On Friday July 31, local resident and World War Two veteran Robert W. Foley died at the age of 98.
Bob, as he was known to his friends, was born January 14, 1922, to parents George and Mable Foley. Before joining the armed services, Bob worked a year at the Civilian Conservation Corp, and went to school at Washington Jr, High. At the age of 18 with his father’s advice, he joined the US Navy out of Duluth, MN. His father recommended he join the Navy because he had brothers who fought during World War One. It was his opinion that war was inevitable because the British were already fighting, and it was better to have a ship carry your load instead of carrying it on your back like his brothers did. Bob was the third of five boys. All fought during World War Two, and all served in the US Navy.
During his time at war, Bob saw a lot of combat. On December 8, 1941, he was aboard the USS Pecos; a refuel ship with a crew size of 112. Their mission was to refuel the Dutch, Australian, and American Fleets. His job on the ship was damage control. On that day, the crew was informed about Pearl Harbor, and told they were all expendable effective immediately. On March 1, 1942, the USS Pecos linked up with the USS Whipple and brought aboard nearly 1000 survivors that were rescued from the USS Langley after it was sunk on February 27. By noon on March 1, alone and headed towards a safe port in Australia to deliver the survivors, the Pecos was spotted by the Japanese and bombarded for nearly four hours. Inevitably sinking the ship around 3:45 pm after a 500-pound bomb struck the bow. Asked how he abandoned ship, Bob responded “I walked off.” Around 10:30-11:30 pm that night, only the USS Whipple returned to pick up survivors of the USS Pecos. With enemy submarines in the area, only 233 were brought aboard, the rest were left to their fates.
After serving on the USS Pecos, Bob was reassigned to the USS Columbia, a light cruiser. While serving on the ship, he was finally able to be on the offensive. During the Bougainville Campaign in the South Pacific, Bob recalls how in late 1943 after a bombardment run, the American fleet ran into the Japanese fleet. The American fleet consisted of the four light cruisers USS Columbia, the USS Denver, the USS Cleveland, and the USS Montpelier; along with four destroyers. The Japanese fleet consisted of four heavy cruisers, four light cruisers, and seven destroyers. In Bob’s own words: “We sunk every one of them.”
In 1945, Bob married Hilda Doyle, who he met through a shipmate from the USS Pecos. They were married 59 years and seven months and had three children together: Robert William Foley, Thomas Joseph Foley, and Sharon Anne Foley.
During the Korean War, Bob participated by transporting supplies to American troops, but did not see naval combat.
In 1960, after 20 years of service, he retired from the Navy and moved his family to Ontario, CA. While there he worked and retired from General Electric as a machine repairman and general mechanic.
While living in Phelan, Bob was a well-known member at VFW Post 9415, where he was commonly spotted dining with friends during Friday night dinners. The same table was always reserved for the ‘old timers,’ and the younger members would always walk over and shake their hands on their way into the club.
Bob passed away on July 31, at his home. He was a much beloved and respected member of our community and will be missed.
Robert W. Foley is survived by his son Thomas Joseph Foley, and his daughter Sharon Anne Foley. He also has two granddaughters, and several great grandchildren. No memorial or services are planned at this time.