Bob Dickinson


Cullum No. 24407-1962 | July 1, 1968 | Died in Vietnam

Interred in West Point Cemetery, West Point, NY

How do we measure the worth of a man? What are the attributes through which we derive the values and interpolate the factors that characterize the complete soldier? Self sacrifice, total devotion to duty, and a keen awareness of the human understanding required in commanding and leading the men who determine, in the last analysis, the destiny of our Nation during wartime—these are the standards we use when we look at a person who is also a soldier and say, “There is a man!”

Such a person was Major Robert Charles Dickinson, West Point graduate, Class of 1962. Born in Highland Park, Michigan, in June 1938, “Bob” was bred into the traditions of the United States Army by his parents Lieutenant Colonel and Mrs. W. C. Dickinson. As the only son of “Army” parents, his world was a vast phantasmagoria of transient sights and sounds. He filled his life with the actions and the ideals inspired by the Nation’s heroes, past and present. During his teenage years he could equate with uncanny fairness, the gentle humanism of a Robert E. Lee with the sharp, cutting aggressiveness of a Ulysses S. Grant. He recognized the qualities of good leadership at an early age and devoted his every effort to attaining those characteristics which sustained him as an Army officer in Vietnam.

He was a practical boy who learned quickly what his limitations were and worked diligently to excel in the things that “came easy” to him and to make satisfactory attainment of those things that were not so easy to come by. His love for sports was reflected in an exemplary record as an athlete; in track; in gymnastics, particularly on the parallel bars; in wrestling; and in swimming, diving, and in football. During his precollege years he worked hard to broaden his academic standing in school and improved his knowledge of the world he lived in by extensive reading. Yes, Bob was an ordinary boy with an extraordinary desire always to be up near the top ten per cent of the class. He worked at it, very hard, and his family can attest to the many hours he devoted to improving his intellectual outlook.

In 1957, he knew that he was headed for West Point. In preparation for what he always considered the “great adventure,” he spent an entire year of study pointed toward the day when he would join the Corps of Cadets at the United States Military Academy. He planned and prepared himself for entrance to the Academy, and in July, 1958, he became part of the Class of 1962.

On graduation in June 1962, Bob took his marriage vows together with Dorothea Traina, the girl who inspired and encouraged his progress through the long hard months at West Point. 

Thereafter, he devoted his life to the double career of becoming the best possible Infantry officer and loving husband and father. From 1962 through the latter part of 1964, he took the school courses that were designed to prepare him for combat duty in Vietnam. By the time he was ready for his first assignment in Southeast Asia, his second child had just been born; this was Robbie, his son. His daughter, Christina, had been born the year before.

Bob spent the next thirteen months as an Infantry officer advisor. The exhilaration of his first “firefight” against Viet Cong forces was reflected in his letters home to his wife. During this period he received the Army Commendation Medal for heroism, for assisting in the rescue of personnel in a downed helicopter, under enemy fire. He came home to his family in the fall of 1965.

Duty at Fort Lewis in the state of Washington as an instructor of 4th Infantry Division personnel and nine months of intensive training at the Armored School at Fort Knox, Kentucky, further prepared him for his meeting with destiny in South Vietnam. In late May 1968, he reported for his second tour of duty in South Vietnam. Six weeks later, on 1 July 1968, while leading a security column on a road clearing mission in enemy infested territory. Major Robert Charles Dickinson made the supreme sacrifice for his country and his ideals when he was killed by an enemy land mine. He was promoted posthumously to the grade of Major as of 6 January 1968.

Major Dickinson’s decorations and citations included the Soldiers Medal, the Bronze Star Medal with “V” for valor, the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Cold Star and Silver Star, and the Presidential Unit Citation. He also earned the Combat Infantryman Badge, Paratrooper Badge, and Ranger Tab.

“Robert, our son, and youthful father ever true,

You’ve gone to join the High Commander in the sky.

We all do mourn in prideful sorrow for you;

Rest well, our thoughts of you will never die.”

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