Reo Robbins photograph collection, circa 1940-1945  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

Reo Robbins
Reo Robbins photograph collection
circa 1940-1945 (inclusive)
262 photographs
Collection Number
The Reo Robbins photograph collection contains photographs of United States naval activity in the Pacific Ocean before, during, and after World War II. Included in this collection are battle scenes and photographs taken in Nagasaki after the explosion of the atomic bomb.
University of Utah Libraries, Special Collections.
Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library
University of Utah
295 South 1500 East
Salt Lake City, UT
Telephone: 801-581-8863
Access Restrictions

Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

Reo Robbins was born in Burley, Idaho 2 September 1917, the second of 3 children. At age 15 his father died and his mother remarried. His stepfather, Leonard Bramwell, moved the family to Klamath Falls, Oregon where he owned a small farm. Reo did not care for farm life and at age 18, just before graduating from High School, joined the Navy. His first ship was the USS West Virginia, on which he became a signalman. While on the West Virginia(WV), his first enlistment expired. Whether he intended to remain in the Navy or not, he was denied discharge, probably owing to the world situation at the time, and spent the next 17 years in the Navy, retiring in 1952 as a Chief Petty Officer. At one time during his service, he was offered officer candidacy but declined for personal reasons, which decision he later, though never severely, regretted, finding contentment in his existing rank and duties.

It was while he was stationed aboard the West Virginia at Pearl Harbor that the Pacific Fleet was there attacked. He escaped the sinking of the WV by climbing down the ship's mooring lines. From Pearl Harbor, he was transferred to the Mugford and, later, the Keosangua. During the years that followed, he also served on other ships, seeing action in the battle of Guadalcanal in August 1943. On one ship during the war, he narrowly escaped death when, having just gone below deck, a kamikaze plane or a bomb struck the ship. He spoke once of seeing men floating, alive, in the ocean, many of whom died as soon as they were raised from the water, from the shock of air touching their wounds. In the years following the war, he spoke of his experiences only with a degree of reluctance, often commenting that he'd lost a number of friends during his service. He was, at times, a boot camp instructor and navigator, but always preferred his role as signalman.

While stationed in Long Beach, California in 1944, he met Rosemary Worthington, then in the Women's Army Corp. They married 5 January 1945 in Long Beach. They had two daughters and a son; all born while Reo was still serving in the Navy.

Retiring with a medical discharge in 1952 after serving in the Korean War, Reo moved to Hayward, California and, later, Fremont. There he lived with his wife and children until 1966, when the family moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he died 20 September 1983. The only regret he expressed at that time was that he had wanted to attend a reunion that year of the crewmembers of the USS West Virginia, which his final illness had made impossible.

Biography provided by Reo Robbins' son.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The photos in this collection were taken onboard a ship in China, San Francisco and the South Pacific before, during and after World War II.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Collection is arranged by topic.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Reo Robbins.

Processing Note

Processed by Mary Ann Curtis in 2004.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Reo Robbins activities, US Navy service, WWIIReturn to Top

Container(s): Box 1

Container(s) Description Dates
Unidentified Movie Stills
Photograph number 1-3: Making training filmPhotograph number 4: Film Crew working on board an Unidentified ship.Photograph number 5-7: Unknown movie set
Photograph number 1: Unidentified.Photograph number 2: Reo Robbins on board shipPhotograph number 3: Reo Robbins on board ship (apparently showing Chinese sandals; makes it post-WWII)Photograph number 4 UnidentifiedPhotograph number 5: Reo Robbins (left, with brother Jack Robbins, center and unknown man circa 50s)Photograph number 6: EquipmentPhotograph number 7: Reo Robbins on board ship unpacking crate. Possibly while serving aboard the repair ship.Photograph number 8: Reo Robbins on board ship in front of disassembled petroleum meter.Photograph number 9: Reo Robbins on board ship with disassembled petroleum meter. This is a "birotor" meter, manufactured by Ralph M. Brodie Co. of San Leandro, California. Years later Robbins worked for this company.Photograph number 10: Unidentified postcard
Photograph number 1-17: Naval shore leave at Unidentified port. Possibly Hong Kong, ChinaPhotograph number 18: China, rickshaw.Photograph number 19-21: Naval shore leave in ChinaPhotograph number 22: China, possibly a Navy vaccination clinicPhotograph number 23: Naval shore leave in China.Photograph number 24: Reo Robbins, in Rowboat (center)Photograph number 25: Naval shore leave in ChinaPhotograph number 26-27: U.S. sailors in ChinaPhotograph number 28-54: Naval shore leave in ChinaPhotograph number 55: Reo Robbins in China on shore leavePhotograph number 56-64: Naval shore leave in China.Photograph number 65-68: Possibly Pearl Harbor, approaching from highway in hills above.Photograph number 69-70: Unidentified Oriental CityPhotograph number 71: Illustrated tourist packet of images of the Panama Canal
World War II, Japan and Nagasaki
Photograph number 1-2: Artifacts from NagasakiPhotograph number 3-12: Official Army images of the aftermath of the two atomic explosions. Included are various small melted bottles stopped clocks, destroyed buildings, destroyed Mitsubishi factory, and general survey of cities.
Shipboard Scenes
Photograph number 1-18: Seemingly an initiation, possibly in observance of crossing the Equator (this was called "the Order of Neptune" and a certificate was given).Photograph number 19-24: A few images of unidentified ancient city in Italy.Photograph number 25-31: Candid images of life on a Navy ship, mostly on-deck and cities visited.Photograph number 32: Possibly a view of Nagasaki from a bus.Photograph number 33-45: Candid images of life on a Navy ship, mostly on-deck and cities visited.
World War II, Pacific War ships
Photograph number 1-11: Interesting views of a variety of ships, near land and at sea.Photograph number 12: Reo RobbinsPhotograph number 13-27: Interesting views of a variety of ships, near land and at sea.
Pre-World War II, Shipboard Scenery
Photograph number 1-4: On board ship near San Francisco.Photograph number 5: Shipyard, San Francisco?Photograph number 6: Golden Gate Bridge, under construction, circa 1937.Photograph number 7: Rowboat, USS West VirginaPhotograph number 8-11: On board ship near San Francisco.Photograph number 12: Reo Robbins, with sidearm (left).Photograph number 13: On board ship near San Francisco.Photograph number 14: Golden Gate Bridge under construction, circa 1937.Photograph number 15: Alcatraz, San Francisco Bay.Photograph number 16-17: On board ship near San Francisco.Photograph number 18: Golden Gate Bridge under construction, circa 1937Photograph number 19: Almost certainly the approach to Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay (a man-made island built for a world's fair).Photograph number 20: On board ship near San Francisco.Photograph number 21: Golden Gate Bridge under construction, circa 1937.
World War II, Pacific Action Shots
Photograph number 1-27: Original photographs of battle at sea involving Japanese air forces and U.S. Naval forces. Identified by Robbins daughter as the battle of Guadalcanal.
Photograph number 1-38: Tourist images of the U.S. Naval base and surrounding areas in Hawaii.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Atomic bomb victims--Japan--Nagasaki--Photographs
  • World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Pacific Ocean--Photographs

Corporate Names

  • United States--Navy--History--World War, 1939-1945--Photographs

Form or Genre Terms

  • Photographic prints--1942-1946