Southern Indiana WWII veteran set to celebrate 103rd birthday
The Evening News and the Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind. February 28, 2023
SALEM (Tribune News Service) — After the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, many people enlisted in the military to retaliate against Japan’s aggression. One of those people is Harold “Red” Robbins.
He joined the Merchant Marine and worked as a cook for his squadron. His service helped him travel to faraway places such as England, Africa, Italy and France.
Robbins was also a part of the Air Depot Group, where he was a star basketball player as well as on his squadrons’ baseball and softball teams. He was able to play an exhibition basketball game with the Harlem Globetrotters in Algiers, the capital of Algeria.
On March 10, Robbins will celebrate his 103rd birthday with a card shower. For those who would like to send Robbins a card, send it to North Woods Retirement Home, 4898 North State Road 135, Salem, IN.
During his time as a cook, Robbins had to prepare many meals for the men in his squadron and more during the holidays.
“I used to cook the turkeys during the holidays, I cooked 100,” Robbins said. “I’d cook all night to cook those 100 turkeys.”
He and the other cooks boiled the turkeys in big kettles that could hold multiple turkeys.
“They were tender and fell off the bone,” Robbins said. “We had an Italian KP (Kitchen Police), he was a good one (cook). He picked the meat all off the bone and put it in a stew and put butter all over it, it was good.”
Robbins added that this was the only way he enjoyed eating turkey — any other way is worthless to him.
He was able to go to Switzerland for two weeks during his time in the military. When he was getting ready to leave, he was told he could not bring over $20.
“You can’t take over $20 because they know the Americans spend too much money and cause inflation,” Robbins said.
As Robbins was going to Switzerland, he had to travel to Italy first. While in Italy in 1945, he said he was there when dictator Benito Mussolini was trying to escape.
“They caught him (Mussolini) and (killed) him,” Robbins said. “... (All these citizens) come and spit on him and hollered ‘Mussolini viva la viva la viva la.’”
Throughout his time in the military, he was one of the first troops to cross the Atlantic Ocean on the Queen Mary.
Now, Robbins lives at North Woods Retirement Home in Salem where he tells his stories to those who will listen.
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