Robert Halperin

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Robert Sherman Halperin
BornJanuary 26, 1908
DiedMay 8, 1985(1985-05-08) (aged 77)
Resting placeArlington National Cemetery
Other namesNicknamed "Bob", and "Buck"
Alma materUniversity of Notre Dame and
University of Wisconsin
  • NFL football player
  • US Navy Lieutenant Commander
  • CEO (Commercial Light Co.)
Known for
Children3 sons
Robert Halperin
Medal record
Men's sailing
Representing  United States
Olympic Games
Bronze medal – third place 1960 Rome Star
Pan American Games
Gold medal – first place 1963 Sao Paulo Star

Robert Sherman "Bob" Halperin (January 26, 1908 – May 8, 1985), nicknamed "Buck", was an American Star class sailor, and Olympic bronze medalist and Pan American Games gold medalist.[1][2] He was also a college and National Football League (NFL) football quarterback, one of Chicago's most-decorated World War II heroes, co-founder of Lands' End, and chairman of Commercial Light Company.

Early and personal life[edit]

Halperin was born in Chicago, Illinois, and was Jewish.[1][3][4][5][6][7][8] His father, Aaron, immigrated to the United States from Kiev in the 1890s, and died in 1964.[2][5][9] His mother, Julia, died in 1976.[10]

He and his wife Margaret Stralka raised three sons, Thomas, Patrick and Daniel, the latter was Robert's biological son.[2] He lived in the Near North Side of Chicago, and Palm Springs, California.[2]

Football career[edit]

In high school, he played football for Oak Park High School. He was also captain of the football team.[11][12][13]

In college, Halperin first played football for Notre Dame, as a quarterback under legendary coach Knute Rockne. He then played football for the University of Wisconsin, from which he graduated in 1932.[2][4][14][15][16][17]

After graduating college, in 1932 he played professional football as a quarterback for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the National Football League, under coach Benny Friedman.[2][5][16][18] He later coached football at St. Patrick High School.[2][19]

Navy career[edit]

Halperin was one of Chicago`s most decorated sailors in World War II.[2][16]

He joined the United States Navy on March 19, 1942, ultimately rising to the level of lieutenant commander.[16][18][20] He trained first under boxer Gene Tunney, and then in a top-secret program in 1942 at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek in Little Creek, Virginia, along with fellow NFL football players Phil Bucklew and John Tripson and seven others who made up the first class of what became known as the Navy Scouts & Raiders, a predecessor of the Navy Seals.[15][21][22] The three former NFL players were among 1,000 NFL players who served in the military for the U.S. during World War II.[23] The job of the trainees was to locate designated landing beaches at night for amphibious landings, note any obstacles, and guide the attacking troops and their landing craft.[21]

War correspondent William H. Stoneman wrote of Halperin, "His job is to mark beaches for the assault, infantry, a daring, intricate job, calling for as much brain as courage, and barrels of both."[5] He was in charge of 14 scout boats, the first to arrive in France in the Normandy landings.[2] Halperin saw action in Sicily, Italy, Europe (including during D-Day), North Africa, and the Pacific.[2][5]

He was decorated for gallantry with the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, and two Bronze Stars, as well as the highest honor[clarification needed] of the Nationalist Chinese government.[4][16][18][24]

In the North Africa invasion in November 1942, he sailed his scout ship from seven miles off-shore in complete darkness to French Morocco, located and marked landing beaches with landing signals, guided assault troops to their targets while being strafed by enemy planes, and became the first American in the invasion to capture two of the enemy when he personally captured two officers.[2][16][25][26] In recognition of his efforts, including his extraordinary heroism, skill, courage, and fearless devotion to duty, he received a presidential citation and the Navy Cross.[2]

He was promoted to lieutenant commander for his actions in the assault on Scoglitti on the southeastern coast of Sicily in July–August 1943.[2][16][27]

During the Normandy Invasion of the Cherbourg Peninsula, in June 1944 he guided the first two waves of assault troops to the assault beaches, against entrenched strong opposition, and saved two men from drowning.[16] The Chicago Tribune notes he was "one of the first Americans to go ashore in France—perhaps, the first—on D-Day."[2] For his exceptionally meritorious performance of duty, and his "cool judgment and unusual ability", he was awarded a Bronze Star.[16]

He was commanding officer of U.S. Naval Unit Six, from December 1944 to September 1945, in secret guerrilla action against the Japanese behind enemy lines in Fukien Province, China.[16] During that time, his team of Americans trained 2,500 Chinese guerrillas to fight the Japanese, planned and executed operations resulting in the killing of 1,300 enemy troops and the destruction of tons of their shipping, and he assisted in the rescue of 16 U.S. fliers.[2][16] While out-numbered and facing an enemy with superior equipment, he attacked the enemy with ambushes and in pitched battles, significantly depleting their forces.[16] He was located in Chongqing, Kunming, Camp 6, Hua'an, Zhangzhou, Gulangyu, and Shanghai.[28] He was granted a Gold Medal in lieu of a second Bronze Medal, for "distinguishing himself by exceptionally meritorious conduct.[16] For distinguishing himself "by gallantry and intrepidity", he was awarded a Silver Star.[16] In addition, the Nationalist Chinese government awarded him the Yun Hui "Cloud Banner", its highest honor.[2][16]

Sailing career[edit]

Halperin, sailed for the Chicago Yacht Club and the Southern Lake Michigan Fleet.[4][14] He won the North American Star Championship in 1959.[14]

He won a bronze medal for the United States in the Star class (mixed two-person keelboat) at the 1960 Summer Olympics in the Bay of Naples in Italy, at the age of 52, together with William Parks.[29][30][31][32] Their yacht was the Shrew II.[14]

In 1963, he won a gold medal along with Richard Stearns at the Pan American Games in Sao Paulo, Brazil, sailing the Ninotchka.[1][33]

At the World Championships, the names of the crew whose yacht has the best total score are engraved on the Buck Halperin Trophy, named after him.[14]

Halperin was inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame in 1989.[34][35]

Business career[edit]

In business, Halperin became an executive of and rose to become Chairman of Commercial Light Company, a large electrical contractor and engineering business which his father had founded in 1915 and for which did electrical work in many Chicago buildings.[2][16] He became the company's President in 1959, and Chairman in the 1960s.[2] The company was involved in projects at the John Hancock Center, O'Hare International Airport, and Wrigley Field.[36]

He also started the company Lands' End, in the Spring of 1963, with fellow sailor Richard Stearns, Halperin's close friend Gary Comer, and two of Stearns' employees.[37]


Halperin died May 8, 1985, in Palm Springs, California, at the age of 77.[38][39] His body is at rest at Arlington National Cemetery with that of his wife.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Bob Wechsler (2008). Day by day in Jewish sports history. KTAV Publishing House, Inc. ISBN 978-0-88125-969-8. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Kenan Heise (May 9, 1985). "Robert Halperin, 77, War Hero, Executive". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
  3. ^ George Eisen. "Jewish Olympic Medalists". International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d "Bob Halperin Biography and Olympic Results". Archived from the original on April 18, 2020. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Jewish Youth Led Assault Boats on D-Day". The Canadian Jewish Chronicle. June 16, 1944. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
  6. ^ Peter S. Horvitz (2007). The Big Book of Jewish Sports Heroes: An Illustrated Compendium of Sports History and The 150 Greatest Jewish Sports Stars. SP Books. ISBN 978-1-56171-907-5. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
  7. ^ Paul Buhle (2007). Jews and American Popular Culture: Sports, leisure, and lifestyle. Praeger Publishers. ISBN 978-0-275-98796-1. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
  8. ^ Paul Yogi Mayer (2004). Jews and the Olympic Games; sport: a springboard for minorities. Vallentine Mitchell. ISBN 0-85303-516-4. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
  9. ^ "Obituary". Chicago Tribune. October 17, 1964. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  10. ^ "Obituary". Chicago Tribune. April 29, 1976. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  11. ^ "Numbers Issued to Badger 11". The Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal. September 23, 1929. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  12. ^ "Oak Park Frat Boys Win Back Places in School". Chicago Tribune. September 5, 1926. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  13. ^ "Education: Brothers under the Rose". TIME. May 17, 1926. Archived from the original on January 31, 2011. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  14. ^ a b c d e "Halperin, Robert "Buck"". Jews in Sports. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  15. ^ a b John B. Dwyer (1993). Scouts and Raiders: the Navy's first special warfare commandos. Praeger. ISBN 0-275-94409-3. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Howard J. Leavitt (2004). Tales of Valor. Xlibris Corporation. ISBN 1-4134-1131-2. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  17. ^ "Notre Dame Class Acts". Chicago Sun-Times. August 22, 1994. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  18. ^ a b c Mac Davis (1945). Jews fight too!. Jordon Publishing Co. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
  19. ^ "Brooklyn Gridders Sign Two Players". Los Angeles Times. November 2, 1932. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  20. ^ Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America (1944). The Jewish Veteran. Jewish War Veterans of the USA. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
  21. ^ a b Chet Cunningham (2004). The frogmen of World War II: an oral history of the U.S. Navy's underwater demolition teams. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-7434-8216-6. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  22. ^ Lieut. Earl Burton (1944). By Sea And By Land; The Story of Our Amphibious Forces. Whittlesey House, a division of the McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  23. ^ "Football and America: World War II". Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  24. ^ "Hall of Heroes: American Jewish Medal Recipients". Retrieved July 11, 2011.
  25. ^ "Pro Football Stars Run Interference for Allied Troops". The Daily Times. June 17, 1944. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  26. ^ James T. Mangan (October 30, 1943). Mills Industries at War. Billboard. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  27. ^ John Mason Brown (1943). To all hands: an amphibious adventure. Whittlesey House. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  28. ^ "Saco Men". Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  29. ^ "Bob Halperin". Archived from the original on April 18, 2020. Retrieved March 5, 2011.
  30. ^ "Olympic Games". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
  31. ^ Bernard Postal; Jesse Silver; Roy Silver (1965). Encyclopedia of Jews in Sports. Bloch Pub. Co. Retrieved July 12, 2011. robert sherman halperin.
  32. ^ "ISAF: Olympic Games: Past Editions: 1960 Rome Olympic Sailing Competition". March 16, 2010. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  33. ^ "Following the Fleet". Chicago Tribune. May 5, 1963. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  34. ^ "Chicagoland Sports Hall of Famers". Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  35. ^ "Chicago Sports Hall of Fame Members". Chicago Sun-Times. July 3, 1989. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  36. ^ "Electri International: The Foundation for Electrical Construction Inc". Archived from the original on October 5, 2011. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  37. ^ "American National Business Hall of Fame". Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  38. ^ Encyclopaedia Judaica year book. Encyclopaedia Judaica. 1986. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  39. ^ "Edmond O'Brien, 69, who won an Oscar for best supporting". Chicago Tribune. May 12, 1985. Retrieved July 12, 2011.

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