Museum opening hours: Tues - Fri 9AM to 5PM. Sat 9AM to 3PM

John Robinson Wallace

June 2021 – John Robinson “Robin” Wallace
U.S. Navy 1968-2006

John Robinson Wallace, Jr. was born on June 14, 1946 and graduated from Whitehaven (TN) High School in 1966. He attended University of Memphis (Memphis State University) and with the Vietnam War heating up, he joined the Naval Air Reserve at Naval Air Station (NAS) Memphis.

In July 1968 following bootcamp and “A” school, he received orders to the USS BOXER (CV-21/LPH-4), a converted Essex class World War II aircraft carrier. Six weeks after checking onboard and despite a warning that shark fishing could cause damage to the ship, Wallace and some buddies fished off the fantail with a hook he fashioned in the metal shop. The 11-foot 6-inch 350-pound shark proved the warning prophetic as the handrailing was ripped off the fantail while landing the shark; and the pristine deck required repainting. Repairs took a week, but the “sailor caper” story made headlines in the Norfolk, Virginia newspapers!

In 1970, Wallace volunteered for orders to Patrol Squadron Sixty-Seven (VP-67) at NAS Memphis to become an air crewman on Lockheed P2V Neptune patrol aircraft. He quickly qualified as a flight engineer, one of the best jobs in his 40-year career. He still fondly remembers flying low and slow over submarine and surface adversaries who were so close that, when they would open the aircraft windows to wave at the Soviet sailors, the Soviets waved back. For six years he rarely went more than five days without flying. His marriage in July 1972 to the former Nancy Jane King from Missouri was just 12 hours before he left on a three-week Soviet surveillance mission out of Rota, Spain.

During his flight physical for the transition to the new P-3 Orion in 1977, the flight surgeon discovered that he was profoundly color blind, ending his flying career.

In 1983, he took a job with Wright Medical in Arlington, TN. Gone for Navy reserve jobs up to two months a year, his boss finally told him to choose civilian or Navy. He chose Navy and promptly started his own business, Acorn Designs.

In 1990, Wallace obtained non-pay orders to the USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN-72) to participate in the first Gulf War, but the war ended a week after he embarked; so, he returned to VP-67. In 24 years with VP-67, he did 12 deployments to WestPAC: Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines. His jobs included Career Counselor, assistant to the Command Master Chief, and Public Affairs Officer, which provided a great education in writing and video production. He was even nominated to the renowned U.S. Navy Senior Enlisted Academy. In 1994, he took orders to train young carrier sailors. On Sept. 11, 2001, he requested his last six-year reenlistment at age 55 and left for NAS Sigonella, Sicily for Operation Enduring Freedom which later transitioned to Operation Iraqi Freedom. He held several Command Senior Chief positions, including at Navy Personnel Casualty Assistance Command. One of his most important jobs was in the Navy office at U. S. Mortuary Affairs at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, where he trained Sailors in the receipt and preparation of Sailors and Marines who were KIA.

After over 11 years in a non-pay status, Wallace decided to retire. His awards include: Navy Air Warfare device, Naval Air Crewman wings, Navy & Marine Commendation Medal (5), Navy & Marine Corps Achievement Medal (3), along with 13 other medals and ribbons.

Wallace still runs Acorn Designs. He is a founding member of small group of military retirees known as the “Old Salts” who make annual trips to various locations around the world. He is secretary of the Mid-South Guard Reserves Association and a member of the Covington First Baptist Church where he volunteers for the jail ministry.

Wallace was nominated by Andy Dunavant, a previous Veteran of the Month.