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Water In My Veins

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Water In My Veins: The Pauper Who Helped Save A President
  • by LCDR Ted Robinson, USNR, XO, PT 118, Ron 6
    • Merriam Press World War 2 Memoir
      • First Edition 2008
      • 466 6×9 inch pages
      • 68 photos
      • 3 maps
  • Ted passed away on October 26, 2015. He was 96.
As the Radar Officer of the lead boat in the attack, standing next to LT Brandingham, the CO of the entire attack, LCDR Ted Robinson is probably the best still-living person to know what happened that fateful night of August 1-2, 1943 when JFK's boat was rammed by a Japanese destroyer. He was also one of some 12 men that went in on the boat that rescued him, and was the first to talk to JFK and his crew as to what happened during and after the ramming. A month later Robinson lost his boat and was to spend over a month with JFK alone in a tent when both were recovering. There he learned first-hand JFK's version of it all.
     The rest of Robinson's roller coaster ride through life is equally fascinating. His being partially brought up by the descendants of Adm. Sampson and the President of the Army-Navy stores during the Roaring Twenties. His being the poorest kid that ever went to Duke. His terrifying rescue of an Army group trapped behind enemy lines while Captain of an LST late in the war. Also his experiences while being the first American Naval vessel to be in drydock at Yokosuka Naval Base immediately after the end of the war while totally surrounded by recently damaged enemy ships. This, after surviving the greatest typhoon in history at Okinawa.
     Also, not to be missed, is his amazing experiences while on the major speakers circuit giving hundreds of speeches as Director of possibly the largest Executive Speakers Bureau in California. This is not just a military book but a history book as to what it was like winding one's way from the bottom of the heap to the top through the Twentieth Century.

  • ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: And why I wrote this book.
  • Chapter 1. THE READY BOAT: How am I going to get out of this mess? Just an example of what World War II was like. March 5, 1943.
  • Chapter 2. MY FOREBEARS WERE AN ADVENTUROUS LOT: Linked to the sea, some of their water must have passed into my veins. 1640 to 1889.
  • Chapter 3. THE LAMPLIGHTER
  • Chapter 4. GIVIN’ BEATS GITTEN’ EVERY TIME: Grandpa Oelkers and the Great Depression. 1859 to 1948.
  • Chapter 5. “POOR FISH” AUNT ABBY: And the little seafaring town of Thomaston, Maine. 1924 to 1938.
  • Chapter 6. UNCLE FRANK—THE ODD DUCK: The eccentric millionaire and his grounded yacht. 1925 to 1955.
  • Chapter 8. MY DREAM DISAPPEARS: My surrogate Navy family, the Scotts. 1925 to 1944.
  • Chapter 9. MY DUKE DAZE or THE PHANTOM OF THE CAMPUS: College life in the South. 1936 to 1940.
  • Chapter 10. GINNY WRAY—MY LITTLE RAY OF SUNSHINE: My collage sweetheart. 1938 to 1940.
  • Chapter 11. I JOIN THE NAVY TO SEE THE WORLD: Midshipman’s School to Guadalcanal via Panama. January 2, 1942 to February 1943.
  • Chapter 12. WELCOME TO MY WAR: PT Boats at Tulagi, Solomon Islands, South Pacific. February to May 1943.
  • Chapter 13. RESPITE IN THE RUSSELS: The old plantations house to Condition Black. June 1943 to July 1943.
  • Chapter 14. JFK AND PT 109—AN EYE WITNESS ACCOUNT: The ramming and rescue of JFK. August 1, 1943 to August 7, 1943.
  • Chapter 15. JFK AS MY TENTMATE: What he was like as a young Naval Officer. September 7, 1943 to October 15, 1943.
  • Chapter 16. THIRTY-EIGHT DAYS OF SHEER TERROR: The Munda campaign and how we eventually lost PT 118. August 1, 1943 to September 7, 1943.
  • Chapter 17. SAFARI ROBINSON BECOMES AN EXPEDITER: From Lever Harbor to steeling reefer boxes on Guadalcanal. October 15, 1943 to February 15, 1944.
  • Chapter 18. LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL: I return to Newport. Then on to Amphibious Base in Maryland. February 15, 1944 to November 6, 1944.
  • Chapter 19. CAMP BRADFORD AND BOSTON: I train for and become Captain of LST 1062. November 7, 1944 to March 1945.
  • Chapter 20. OFF TO WAR AGAIN: This time on a Large Slow Target. Norfolk to Panama to Hawaii to Seattle to Saipan to Okinawa. March 1945 to June 1945.
  • Chapter 21. THE RESCUE: An act of uncommon valor saves my ship during a typhoon under fire at Okinawa. July 1945.
  • Chapter 22. THE MATTHEW PERRY OF WORLD WAR II: My long journey from hate to love of the Japanese people. September 1945.
  • Chapter 23. HOME AGAIN—THIS TIME FOR GOOD: Tokyo, Biak, Saipan, Los Angeles, New York & Newport. October 1945 to January 16, 1946.
  • Chapter 24. TRAVAILS AND TRIUMPHS ON THE WAY TO BECOMING A SPEAKER: From Santa Claus in Kindergarten to speaking in place of Governor Reagan. 1925 to the present.
  • Chapter 25. BECAUSE OF JFK I BECOME A MINI-CELEBRITY: Victories and vicissitudes on the major speakers circuit. 1963 to the present.
  • EPILOGUE: Thanking those who helped me through life.

Local World War II Vet Donates Famous Kennedy photo
The Smithsonian Institution has more than 137 million artifacts in its collection. Soon the museum will add a priceless and famous picture of a future president, leaning on a cane. Watch an interview with the ABC TV affiliate in Sacramento, California, with the author concerning his donating the cane JFK used in a famous photo which the author took during the war, as well as the original print of the photo and the camera he used to take the photo.
Reviews and Testimonials

Commander Robinson’s memoir, Water in My Veins, is a first-person telling of military naval history of the 20th Century. His account rooming with a young Lt. John F. Kennedy in the Pacific Theater is especially interesting. Commander Robinson’s experiences led us to request him as a guest speaker at the California State Military Museum, which then led to us constructing an exhibit dedicated to those military experiences. Water in My Veins is well worth reading, not only for the military analyst or historian, but also for the general reader. Highly recommended.
—MG Donald E. Mattson (Ret), Chief of Military History, State of California
The irrepressible young man who fought his way out of poverty to graduate from Duke University applied the same determination to fighting the Japanese with a small band of brothers that included a future Supreme Court Justice and a future President. One of the youngest commanding officers in the Navy, Lieutenant Commander Ted Robinson saw combat first in PT boat squadrons of the South Pacific, then took delivery of a new LST in Boston and steamed it immediately to harm’s way at Okinawa. The lessons of leadership in intense combat, often against overwhelming odds of survival, led me to seek out this gentleman, now a community leader in Sacramento, to help train all prospective commanding officers of the Naval Reserve. His ability to articulate the reality of making the toughest calls, the ethical dilemmas, and the need to balance the inevitable sacrifices, were the high point of every training program. We have all encouraged and awaited this book from a very modest, but very genuine American hero.
—Captain Bruce J. Janigian, JAGC, USNR (Ret)
Ted Robinson puts into perspective how a few dedicated volunteers fought against enormous odds during the early days of the conflict with Japan. They, along with the Marines on Guadalcanal, are “True Heroes”. Their courage and sacrifice helped stem the tide in the South Pacific. Our Nation owes them a debt of gratitude.
—Al Leidy, LtCol, USMC (Ret.)
This smashing book is a must read for American history buffs. Starting with the author’s family’s arrival in America in 1640, it takes us through the roaring Twenties, to the Great Depression, where they lived in appalling poverty, to World War II, where Ted took part in the rescue of President Kennedy and became his tentmate. Following the war Ted became the head of the largest speakers bureau in California and an executive speech writer, giving hundreds of speeches throughout the state, some in place of Governor Reagan. His rapid, humorous way of speaking is reflected in his writing, making it a fascinating read of what it was like to grow up in the 20th Century. This book is living history of the long journey of a nobody who became a somebody the American way.
—Dart Winship, President, Sacramento Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution
Ted’s story of his family’s struggle to survive the Great Depression is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. This was a generation that persevered through both that Depression and World War II. The incredible “grit” of urban Americans during those times should be read by those of the present generation. You will never forget Ted’s grandfather in the stories Ted shares. He will live forever in your heart. Don’t miss this book and Ted’s rollercoaster ride through the 20th Century.
—Illa Collin, Past Chairwoman, Sacramento County Board of Supervisors
Raised by his widowed, desperate mother and his immigrant, poor, stone-deaf, lame, old grandfather, the author relates what it was like growing up during the Great Depression, including heartwarming remembrances of relatives and friends who stepped forward to save them. How they helped shape the author’s life, and prepared him to face the horrors of World War II. A must read, not just for war buffs, but for every woman in America. After reading this you will believe that in the U.S.A., anything is possible. Even a pauper saving a president!
—Leah LeBaron Frey, Past President, American Association of University Women
Ted was an enthusiastic volunteer for the Sacramento Tree Foundation when I was President. When we became friends, I found myself fascinated by his stories. We recorded them for his children and I encouraged him to write a book so they could be shared with the world. Don’t miss this book!
—Linda Orlich, Past President, Sacramento Tree Foundation
Ted Robinson is arguably the most fascinating person and vivid storyteller that I have interviewed in 30 years as a television journalist. Ted’s recollections of growing up in the Great Depression, rescuing John F. Kennedy after the PT 109 incident, and other triumphs and tragedies in World War II, are history brought to life by a man who not only witnessed but survived these dramatic events. Thank you, Ted, for this priceless contribution to the historical record.
—Dale Schornack, TV News Anchor/Reporter, Sacramento, California

LOVED this book! It was given to me by a friend who knows LCDR Robinson and I am hoping to get to meet him really soon as we both live in Sacramento. Thank you for publishing this very important book! As one with a history degree I am just so impressed by the personal history it provides of not only the Guadalcanal campaign from the PT Boat perspective, but also of one person’s experiences in the Depression and, obviously, of JFK. Wonderful!
Scott Braithwaite

By now, almost everyone is familiar with the wartime saga of Lieutenant (j.g.) John F. Kennedy and PT-109—how, in the roiling waters around Guadalcanal, Kennedy's boat was rammed by a Japanese destroyer and how the young officer, in spite of his own injuries, continually rescued members of his crew.
     Now comes an excellent memoir by Ted Robinson, possibly the last living Navy officer who personally knew the man who would go on to become the 35th President of the United States. Growing up in a poverty-stricken family in New York during the Great Depression, Robinson went on to graduate from Duke University and joined the Navy a few months before Pearl Harbor to "see the world." Little did he know the fate that awaited him.
     As a young officer assigned to a PT boat squadron, Ensign Robinson eventually wound up in the Pacific and at a base on the island of Tulagi, near Guadalcanal in the Solomons. When the "Tokyo Express," a convoy of Japanese warships full of reinforcements, came roaring down The Slot on the night of August 1, 1943, the PT boats were sent out to intercept them. Robinson's boat, PT-159, was one of those involved in the harrowing action. In the melee, Kennedy's boat was smashed and the survivors dumped into the water.
     Robinson was on one of the two PT boats that went out to search for and rescue Kennedy and his crew in the days after the attack, and was the person to whom the natives delivered the famous coconut on which Kennedy had carved the news that he and 10 other crewmen of PT-109 were still alive. Ensign Robinson was also involved in the operation to pick up Kennedy and the other survivors from their island hideout and bring them back to safety.
     While there is much more to be said about this book, suffice it to say that Water in My Veins is a very entertaining read.
—WWII History, December 2009

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