Robert B. Pope obituary photo
In Memory of

Robert B. Pope

March 23, 1924 - October 12, 2016


Robert B. Pope Sr, 92, passed away October 12, 2016 in Arlington, TX. He was born March 23, 1924 in Mossy Rock, Washington to Dallas and Gladys Pope. Robert Pope had a very adventurous and historic life. He was born in Mossyrock, WA, not far from Riffe City, which was named after his great-grandfather, Floyd Riffe. That city was bought out by the Tacoma power and Light Co. in the 1960's to make way for the tallest hydroelectric dam in WA. state. It was called the Mossyrock dam and behind it was Riffe Lake named...

Robert B. Pope Sr, 92, passed away October 12, 2016 in Arlington, TX. He was born March 23, 1924 in Mossy Rock, Washington to Dallas and Gladys Pope. Robert Pope had a very adventurous and historic life. He was born in Mossyrock, WA, not far from Riffe City, which was named after his great-grandfather, Floyd Riffe. That city was bought out by the Tacoma power and Light Co. in the 1960's to make way for the tallest hydroelectric dam in WA. state. It was called the Mossyrock dam and behind it was Riffe Lake named after Robert's great-grandfather.

When Robert was three years old, his mother, Gladys remarried and several years later his family moved to Manila, Philippines. His family owned a sawmill factory just outside of Manila. When the Japanese started invading the surrounding countries, Robert's parents sent him home to WA to live with his aunt and told him they would catch up with him later. Unfortunately, his parents waited to long and were captured by the Japanese army. Having knowledge of this, he joined the navy as soon as he turned seventeen. After intense training, he was assigned to the U.S.S. Oconto APA-187. This was a auxiliary personnel assault ship. It carried troops and their equipment to the theatre of operations. Robert was a pilot on the landing craft that disembarked troops onto enemy beaches. He made landings at, Guadalcanal, lingayen Gulf, Okinawa, Saipan and many others. On September 8th, 1945, five days after the Japanese had surrendered, Robert's ship sailed into Tokyo Bay and was one of the first ships to unload troops and equipment for the occupation of Japan.

Meanwhile, before the Japanese surrendered, Robert's parents, Gladys and Albert Waterstradt, were interned at the Los Banos prison camp. He later learned that General Douglas MacArthur had ordered his troops to go behind enemy lines to rescue the internees. He soon learned from his step father that Gladys didn't make it. She had the unfortunate distinction of being the first women to die at Los Banos in 1944. She died of disease and starvation. When the U.S. army occupied the Philippines, they relocated her remains at the American Cemetery in Manila. She was given full military honors.

After the war, the navy transferred Robert to Minneapolis, Minnesota to spend time with his step father. One night, he and his friends decided to go bowling. While there, they met some girls. One of them was named Lucille. They hit it off very well and started dating. One day, Robert received orders to return back to California. Robert and Lucille decided they could not be apart and he asked her to marry him. She traveled to San Pedro, Ca where they were married on November 23, 1946.

Robert and Lucille settled in at the naval base in San Diego, Ca. While there, the navy assigned Robert to go on a "Journey of a life time". To participate in the exploration of Antarctica. The ship he was assigned to was the newly built U.S.S. Burton Island. This was a wind class ice breaker. The expedition was called, Operation Highjump. The Burton Island was one of the first ice breakers introduced to Antarctica. The ship would bring several new technologies with it to explore. Two of them were radar and a helicopter. On January 17, 1947, Robert Pope and his crew sailed into history. The Burton Island was on its way to McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. They would be the first Americans to land there. On February 16, 1947 they landed the first helicopter onto Antarctica at Hut Point. Three hours later they sailed to Cape Evans. This is where a cabin built by British explorer Sir Robert Falcon Scott in 1911 was used to beat Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen to the South Pole. When Scott reached the South Pole in January of 1912, he and his team were shocked to see the Norwegian flag and a note planted there. They lost the race by three weeks. On the way back Scott's team was caught in a blizzard and all of them perished. When the B.I. reached Cape Evans, Robert Pope was assigned to lead a task force of 15 men to explore the cabin that had been abandoned for 35 years. They were the first Americans to set foot at Cape Evans. Once they landed, they walked thru the ice and snow and were astonished at what they found when they reached the cabin. The National Geographic Magazine wrote a 90 page article about this expedition in it's October, 1947 edition. In 1948, MGM made a documentary about Robert's expedition called, "The Secret Land". It won an Academy Award for best documentary. Robert Pope returned to Antarctica a year later to map, explore and helped to establish the McMurdo Research Station which is now the largest city in Antarctica. Robert made trips to the Arctic in 1947 and 1952, as well. In 2014, Washington state discovered that he was the first Washington native to set foot onto Antarctica. There is a movement in Lewis Co., WA to name Highway 12 the " Robert B. Pope Sr. Memorial Hywy". Highway 12 is listed as one of the most scenic highway's in America. The Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation of WA felt the name would be appropriate since highway 12 runs thru Robert's hometown of Mossyrock and passes by Riffe lake which was named after his great-grandfather and into the elevations of Mt. Rainier, which resembles Antarctica.

One day, when the B.I. was docked in San Pedro, Ca., Robert was asked to go immediately to the executive officers quarters. When he walked in, the executive officer asked him to sit down and then handed him a white envelope that was assigned to him and was stamped "secret". Robert opened it up. It was a letter stamped "secret" stating he had been chosen for a special assignment in the field of atomic energy. The executive officer said the F.B.I. had provided him a bus ticket to Albuquerque, New Mexico and to leave the next day. Robert went home to tell his wife, Lucille, about this and they both were puzzled and trying to figure out what the letter meant. Robert told Lucille that once he got a place to stay he would send for her and his daughter, Barbara. When Robert arrived at Albuquerque, two marines approached him and asked if he was Robert Pope and to see his papers. He showed the marines his papers. Once he was identified, the marines placed him in a car and drove him out into the desert. At this point, Robert is wondering why the marines are driving him out in the middle of the desert. It was a far cry from Antarctica and the Arctic where he spent a lot of his time. They arrived at a guard gate and they were immediately flagged in. Once in the compound, Robert noticed a barbed wired fence as far as the eye could see in both directions. There were machine gun towers and buildings with no windows. The place was called Sandia or area one. He was taken to a building for processing. He still didn't know why he was there, but the next day he would know. The next day Robert was taken into a windowless building and introduced to his commander and his team members. The commander took them into the next room and Robert soon found out why he was there. There in front of him was the Little Boy and Fatman atomic bombs. They were part of an experiment to see if they could learn the physics and assembly of the Fatman atomic bomb. They were chosen because of their strong character, intelligence and having the right stuff. The rest is still secret. He got a place to stay and sent for his wife, Lucille and his daughter Barbara. After Lucille settled in, the Atomic Energy Commission, asked Lucille to be one of three women to operate a special machine that printed out blueprints of the Fatman atomic bomb and other material. Robert was now working off his wife's blueprints to assemble and upgrade the Fatman bomb. It was now a family affair. Sandia base had built a small hospital for the personnel that worked there. When Lucille was pregnant with her second daughter, Kathy, she gave birth to Kathy at Sandia. Robert and Lucille thought that was great to have a baby born next to the Fatman atomic bombs at the most top secret base in the world during its time. They certainly had a sense of humor didn't they.

After Robert and Lucille left the top secret program, Robert was told he could not leave the United States, but Lucille could. They moved back to San Diego where their third child was born, Robert Pope Jr. Several years later Robert and Lucille moved to Seattle, then to Oregon on a ranch by the Pacific Ocean. They came to Texas in 1963. Robert had his own business for many years. He retired in 1990. He loved to read. Had a great sense of humor. He was a good family man. In the last years of Lucille's life she could no longer walk or take care of herself. Robert took care of her until she died on August 14th, 2016. They had been together for 70 years. The separation was very painful. On October 12, 2016, Robert joined Lucille, that girl he met in a bowling ally. Together again, this time forever.

Robert is preceded in death by his wife, Lucille Pope. Parents: Dallas Dale Pope, Albert Waterstradt and Gladys Pope Waterstradt. Granddaughter Amber Fannin.

He is survived by: children: Barbara Wallack and her husband, Stephen, Robert B. Pope Jr. and his wife Beckie, Kathy Fannin; grandchildren: Casey Webb and his wife, Michelle, Jason Webb and his wife, Kami, Scott Wallack and his wife, Shelly, Catherine Wallack and her husband, Scott, Angela Wojnicki and her husband, Tom, Maria Pope; great-grandchildren: Tyler Webb, Tanner Webb, Trevor Webb, Stephen Webb, Jason Webb, Erica Webb, Olivia Wallack, Hunter Wallack, Lillian Hartinger, Ellianna Wojnicki, Noah Wojnicki