LCDR Chuck Tobin, a member of The Greatest Generation
By Claire Landreneau
Lieutenant Commander Charles “Chuck” Edward Tobin Jr., when he was not training on naval base in California, visited Hollywood. There, he became close with Bing Crosby, the dedicated performer for WWII soldiers. Crosby helped the war effort by using radio to sell war bonds and providing entertainment for servicemen. He was filming a movie with fellow star, Bob Hope, when he met Chuck and invited him to spend days on set with them, go out for drinks with Hope, and have breakfast at Crosby’s house. Tobin records, "They certainly were wonderful to me."
Chuck was a Massachusetts native who moved to the Lone Star State on a track scholarship to the University of North Texas, then called “The Texas Normal College and Teacher Training Institute.” His classmates referred to him as “The Mighty Molecule,” for his stature and athletic ability. While there, Chuck unintentionally captured the heart of a Dallas girl, who later would follow him to naval base with a wedding dress! Despite the romantic gesture, Chuck did not get married in Los Angeles – he shipped off to the Front, instead.
He expressed excitement in finally seeing some action (he was kept on base for a number of months) in a letter to his mother; he hoped he would reach the “more fun” Pacific, rather than Europe.
Chuck was a naval pilot. He would later tell his girls that, “I flew every plane there was in the navy.” From 1943-1945, Chuck was stationed on multiple aircraft carriers and islands, including Mbanika Island and Russel Island. His job was not only dangerous due to enemy fire; over 12,000 Navy servicemen died in aviation accidents. The naval pilots had to take off and land on the aircraft carriers, which were much shorter than regular airfields. Therefore, planes were catapulted to take off and caught by a hook in order to land on the short runway. Chuck was one of the brave pilots who repeatedly accomplished this feat.
During September and October of 1944, Chuck participated in Special Air Task Group 1, a mixed squadron which operated the Interstate TDR Assault Drones. These unmanned planes were controlled by an operator onboard a Grumman TBF Avenger. These flights were predecessors to modern drone warfare.
Another of Chuck’s missions was a mere flight over the Japanese industrial city of Hiroshima to test its distance from base and its defenses. Little did he know, he was preparing for Colonel Paul Tibbets’ mission, which would drop the first atomic bomb used in combat.
After the war, Chuck remained in the Naval Reserves. He moved to Dallas and attended Southern Methodist University, gaining his law degree. There, he met Sarah Jane Neff Guymes, whose husband, Airforce Serviceman Jimmy Guymes, had died in Europe. Chuck fell in love with the war widow. They were married in 1948, and Chuck adopted her young daughter. The couple had two more girls. His daughter, Gay Rekerdres, recalls his love for reunions with his comrades and spending time with his fellow Naval Reserves in Dallas.