Battleship Arizona Official Biography
Lauren F. Bruner USS Arizona Memorial Foundation
James was the seventh of eight children born to Rufus Kidwell and Lennie (McCoy) Robertson on 24 August 1918 at Morristown, Hamblen County, Tennessee. One of his siblings either died at birth or at a very young age as indicated by the census in 1910 where she had seven children but only six were living. His mother passed away on 1 June 1928 in Morristown and was laid to rest in the Liberty Hill Methodist Church Cemetery in Hamblen County. James completed a
ninth grade education at the Marguerite School in Morristown where he was considered one of the best students in his class. He worked at the family farm and on a farm for Mr. W.L. Thompson for two years. He was living with his father and some siblings in rural Morristown
when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy for four years on 26 October 1936. His induction physical showed he was 5’ 10” tall, weighed 153 pounds, and had blue #7 eyes, auburn hair and a ruddy complexion.
He completed his basic training at the Naval Training Station at Norfolk, Virginia.
James reported to the USS Arizona on 6 July 1937. On December 7th 1941, James Milton Robertson was twenty-three years, three months, and fourteen days old. James’ battle station was in the engineering spaces with very little chance for survival and he remains there on duty on the USS Arizona (BB-39).
James was survived by his father and siblings; David S., seventeen years older, Katie B., fifteen years older, Mary L., fourteen years older, Elizabeth “Lizzie” C., eleven years older, Nettie P., ten years older, and William “Willie” M., nine years older. The James Milton Robertson VFW Post in Morristown is named in his honor. He is commemorated with a headstone at the Liberty Hill Methodist Church Cemetery in Hamblen County, Tennessee. Every year on Memorial Day the VFW Post 5266 Honor Guard places a wreath and honors his memory with a 21-gun salute and taps.
According to T.J. Cooper, the author of The Men of the USS Arizona BB-39, Machinists Mate 1st Class James Milton Robertson was awarded the following medals posthumously:
American Defense Service Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Purple Heart Medal.

The Knoxville Journal, February 18, 1942:
Morristown, Feb. 17 – First Hamblen County boy to die in World War II was James Milton Robertson, 23, son of R.K. Robertson, Morristown, Route 2. He perished at Pearl Harbor in the Japanese attack Dec. 7. His father received a letter Saturday sent by Rear Admiral Randall Jacobs, chief of the Bureau of Navigation, Washington, D.C. stating that all evidence had been weighed and that the Secretary of the Navy officially held hat “Your son died in the Pearl Harbor disaster Dec. 7.”
Young Robertson was a machinist mate, first class, on the U.S.S. Arizona, battleship sunk by the Japanese. The rear admiral’s letter said: “Taking this opportunity to extend to you my heartfelt sympathy, and trusting that the knowledge that your son lost his life while upholding the priciples of justice, freedom and democracy will somewhat soften your profound sorrow.”
Young Robertson, son of Mr. Robertson and the late Mrs. Lennie McCoy Robertson, enlisted in the Navy Oct. 26, 1936. A memorial service will be held in the Liberty Hill Methodist Church at a date to be announced. Beside his father, survivors are four sisters, Mrs. Carl Woods, Catlett, Va.; Mrs. J.A. Stapleton, Mrs. Ralph Hefner and Mrs. George Murphy, and two brothers, David and Mack Robertson, all of Morristown.

  • Rank: Machinists Mate First Class
  • Date of birth:
  • 24 December 1918
  • Date of death: 7 December 1941
  • County: Hamblen
  • Hometown: Morristown
  • Service Branch: Navy
  • Division/Assignment: USS Arizona (BB-39)
  • Theater: Pacific
  • Conflict: World War II
  • Battles: Pearl Harbor
  • Awards: American Defense Service Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Purple Heart
  • Burial/Memorial Location: Honolulu Memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Location In Memorial: Pillar X, Top Panel
  • Contact us to sponsor James M. Robertson

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