Robert Allen Owens was born on September 13, 1920 in Greenville, South Carolina. His family then moved to Spartanburg where he attended high school for two years then worked as a textile worker for five years before enlisting in the U. S. Marine Corps on February 10, 1942.
After recruit training at Parris Island, South Carolina, Private Owens, service number 365070 was assigned to the 1st Training Battalion, 1st Marine Division in New River, North Carolina. In June 1942, the unit's designation was changed to Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, 3rd Marine Division. The Division departed overseas to the South Pacific. During September 1942 his unit arrived at Tutuila in American Samoa. Afterwards, his unit went to New Zealand then Guadalcanal for further training.
On November 1, 1943 the 3rd Marine Division aboard LCVPs and LCIs landed along Empress Augusta Bay at Torokina on western Bougainville. The landing was hampered Japanese 75mm gun emplaced in a bunker. While Marines fired ineffectively at the bunker, Sgt Owens managed to charge into the fire port of the bunker and disperse the gun crew, before he was mortally wounded and died.
Afterwards, Owens body was recovered and initially buried at the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps Cemetery on Bougainville (Torokina Cemetery). Postwar, he was permanently buried at Manila American Cemetery at plot N, row 12, grave 200.
For his actions, Owens earned the Navy Cross for his actions and Purple Heart, posthumously. Both General Alexander A. Vandegrift, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Major General Turnage recommended Owens for the Medal of Honor. On August 12, 1945, by Maj Gen Clayton B. Vogel, Commanding General at Parris Island presented the medal to his father. On January 28, 1948 destroyer USS Robert A. Owens (DD-827) was named in honor of Sgt Owens.
|Medal of Honor Citation 4 September 1943 (Posthumous)
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with a marine division (the 3rd Marine Division), in action against enemy Japanese forces during extremely hazardous landing operations at Cape Torokina, Bougainville, Solomon Islands, on 1 November 1943. Forced to pass within disastrous range of a strongly protected, well-camouflaged Japanese 75-mm. regimental gun strategically located on the beach, our landing units were suffering heavy losses in casualties and boats while attempting to approach the beach, and the success of the operations was seriously threatened. Observing the ineffectiveness of marine rifle and grenade attacks against the incessant, devastating fire of the enemy weapon and aware of the urgent need for prompt action, Sgt. Owens unhesitatingly determined to charge the gun bunker from the front and, calling on four of his comrades to assist him, carefully placed them to cover the fire of the two adjacent hostile bunkers. Choosing a moment that provided a fair opportunity for passing these bunkers, he immediately charged into the mouth of the steadily firing cannon and entered the emplacement through the fire port, driving the guncrew out of the rear door and insuring their destruction before he himself was wounded. Indomitable and aggressive in the face of almost certain death, Sgt. Owens silenced a powerful gun which was of inestimable value to the Japanese defense and, by his brilliant initiative and heroic spirit of self-sacrifice, contributed immeasurably to the success of the vital landing operations. His valiant conduct throughout reflects the highest credit upon himself and the U.S. Naval Service."
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert Allen Owens
FindAGrave - Robert Allen Owens (photo, grave photo)