Jun 25 2018
WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service and sacrifice of WWII Navy veteran Robert Stroud Jr. in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.
Stroud was born in a log cabin in west Little Rock on March 5, 1919. When he was young, his family moved to North Little Rock. As an adolescent he says he was a “marble shark.” His marble shooting skills allowed him to earn enough money to buy a bicycle.
Stroud married his wife Mildred in 1942. The couple started a family and had two young daughters when he started his military service in the Navy. “It was tough. You get homesick real bad in the service,” Stroud said.
His wife came to visit him in Rhode Island where he was receiving specialized training to become a Seabee, serving in the Navy’s Construction Battalion.
While on leave, he went to New York and had the opportunity to dance with a siren of the silver screen, Bette Davis, at a USO location.
“I saw a girl giving out cookies so I walked over there and I looked at her and thought oh my gosh,” before asking Davis to dance. He recalled her saying that she didn’t think anyone would ask.
They danced to the song “Sentimental Journey” and talked about his Arkansas accent.
Before deploying to the Pacific Theater, Stroud trained in California. “They told us we were going to have six weeks of hard training and you’re going to wish you were dead every day,” Stroud said. “You know what? They were right.”
Stroud says he didn’t stay six weeks. He remembers the 3 a.m. wake-up that alerted him to his deployment overseas. He sailed aboard the USS Florence Nightingale, which came in the crosshairs of a Japanese torpedo. “I was standing on the back and saw it coming. There was nothing I could do,” Stroud recalled, describing the evasion of the torpedo thanks to the zig zagging of the ship.
The ship resupplied on the Philippines before bringing the troops to the Battle of Okinawa.
On his return trip stateside, Stroud sailed on the USS J. Franklin Bell and saved the ship and members aboard from a potential disaster when he identified a mine in the water and alerted the crew so they could turn the ship away from the explosive device. For his efforts to protect the ship, Stroud was invited to dine with the ship’s commander and he remembers the menu.
“We had porkchops,” Stroud fondly remembered “and English peas. I’ll never forget that. And I love English peas today.”
Stroud returned to Arkansas and reunited with his family including his four-month-old son. In the years that followed he and his wife had three more children and Stroud bought and ran a successful business.
“I am grateful for Robert Stroud’s dedication and service to our nation. His memories of his military service are an important part of our history and I am pleased to be able to collect and preserve his stories,” Boozman said.
Boozman submitted Stroud’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.