Wolfe, Robert E.

Robert E. Wolfe U.S. Navy WWII
Robert E. Wolfe U.S. Navy WWII

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Date of Birth: 9/4/1923
Died On: 12/20/2004
Street Address: 203 Oakland Beach Avenue
Service Number: 223-95-16
Branch of Service: U.S. Navy-WWII

Veteran Code: USN-296

BIOGRAPHY Extended Information
Robert E. Wolfe

Robert E. Wolfe was born in New York on September 4th, 1923. In Rye his family lived at 203 Oakland Beach Avenue and were members of the Presbyterian Church. Robert’s family consisted of his father Howard, his mother Margaret, his 3 sisters Gronne, Nancy, Beulah, and his brother David. Robert’s father had a high school education, and worked as a salesman. Robert’s mother had a 8th grade education, and was a homemaker.

Robert was supposed to be a member of the Rye High School class of 1941. However he decided to enlist in the US Navy in November of 1940. We know Robert was serving on the USS Gwin (DD-433) from it's Muster Roll of January 15th 1941.

USS Gwin (DD-433), was a Gleaves-class destroyer. The destroyer was commissioned at Boston on 15 January 1941, Lt.Comdr. J. M. Higgins in command.

In it's 30 months of service the USS Gwin would participate in some of the fiercest Naval battles in history. Robert E. Wolfe, not yet 20 years old, would bear witness to the following.

On 3 April 1942 Gwin stood out of San Francisco Bay as a unit of the escort for the aircraft carrier Hornet, which carried 16 Army B-25 bombers to be launched in a bombing raid on Tokyo. Admiral William F. Halsey in carrier Enterprise rendezvoused with the task force off Midway, and General Jimmy Doolittle's famed raiders launched the morning of 18 April when some 600 miles east of Tokyo.

During the Battle of Midway Robert would witness the sinking of the carrier USS Yorktown and the destroyer USS Hammann. The Gwin carried 102 survivors of the two ships to Pearl Harbor, arriving 10 June 1942. During the three day battle the U. S. lost one carrier, 145 planes and 307 men. Japan lost four aircraft carriers, a heavy cruiser, 291 planes and 4,800 men, according to the U. S. Navy and to an account by former Japanese naval officers. The Battle of Midway put Japan on the defensive, greatly diminishing its ability to project air power as it had in the attack on Hawaii.

On 13 November 1942, Gwin and three other destroyers formed with battleships South Dakota and Washington to intercept an enemy bombardment–transport force approaching the Solomons. The following night the task group found the enemy off Savo Island: the battleship Kirishima, four cruisers, 11 destroyers, and four transports, The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal was intensely fought. Gwin found herself in a gun duel between the light cruiser Nagara and two Japanese destroyers (Ayanami and Uranami), versus the four American destroyers. She took a shell hit in her engine room. Another shell struck her fantail and enemy torpedoes began to boil around the destroyers.The Gwin survived the battle and returned to Pearl harbor for repairs.

In a Rye Chronicle article 'Thank You Letters" From Rye Service Men For Christmas Box published 12/25/1943 Robert wrote:

"Hello Everybody: (From U. S. S. Gwin in the Pacific) How are things in Rye? I sure would like to see the old home town again. Your package arrived safely and I want you to know I appreciate it very much. It really helps the morale of the men and makes them feel a lot better when they know that they are being thought of. I hope some day I can make up to you for your kindness. Hope you can read this scrawl; maybe if I had paid more attention in school I could have done better. Your faithful friend ROBERT E. WOLFE"

Having been overhauled, Gwin returned to the Southwest Pacific on 7 April 1943 to escort troop reinforcements and supplies throughout the Solomons. On 30 June she served with the massive amphibious assault force converging to begin what would become The New Georgia Campaign under the leadership of Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner. She supported the landings of 30 June on the north coast of Rendova Island, 5 miles (8.0 km) across Blanche Channel from Munda. Immediately after the first wave of troops hit Rendova Beach, Munda Island shore batteries opened fire on the four destroyers patrolling Blanche Channel. Gwin was straddled by the first salvo. A moment later a shell exploded on her main deck aft, killing three men, wounding seven and stopping her after engine. The half-dozen enemy shore batteries were soon silenced as Gwin laid down an effective heavy smoke screen to protect the unloading transports. When aerial raiders appeared, her gunners shot down three. Rendova Island was soon in American possession. It served as an important motor torpedo boat base to harass Japanese barge lines and a base for air support in the Solomons.

Gwin escorted a reinforcement echelon from Guadalcanal to Rendova, then raced to the "Slot" 7 July to rescue 87 survivors of cruiser Helena, lost in the Battle of Kula Gulf. She then joined a cruiser–destroyer task force under Rear Admiral Walden L. Ainsworth to head off a formidable "Tokyo Express" force headed through the Solomon Islands to land troops at Vila. The Battle of Kolombangara was joined in the early hours of 13 July and Japanese light cruiser Jintsu quickly slid to the bottom, the victim of smothering gunfire and torpedo hits. However, four Japanese destroyers, waiting for a calculated moment when Ainsworth's formation would turn, launched 31 torpedoes at the American formation. His flagship, Honolulu, cruiser St. Louis and Gwin, maneuvering to bring their main batteries to bear on the enemy, turned right into the path of the "long lance" torpedoes. Both cruisers received damaging hits but survived. Gwin received a torpedo hit amidships in her engine room and exploded. The destroyer Ralph Talbot took off Gwin's crew after their damage control efforts failed and she had to be scuttled. Two officers and 59 men perished with the destroyer.

Gwin received five battle stars for service in World War II

Robert would survive the sinking of the Gwin and see his 20th birthday. He would continue his Naval Service throughout the duration of the war, including the Battle of Leyte Gulf and the Battle of Okinawa aboard the USS Cassin Young. For her determined service and gallantry in the Okinawa radar picket line she was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation. Robert was still receiving citations as late as February 1947, a Rye Chonicle article Feb. 28, 1947 reads:

Robert E. Wolfe Cited For Heroism at Okinawa

"Cited for outstanding heroism in action against the Japanese in the Okinawa campaign, Robert Edson Wolfe, a former boatswain's mate, first class in the Navy, has received the Navy unit commendation for distinguished service. The Rye man served on the USS Cassin Young (DD-793) and the citation was based on his courageous conduct from March to August, 1945, in the conquest of Okinawa. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Howard Wolfe of 2 Riverside View."

Returning to Rye, Robert became involved in many significant activities. He was Chief of the Fire Department, Sunday School Teacher and President of the Rye Babe Ruth League and much more. He moved to Bushkill, PA and Robert was Chief of the Bushkill Fire Department and was instrumental in acquiring new equipment and a new facility for the Department.

Robert E. Wolfe, formerly of Rye, NY, passed away peacefully at his home in East Stroudsburg, PA. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife, Ann Smith Wolfe. In addition to his wife, he was survived by five children: Judy Nelson of Norwalk, CT; Carol O'Hara of Syracuse, NY; Robert E. Wolfe, II of Denver, CO; Ronald Guistino of Easton, PA and Bill Wolfe of Norwalk, CT; eight grandchildren: Sara Nelson, Caitlin and Brianna O'Hara; Taryn and Lauren Guistino; Sean, Alex and Ryan Wolfe; two sisters: Beulah ''Boots'' Sherwood of Williamstown, NJ and Nancy Schindo of York, PA. He was preceded in death by his parents: Howard and Margaret Wolfe and sister, Yvonne and brother, David. Peace Be With You, You Will Be Missed.

Austin Harvey
RHS 2021

Sources: Wikipedia, The Journal News Feb. 12, 2005, Rye Chronicle, 1940 US Census, US Navy Muster Rolls, Ancestry.com.

Links to this Veterans History

  0 of 0 people found the following review helpful:
5 of 5 Robert E. Wolfe April 18, 2023
Reviewer: Judy Nelson from [email protected]  
While our Dad often talked about his service, this article has definitely brought light to his service.  I am in awe of his dedication and service to our country.  He is definitely my hero.  Plus he was a great Dad and loved by many.  My heartfelt thanks to the person who put this article together.

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