Nobody in Bob’s hometown called him “Little Bob.” That would’ve been foolhardy, since children and adults called him Toughie. The name “Little Bob” would come later. He was small in stature, but solid, shrewd and determined to win.
At age 21, with a new bride to support, Bob was not amused when the military drafted him. Always a fighter, he did his best to talk Uncle Sam out of it. But soon he was on his way to Korea. Assigned to an armored division with another guy named Bob, the sergeant took one look at the two of them and Toughie became “Little Bob.” The other guy lucked out and was known simply as Bob.
Little Bob’s reluctance to be there never changed. But like many men of his generation, as long as he was there, he’d handle every task to the best of his ability, and more. What he didn’t know, he figured out. But when they told him he was assigned to be a tank driver, he drew the line. Tank drivers were known to have short lives, and Little Bob had a bride waiting for him back home. He politely said “no thanks.”
The answer from above was less polite. “Drive the tank and we’ll make you a corporal. Don’t drive the tank, and we’ll send you back to the States, in chains, to Ft. Leavenworth.”
With no real choice, Little Bob soon became a tank commander, assigned to a General Patton tank which he dubbed, “Rambler.”
Back then, the general would fly above the tanks in helicopters and issue orders by radio to the ground. Once, when the fighting was intense, Little Bob and his men remained in the field for three straight days, without relief. He begged the general to pull them out of the battle and let them sleep.
“Do one more maneuver, Little Bob, then you all can have six hours of uninterrupted rest,” the general said.
Finally, with the maneuver complete, it was time to sleep, and every man slept hard. For one hour. Then came that infernal voice from above,
“Little Bob, Little Bob. Get up. I need you and your men to go back out.”
Reminding the general of his promise, he asked “Why don’t you ask the other Bob to do it?”
The reply, “Because I know when I ask you, you’ll get the job done. I can always depend on you to do it.” And he did.
Always able to figure out a problem, when he and a company of men were trapped inside a ravine under heavy fire, he knew they were all as good as dead. So he took a chance, driving the tank like he’d driven a tractor back home. He backed up, plowed down the embankment, then turned the tank around and hit the wall running at full throttle. The tank reared up in the air at a 90 degree angle, which according to the law of gravity should’ve caused it to topple back into the ravine. But it didn’t.
Later Little Bob’s younger brother would tell how, that same night, their mother was startled awake. She woke up their dad, saying, “Bobby’s in trouble! We have to pray for him.” The tank didn’t make it out of the ravine in one piece, but thanks to his quick thinking and the prayers of his parents, Little Bob and his men did.
For his service to the country, Little Bob was awarded two bronze stars and the United Nations Service medal. Eventually, he made it home to his bride. They had three children, and with the same determination he’d applied in battle, he went on to achieve enormous financial success in real estate development. I doubt he was ever called Little Bob again. To my sisters and to me, he was Uncle Bob.
We kids never knew about his war record or the medals he was awarded. He didn’t talk about it. At family gatherings he’d sit quietly and listen while everyone else chattered endlessly. Maybe he was thinking of his next big project or maybe he was remembering the battlefields in Korea. It wasn’t until he died in 2011 and was buried with full military honors that we heard the stories and learned of the medals.
That’s what men of his generation did. When there was a job to do, they did it their best, even if it meant driving a tank like a tractor through heavy enemy fire. Like so many of his fellow soldiers, he risked his life for his country, multiple times, because the job was there and someone had to do it.
Uncle Bob was small in height, but big in spirit. As the song goes, “little becomes much in the Master’s hands.” On Memorial Day, may God bless all the Little Bobs and the plain old Bobs who fought and those who are still fighting to make us safer.
We owe you.
Teresa Ambord is a former accountant and Enrolled Agent with the IRS. Now she writes full time from her home, mostly for business, and about family when the inspiration strikes.