Robert Pfefferle Draft

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All works are currently unfinished Jimmy Hopkins Mr. Munn US History IU H106 19 May 2008

Robert Pfefferle

A Marion Hero

Robert James Pfefferle was born on April 6, 1927 in a small town named Marion. Born into a family of four, life was never easy for young Robert. (Pfefferle, Dorothy) He grew up much like a normal boy in Marion. Robert went to school, did his chores, and had fun. It wasn’t until he went to Marion High School and war broke out that Robert’s life was given direction

When the war came to America, a strong sense of patriotism and duty stirred within Robert. American soldiers had lost their lives fighting the Japanese in the Pacific and everyone wanted to show that they didn’t die in vain. By 1944, the war was hitting the US hard and the navy needed young men. But Robert had a slight problem, he was only seventeen. To solve this little dilemma, Robert needed to convince his parents to allow him to enter the navy. They agreed and they went into the navy recruitment center on August 23, 1944. He casually marched to the desk and said he was ready, willing, and able to enter into the service. (Pfefferle, Dorothy) Just days later, Robert left his school books at home, left those he loved, and marched onto the USS Tennessee as the Sixth Division Starboard Watch. (USS Tennessee 1941-1945)

The Tennessee wasn’t as new to war as Robert was. The Tennessee had seen battle as soon as the first bomb was dropped on Pearl Harbor. In the years after Pearl Harbor, the Tennessee didn’t see much action. Stationed along the Hawaiian Islands, the only action seen would’ve been on routine patrols and as the rear guard at the Battle of Midway. But in 1942, after drastic modernization, the Tennessee was sent into action to participate in the Aleutian Operation. Robert joined the ranks of the Tennessee just in time for the second cruise. (USS Tennessee 1941-1945)

Robert shipped out to his first battle at Kwajalein. The Tennessee joined the largest fleet the world had ever seen and attacked on the morning of January 31, 1944. Kwajalein, the first bit of territory hold by Japan at the outset of the war to fall into American hands, was captured after a week of fighting. Robert left the newly-won base on February 15 and headed to the next mission, Eniwetok. (USS Tennessee 1941-1945)

As the Tennessee and its company approached the lagoon at Eniwetok, it was met with no opposition. Without firing a shot, a white flag appeared on the Japanese shore. By February 21, all but one island had fallen to the Americans. The one island, Parry, was shelled the entire night. The following day, group troops were sent in to mop up the island. The Tennessee remained in the vicinity until February 22, when it headed to Majuro. (USS Tennessee 1941-1945)

Robert and the Tennessee continued their attacks on the Pacific until October 29. During that time, Kavieng, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Angaur, Leyte, and the Surigao Straight were taken from the Japanese. The Tennessee headed back to the states for a much needed leave. (USS Tennessee 1941-1945)

On February 19, 1945, Robert headed out on the Tennessee’s third cruise and sailed to Iwo Jima. The Tennessee let loose with a barrage of shells and tried to demolish the island’s camouflage. Just hours later, the gunboats quietly moved towards the island only to be attacked in a surprise comeback from the Japanese. Three of the gunships sailed to the Tennessee and unloaded their wounded. Throughout the rest of the mission, the Tennessee stayed offshore and continued its bombardment to aid the attacking marines. (USS Tennessee 1941-1945)

As Robert and his fellow navy men rested at the Ulithi Atoll they saw the largest fleet ever assembled ready itself. The trip to Okinawa would be the most dangerous mission Robert had ever faced. “You don’t walk into the Jap’s backyard without him doing something about it”, one marine had put it. The first mission of the Tennessee was to guard the minesweepers that had to check the surrounding water. Shortly after noon on March 26, the Tennessee moved into firing position. The bombardment began even as suicide bombers, boats and swimmers moved against the fleet. By April 1, the day of landing, the Japanese has retreated to a base on the southern end of the island. The six old battleships, the Tennessee, Idaho, New Mexico, West Virginia, Maryland, and Colorado, headed for action. The Japanese battleship, Yamato, had sank and her survivors had retreated back to base to deliver their report. On April 12, kamikaze planes selected the Tennessee as their target. It was said that this was when the Tennessee performed at its best. But despite the crews efforts, one plane crashed into the armor deck. Twenty-two men were killed instantly and 107 men were injured. Burial services were held at sundown. (USS Tennessee 1941-1945)

Towards the end of the war, the Robert and the Tennessee prowled the East China Sea and waited until news of the Japanese surrender was made public. The Tennessee was then told to occupy Wakayama Bay. After heading to Tokyo, the Tennessee sailed to India, Cape Town, and all the way to the East Coast to let its weary soldiers go home. (USS Tennessee 1941-1945)

After the war, Robert went back to finish school and graduate with his GED. In December 1946, he went out on his first date with Dorothy Mae Smith. (Pfefferle, Dorothy) Little did he know, a gift of roses would lead to a family and a new life. Just ten months later, Dorothy and Robert were married on October 17, 1947. (Microfilm)

Robert needed to find a way to support his new family and secure his new life. Once the war ended, Robert came back to Marion and worked at the RCA plant. (Pfefferle, Dorothy) But Robert was finally given the opportunity he needed when he went to work at the I&M Electric Company. While at I&M, Robert served as the substation foreman. (Marion City Directory 1950) Robert was able to support his new family with this job during the thirty-eight years he worked there. Robert retired in 1987 and spent the rest of his life with his family. (Pfefferle, Dorothy)

Robert and Dorothy had two daughters during their marriage. Kathleen Joanne was born in August 1953 and Roberta Ann was born on July 23, 1947. As the years went on Robert also had three grandchildren: Azure Dee, James Noble and Ashley Michelle. (Pfefferle, Dorothy)

During the latter half of the Robert had to struggle with health problems. For years Robert had been receiving treatment for his health complications. When Roberta was only eight years old, Robert had to be rushed to the hospital due to a pinched aorta. During the 80’s, Robert collapsed because of a case of arrhythmia (an irregularity in the rhythm of the heartbeat). While in the hospital, the doctors uncovered a faulty heart valve. During the surgery to insert an artificial valve, infection caused a slight complication. Years later, Robert fell and ruptured his spleen and the doctors discovered a hereditary liver condition. He was quickly flown from Marion General Hospital to Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana. But it was an aneurysm in Robert’s groin that caused his death just eight days later. The aneurysm caused Robert’s organs to shut down, one by one. (Pfefferle, Dorothy) Robert James Pfefferle passed away on June 12, 1999. (Microfilm) .


Marion City Directory 1950, R.L. Polk and Company, 1951, 431 Howard Street Detroit, Michigan. Microfilm, Book 48, page 273, Marion Public Library and Museum, accessed May 15, 2008. Pfefferle, Dorothy. Personal Interview. 18 May 2008. USS Tennessee 1941-1945, Clark Printing House Inc., 1228 Cherry Street Philadelphia, PA.