Robert Stanley Walter, Jr.
Born: November 19, 1917
Hometown: Washington, DC
Class: 1937-39 – USMMCC Cadet Officer
1937 – Pennsylvania Nautical School
Service: Army Coast Artillery
Position / Rank: Mate (Civilian)
Date / Place of death: January 8, 1942 / Off
Date / Place of burial: January 8, 1942 / Lost at Sea – Off Portsmouth, NH
U.S. Coast Guard records show that Robert S. Walter received his license as Third
Mate, Oceans, Unlimited on May 26, 1937, the day after he graduated from
Pennsylvania Nautical School. He signed on as Cadet Officer aboard the SS President
Roosevelt shortly after receiving his license. Crew lists on file in New York, NY indicate
that he remained aboard the SS President Roosevelt until 1939. He then served as
Junior Third Mate aboard the SS American Trader until later that year. On February 23,
1940 he signed on aboard the SS Manhattan as Junior Third Officer. In November
1940 he signed on aboard the SS Artigas as Junior Third Mate. He remained aboard
the Artigas until July 1941. Based on his subsequent employment he must have
become employed by the U.S. Army shortly after leaving the Artigas.
On 7 January 1942, the U.S. Army Mine Planter General Richard Arnold was called out
to rescue a sister Mine Planter, L-88, off of the Isles of Shoals, near Portsmouth
Harbor, New Hampshire. The Arnold, a 98-foot ship built in 1909, gallantly made its
way through stormy weather to aid the disabled L-88, which had been drifting in the
storm for more than six hours. The Arnold reached the L-88 at 2030, made itself fast to
the L-88. The two ships, powered only by the Arnold, could not make any progress
back to port and hove to using the Arnold’s engines until a larger Mine Planter, the
General Absolom Baird, could tow the L-88 back into port.
The Baird arrived at the scene at around midnight, and began towing both ships back to
harbor. However, ice had been building up on the Arnold since it left port and both
ships were heavy with ice. At 0050 on January 8, the Arnold reported that it was taking
on water by the stern. The crew manned the pumps but was unable to keep the water
from rising. By 0130 the water had risen over the pumps and put out the fires in the
boiler, leaving the Arnold helpless. Fifteen minutes later the General Richard Arnold
suddenly plunged under the waves. The L-88 would have been dragged down by the
sinking Arnold if the L-88’s crew had not rushed on deck to cut the lines binding them
fast to the doomed ship. The Master of the General Richard Arnold, William H.
Chasteen, was able to jump from the bridge into the icy waters as the ship sank. He
was the only survivor, the rest of the crew, including Mate Robert S. Walter, Jr. were
Based on his merchant marine service, Robert S. Walter was posthumously awarded
the Merchant Marine Defense Bar, Atlantic War Zone Bar, the Victory Medal and
Presidential Testimonial Letter.
Robert S. Walter was the oldest son Robert, Sr. and Anne R. Walter. Robert had an
older sister, Jane and a younger brother George. According to the 1920 U.S. Census,
Robert, Sr. was Vice President of Army & Navy Preparatory School in Washington, DC.
However, by the 1930 Census Robert, Sr. is identified as being a life insurance agent.
Photo of U.S. Army Mine Planter General William H. Arnold