View Full Version : Spirited Marine played key roles on Guam, Iwo

07-12-04, 10:02 AM
Issue Date: July 12, 2004

The Lore of the Corps
Spirited Marine played key roles on Guam, Iwo

By Robert F. Dorr
Special to the Times

Gen. Ray A. “Torchy” Robinson never was commandant, but he held almost every other important job a Marine could hold, and he fought in some of the Marine Corps’ great battles.
Robinson was an aide-de-camp to two-time Medal of Honor recipient Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler during the 1920s and was chief of staff for the 3rd Marine Division during the assault on Iwo Jima in February 1945.

Family members recall Robinson as a “crack shot” who enjoyed duck hunting, and they recall him as a relentless Marine with a temper. In an oral history prepared for the Corps, Robinson said he was “madder than hell” when a Honolulu newspaper published a story that may have revealed details of the Iwo Jima invasion while it was still being planned.

Born in 1896 in California, Robinson attended the University of Southern California before enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1917.

He did not see combat during World War I, but he served as an aide to Butler in France. He later said they lived in a house that had once belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte.

He served in various assignments in the Corps during the lean years between the world wars, including a tour of duty in China. In 1929, he headed the Marine detachment that built President Hoover’s summer camp along the Rapidan River near Criglersville, Va. He also served at Pearl Harbor, though he was in Washington, D.C., when the Japanese attacked in 1941.

Robinson played a key role in planning the invasion of Guam in July 1944, which was part of a coordinated effort by U.S. forces to gain bases within striking distance of the Philippines and Japan.

Initially, at least, the fight for Guam was “the school solution of how a battle should go,” Robinson said.

Robinson is credited with much of the planning for the battle of Iwo Jima, as well. Iwo was “one hell of a place,” he remembered:

“The sands on Iwo Jima are black, at least on the side we landed on — and they are about the size of a BB shot, which is the worst possible thing you can imagine. You couldn’t dig a hole in it. It would just fill in.”

Robinson was assistant commander of the 5th Marine Division during the battle for Iwo.

“We had 152 regular officers,” he recalled. “I think the rest were reserves. But it was in fine shape. It really was a good division. It had not been in combat and I imagine that’s one reason it got so many Medals of Honor on Iwo, because you know they will go where angels fear to tread if they’ve never done it before.”

During the postwar years, Robinson again pulled duty in China and held numerous top jobs in the Corps. He was commanding general of Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic, from 1956 until his retirement in 1957. He was advanced to four-star rank on retirement, according to an official history, “by reason of having been specially commended for heroism in combat.”

Robinson died in Seattle in 1976.

Robert F. Dorr, an Air Force veteran, lives in Oakton, Va. His e-mail address is robert.f.dorr@cox.net