Robert Edward Bassler, Jr. – Colonel, United States Army

Courtesy of his classmates
United States Military Academy Class of 1946

Robert Edward Bassler, Jr. 
No. 15461 Class of 1946
Died 30 July 1985 in Tucson, Arizona, aged 61 years.
Interment: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

Robert Edward Bassler, Jr. (Bob) was born in Brooklyn, New York, on 3 March 1924. His father was a career officer in the US Navy, so Bob lived all over the world as a “Navy junior.” He graduated from Rogers High School in Newport, Rhode Island, and then at-tended Columbian Prep in Washington, DC and Cornell University, before entering West Point on 1 July 1943 with the Class of 1946.

His friends and roommates at West Point recall vividly the characteristics that were to mark Bob's cadet life and his 30 years as an Army officer. One room-mate remembers Bob as having more self discipline than any two people he ever met. His determination, hard work and thoroughness were remarkable. In later years, Bob would tell his children of that hot summer day when it was time to try out for the Cadet Choir. After double timing to the fourth floor and being told to sing “Glory to God,” Bob was told that not only could he not carry a tune, but that he would throw others out of tune. The Class of '46 was the last class to take riding in the old riding hall, Bob missed the class on how to gallop a horse. So, at the next class, the instructor called out “Gallop Ho” and the horse knew what to do, but not Bob. As the horse galloped around the ring, Bob was holding on for dear life with his arms and legs wrapped as close as possible around the horse.

His roommates recall one incident during cadet years that dramatically changed Bob's life. One of his roommates arranged for his date to bring along a date for Bob. The last moment, the girl could not come, so a substitute was found. This date turned out to he Frannie whom Bob was to later marry. There was no doubt in Bob's mind that this was the girl of his dreams who would change his life for the better.

After graduation, Bob went into the Ordnance Corps. After the usual schools, his first assignment was to an Ordnance company with the Constabulary in Germany. In the middle of this tour, he returned to Columbus, Ohio, to marry Frances Thomson Sterner on 22 October 1948. Frannie accompanied him back to Germany to finish his tour. From Ger-many, he was sent to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he obtained a master of science in mechanical engineering, graduating with honors. He was next assigned to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, from 1952-54. 1955 saw Bob and Frannie travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina, as assistant Army attaché. This was one of Bob's favorite assignments, and he got a lot of mileage from his story about the galloping horse in riding class, since his Argentinian officer friends were all excellent horsemen.

In 1958, Bob received the H.W. Alden Award, presented by the American Ordnance Association to the outstanding graduate of the Ordnance Officer Career Course. His next assignment was as chief project officer, Army Ballistic Missile Agency at Cape  Canaveral, Florida. From there he attended the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. This was followed by a tour as Ordnance training advisor to the Vietnamese Army Ordnance Corps. His return to CONUS found him as chief, Research & Development Group, Frankford Arsenal, Philadelphia, Pennsylva-nia. In 1964, Bob joined the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, DC. He took command of the 87th Ordnance Battalion in Stuttgart, Germany in 1967 and moved to Headquarters USAREUR in 1969 as a staff officer in DCSLOG. Going from Europe to Thailand, Bob became the deputy chief of staff for Logistics, US Army Support Command, Thailand. In 1972, he was assigned to Headquarters Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Monroe. Virginia, as a Logistics staff officer. Bob retired at Fort Monroe in 1976. His decorations included the Army Commendation Medal, the Joint Services Commendation Medal, the Legion of Merit with two Oak Leaf Clusters and the Argentine Order of Military Merit.

Ater retirement Bob obtained a BS in business administration from Old Dominion University, graduating summa cum laude. He became a CPA and moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he joined H&R Block and did income tax work until his death.

Bob and Frannie had two sons, Tom and Bob, III (USMA '74). When Bob III was a lieutenant stationed in Germany, a senior major stopped him and asked if he was any relation to Colonel Robert Bassler. Upon. learning that it was his father, the major broke into a smile and said, “I was a company commander in your dad's battalion. He was a good, firm commander, firm but fair.” These comments reflected what Bob's two sons felt about him. He was firm but always fair. They were always urged to do better, to keep going, get the job done to the best of their abilities. These were the precepts which guided Bob throughout his life. The boys also recall an incident reminiscent of Bob's tryout for the Cadet Choir as a plebe. The family was attending church services at a huge church in downtown Philadelphia. The boys were 10 and 11, respect-ively. Bob got carried away and decided to sing out on a particular hymn, just as loudly as the man behind them with a great voice. True to what he had been told as a plebe, the louder he sang, the worse he sounded. First Tom, then Bob III and then Frannie all began giggling. Ladies in white hats as far as five rows in front of Bob turned their heads and tittered. When Bob finally realized what was happening, be burst into laughter. This cracked up the family and they all started laughing. The boys recall being thankful that the service was almost over. This is an illustration of Bob's sense of humor.

Bob's dedication did not stop upon retirement. A co-worker at H&R Block recalls Bob's level of production was remarkable. This friend took over many of Bob's clients after his death. They all felt that they had lost a true friend and confidant rather than a tax consultant.

To say that Bob was conscientious is an understatement, He believed that he had to do his very best at everything he attempted. To do otherwise was unthinkable.  Duty, Honor and Country were not just words to him. They represented a credo by which his every action on was governed. His friends and classmates will remember him as one of the finest persons they have ever known. His family will remember him as loyal, loving and protective; a wonderful husband and father.

As we think about Bob joining “the Long Gray Line,” we must say “Well Done, Be Thou At Peace.” We are proud to have had the opportunity to know him. His memory will be with us forever.

'46 Memorial Article Project and his wife, Frannie


Read our general and most popular articles

Leave a Comment