Captain Robert Ward Cooper:
Above, a photograph hand inscribed and signed by Capt. Cooper which states the following: "To
Lt.Cmdr. Hal S------, With whom I would gladly serve anytime, anywhere. R.W. Cooper, June 5,
Captain Robert Ward Cooper, born March 1, 1909 in Brooklyn, New York, became a United States
Naval aviator in April of 1933. Cooper served as a Junior Officer aboard the battleship USS
Oklahoma and later as a pilot in the aviation unit aboard the cruiser USS Pensacola. Cooper would
join the crew of the carrier USS Lexington in June of 1938, remaining aboard the Lexington well
after the United States involvement in WWII.
Cooper survived the sinking of the USS Lexington during the Battle of Coral Sea in 1942, earning a
Bronze Star with the Combat "V" for his performance during that engagement, and also received a
letter of commendation from Admiral William F. Halsey for his service as Air Operations Officer of
the Lexington during the early campaigns of WWII.
Cooper would later be assigned to the USS Rudyerd Bay as the Executive Officer, joining the ship
and its crew during her commissioning. While serving aboard the Rudyerd Bay, Cooper would
experience campaigns against the Japanese at Peleliu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
Having survived WWII, Cooper would remain in the military, serving as the US Naval Attache to
Chile, with an additional post in Finland. In 1955, Cooper graduated from Naval War College and
was designated Commander Striking Fleet Atlantic Representative in Europe, headquartered in
Paris. Cooper would go on to serve as Admiral Jerauld Wright's representative in Paris as
Suppreme Allied Commander Atlantic Representative in Europe.
In 1957, Cooper completed transitional training into jet aircraft and assumed command of the USS
His decorations and medals include: Bronze Star with Combat "V", Letter of Commendation,
American Defense Medal with Fleet clasp, American Campaign medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign
Medal with 7 operational stars, WWII Victory Medal, Naval Occupational Service Medal with Asia
clasp, China Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Philippine Liberation Ribbon, White
Rose of Finland and the Military Order of Merit of Chile.
Cooper passed away on May 18, 1988. His final resting place is in San Diego, California.
This page was created to display a grouping of original WWII era photograph taken aboard the
USS Rudyerd Bay (CVE-81) during WWII. The USS Rudyerd Bay was a 7,800 ton Casablanca-class
escort carrier that won five battle stars for her service in WWII. The USS Rudyerd Bay was
constructed in Vancouver, Washington in October 1943 and was first commissioned by the Navy in
February 1944. At the time of this commission, the USS Rudyerd Bay was ordered to operate under
the command of Captain C. S. Smiley. As with most escort carriers, the first operations of the USS
Rudyerd Bay involved performing shakedowns, participating in training exercises, ferrying planes
and equipment, and performing replenishment tours. By October 1944, the USS Rudyerd Bay was
supporting attacks in the areas around Palau and the Phillippines.
During WWII, VC-77 and VC-96 would be the main squadrons operating off of the deck of the
Rudyerd Bay. These two squadrons would demonstrate their proficiency and professionalism
during thousands of sorties against the Japanese in WWII. Pilots of the Rudyerd Bay would
experience some of the most fierce opposition provided by the Japanese in the closing stages of
the war. The USS Rudyerd Bay was decommissioned on June 11, 1946.
|The C.E. Daniel Collection
Two photographs of the Rudyerd Bay's commanding officer, Captain Curtis S. Smiley.
|A group of USS Rudyerd Bay officers posing together on the flight deck.
|Flight ops on the deck of the USS Rudyerd Bay, with one photo showing the rare appearance of a
Corsair having landed on the escort carrier.
| In the photo above, left, the three men are identified only as "Dr. Wilson, Dr. Ellis, and Dr. Slavin.
In the photograph above, right, one man is identified as "Lt. P.M. Donahue, V-2 Division Officer,
then Assistant Navigator." The other man is unidentified.
| A series of four photographs depicting a failed attempt to land on the deck of the USS Rudyerd
Bay. The photo appear to show the aircraft coming in low and slow speed then attempting to pull,
resulting in a left wing stall. After striking the carrier deck with the left wing, the aircraft plummets
into the ocean. The identity of this pilot is not known and it is not known is he and the other
crewmen survived this horrible incident.
|A Navy FM-2 perched on the edge of the carrier deck after another failed landing. Again the
identity of the pilot of this aircraft is unknown. The crisp, clear photo does however show the type
of camouflage or paint scheme being used by Navy aircraft aboard the Rudyerd Bay.
|Above, two photographs of Lt. Cmdr. Frank J. Peterson, Squadron Commander of VC-77. Lt. Cmdr.
Peterson began his career in the United States Navy in 1940. Peterson would serve proudly in
numerous assignments before being stationed above the Rudyerd Bay. On February 19th, 1945
Peterson was leading attack Squadron VC-77 as its commanding officer on one of the first aerial
attacks on Iwo Jima following the invasion. His aircraft, a TBM-1C, serial number 73254, was
presumably hit by anti-aircraft fire as Peterson began his attack run. His plane hit the water, and
In the lower photograph, a very youthful Peterson (minus the mustache) can be seen on the far
right, his last name clearly appearing on his parachute harness.
|This page is dedicated to all Naval Aviators during WWII, and to anyone who served aboard the
many escort carriers that help take the fight to the Japanese in the Pacific. If anyone has any
additional information about the men who appear on this page, I would enjoy hearing from you.
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|Photo use courtesy of Glenn LaRocque.