Robert Sherman Halperin
|Born||January 26, 1908|
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||May 8, 1985 (aged 77)|
Palm Springs, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Arlington National Cemetery|
|Other names||Nicknamed "Bob", and "Buck"|
|Alma mater||University of Notre Dame and|
University of Wisconsin
Robert Sherman "Bob" Halperin (January 26, 1908 – May 8, 1985), nicknamed "Buck", was an American competitive Star class sailor, and Olympic bronze medalist and Pan American Games gold medalist.
Early and personal life
Halperin was born in Chicago, Illinois, and was Jewish. His father, Aaron, immigrated to the United States from Kiev in the 1890s, and died in 1964. His mother, Julia, died in 1976.
In college, Halperin first played football for Notre Dame, at quarterback under Coach Knute Rockne. He then played football for the University of Wisconsin, from which he graduated in 1932.
After graduating college, in 1932 he played professional football at quarterback for the Brooklyn Dodgers team in the National Football League, under coach Benny Friedman. He later coached football at St. Patrick High School.
He joined the U.S. Navy on March 19, 1942, when World War II started, ultimately rising to the level of lieutenant commander. 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. The three former NFL players were among 1,000 NFL players who served in the military for the U.S. during World War II. 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.
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." He was in charge of 14 scout boats, the first to arrive in France in the Normandy landings. Halperin saw action in Sicily, Italy, Europe (including during D-Day), North Africa, and the Pacific.
In the North Africa invasion in November 1942, he sailed his scout ship from seven miles off-shore in complete darkness to the shore of 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 enemy officers. 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.
He was promoted to lieutenant commander for his actions in the assault on Scoglitti on the southeastern coast of Sicily in July–August 1943. He received a Presidential Citation for his work at Gela, in Sicily.
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. The Chicago Tribune notes he was "one of the first Americans to go ashore in France—perhaps, the first—on D-Day." For his exceptionally meritorious performance of duty, and his "cool judgment and unusual ability", he was awarded a Bronze Star.
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. 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. While out-numbered and facing an enemy with superior equipment, he attacked the enemy with ambushes and in pitched battles, significantly depleting their forces. He was located in Chongqing, Kunming, Camp 6, Hua'an, Zhangzhou, Gulangyu, and Shanghai. He was granted a Gold Medal in lieu of a second Bronze Medal, for "distinguishing himself by exceptionally meritorious conduct. For distinguishing himself "by gallantry and intrepidity", he was awarded a Silver Star. In addition, the Nationalist Chinese government awarded him the Yun Hui "Cloud Banner", its highest honor.
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. Their yacht was the Shrew II.
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.
Hall of Fame
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. He became the company's President in 1959, and Chairman in the 1960s. The company was involved in projects at, the John Hancock Center, O'Hare International Airport, and Wrigley Field.
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