Pacific

Marty Robbins didn’t talk his World War II combat experience in the South Pacific. He seemed to put it behind him during his life as a country music entertainer, Nashville businessman, and NASCAR driver. Because he died in 1982 at age 57, Marty didn’t live long enough to willingly discuss that period of his life. Many veterans waited until their 70s and 80s to feel comfortable about reminiscing.

I am now writing the biography of this Country Music Hall of Fame member,and I’ll have to reconstruct those experiences without much help from him.

While transcribing tapes of Marty’s conversations with WSM Radio disc jockey, Ralph Emery, I longed to hear them discuss the Navy. But whenever Ralph brought it up, Marty cut him off.

Ralph: “What did you do in the Navy?”

Marty: “Not much, really, of anything.”

Ralph: “How about those landings in the South Pacific? You were part of those landings, weren’t you?”

Marty: “Yeah. Yeah.”

I went to the National Archives to review the logs and muster rolls of USS Crescent City (APA 21), the ship that received Martin David Robinson when he reached Noumea, New Caledonia, on 28 September 1943. The ship’s log states that “29 enlisted men reported aboard for duty with records, accounts, bag and baggage.”

On 1 November 1943 the Allied forces invaded Bougainville in the Solomon Islands. USS Crescent City landed portions of the 3rd Marines at Cape Torokina in Empress Augusta Bay. Because the records show Seaman Second Class Robinson transferred off the ship that morning to Boat Pool # 11, I know he was in the thick of the landing. In a brief comment to Ralph Emery, Marty said, “I worked on a landing craft. [My job] was to lower and then bring up the gate, what we called the ramp–you dropped it when you’d get on the beach.”

Ralph: “You ran one of these into the beach.”

Marty: “Yeah.”

Ralph: “Under fire.”

Marty: “Yeah.”

Marty’s unit stayed at Cape Torokina for some time, and then he spent 15 months at Noumea. He said, “We just kept on continuously making landings around the island. While the Navy and the Army and the Marines had gone plumb almost to the Philippines, we were still down fighting in the Solomons.” He left for the United States on 1 August 1945.

Beginning with this brief outline of Marty’s military service, I’ll continue my research to fill in the gaps. His biography will include an accurate summary of his U. S. Navy career.

2 Responses to “Finding Marty Robbins in the South Pacific”

  1. Robert Fuller Says:

    My father served on the USS Crescent City during the first part of the war including the landings at Guadacanal. There is a reunion group for the “unholy four” which consisted of the Crescent City, President Adams, President Hayes, and President Jackson. The next reunion is in Chattanooga Aug. 7-9 2008. Someone there might remember Robbins, or be able to give info on the time he served. Unfortunately my father passed in 2001 and has suffered a major stroke years prior to that and we lost the opportunity to gather much information from him.

  2. admin Says:

    Those three ships were in Transportation Division A at Torokina, along with USS George Clymer. The ships in Division B with Crescent City on 1 November 1943 were American Legion, Hunter Liggett, and Fuller. Thanks for your note! Diane

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