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Army veteran served in France during Berlin Wall Crisis

Brunswick News - 2/12/2020

Feb. 12--Today's veteran: David Robinson, 78

Born: Waterbury, Pa.

Residence: St. Marys

Service: Army, three years

Duties: Fuel and electrical repair

Rank: Specialist 4

Duty stations: France; Fort Dix, N.J.; Fort Benning; Fort Meade, Md.

His story: Timing led to David Robinson's decision to enlist in the Army.

He was one of seven children living on the family farm when he decided to enlist in the military to help his family financially.

"Poverty was the level we lived in," he said. "There was no work available."

He wanted to enlist in the Marine Corps, where a brother was serving, but the recruiter's office was closed. So, he went to the Air Force recruiter's office only to learn that office was also closed.

The Army and Navy recruiters' officers were open, which made the choice simple for a young man intent on enlisting in the military.

"I didn't like water," he said.

Robinson had dropped out of high school and was too young to enlist without his parents' permission. His parents signed the paperwork enabling him to join the Army.

He was trained in fuel and electrical repair and sent to Fort Meade, Md., where he worked on vehicles up to five tons. He spent much of his time training with rotating Army National Guard units maintaining and repairing vehicles.

During the inauguration of President John Kennedy, Robinson was part of a team assigned to ensure the president-elect made it to the

ceremony during a snowstorm.

"We were on standby, just in case," he said.

He got orders to France, just before his father died in a snowstorm. He could have requested an early discharge to help his mother manage the family farm, but she insisted he stay in the Army.

"My mother said I'd never get another chance to go to France.," he said. "'You're going,' she said."

He was stationed in a coastal area where the Germans built tunnels to hide U-boats during the war. He was put in charge of a paint shop, and later served in an office where he made sure parts were available and the work was completed.

The WWII movie "The Longest Day" was filmed while he was in France. He was on the scene for the scene of German pilots strafing the beaches.

His tour of duty was extended during the start of the Berlin Wall Crisis.

"Our job was to ship vehicles over to Berlin," he said. "All we knew was the vehicles had to get off the ships."

After the vehicles were checked by the team of mechanics, they were driven to Berlin.

At the time, Robinson said the French wanted the American

military bases out of their country.

"The Frenchmen hate Americans," he said. "It was nasty back then."

Robinson chose not to re-enlist because he didn't believe he could survive on $74 a month. But he said the Army taught him valuable lessons that have impacted his life.

"It taught me don't expect anything from anybody," he said. "You will not live if you don't work."

Our Veterans runs Wednesdays. Contact Gordon Jackson at gjackson@thebrunswicknews.com or at 912-464-7655 to suggest a veteran for a column.

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