Robert R Tompkins
PVT in 603rd Engineer Camouflage Bn : Co B, 4th Platoon
Born 1923 in NY
County of residence at enlistment: Westchester County, NY
Other residence(s): Bronxville, NY in 1950s; Gardnerville, NV in 2002
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
Occupation before the war: commercial artists
College education before the war: Pratt 1 year
Bob Tompkins was born on July 3, 1923 in Yonkers, NY, the older of two children. He attended Pratt for a year, studying advertising design. At the time he registered for the draft, on June 30, 1942, he was living in Bronxville with his family, and working for Paris & Peart, an ad agency in New York City.
He enlisted five months later, on December 1, 1942. While he was still in basic training, he married Bernice "Bunny" Hart, on April 13, 1943. Bunny had come to New York from her native Chicago to be a model with the John Robert Powers agency, and gave up her career to marry Bob. Basic training also introduced him to fellow recruit Bill Blass; the two would remain close, lifelong friends.
Bob served in the Ghost Army during World War II, and added greatly to the general understanding of life in the 23rd HQ Special Troops through his diary, a tiny address book ((2x3", 56 pp.) where he kept notes throughout the war, against all regulations. (Bill Blass' mother, Ethel, typed up the diary after the war. Bob's family eventually donated the original diary to the Ghost Army Legacy Project.)
Bunny had been pregnant when Bob sailed to Europe in the spring of 1944, and Bob, a jeep driver, clearly missed his wife. On August 21, he wrote in his diary: "Drove most of the way with top and windshield down in driving rain. Would give my right arm to sit in front of a cozy fire with my little darling in my arms. Oh Adolph, you son of a Bitch. I feel like a frozen drowned rat."
Three days later, he described tearing down items and setting them up again, a constant for Bob and his fellow soldiers. "Maintained items--tore them down at 9 PM. Moved up 500 yards to new area and set up new tanks. Willy [Blass] and I set up our tent with our feet sticking out in the pouring down rain and passed out around 3 AM."
Bob kept looking for information on the birth of his first child, and he finally found it in the Stars and Stripes on December 29, where Bunny had placed the announcement. "Just read in Stars and Stripes. It's a boy. December 19. Wow!" he wrote in his diary.
Bob was discharged from the Army with the rank of SGT. After the war, he and Bunny settled in Bronxville, and he went to work for Young & Rubicam, where he eventually became art director, working on ads for national accounts in New York and LA. They had three children: Robert Jr., Lawrence, and Mark.
After 25 years with Y&R, Bob established his own graphic design firm in Los Angeles, where his clients included Union Oil of California, The Squirt Company, and various Southern California banks. The family lived in Sherman Oaks.
In 1982, he joined Union Oil (later known as UNOCAL 76) to serve as manager of graphic art production. Among the projects he worked on there was the creation of promotional pins for the LA Dodgers and Oakland A's.
After Bob retired, in 1989, he and Bunny moved to Gardnerville, NV, a small town near the California state line, southeast of Lake Tahoe. Bob became very active as an artist--painting pastel portraits, doing photography, and dabbling in watercolor. He was commissioned to do portraits of prominent members of the Carson Valley community, exhibited his work in various settings, and won many awards in art and photography competitions. He was a member of the Nevada Artists Association, the Carson Valley Art Association, the West Coast Pastel Society, and the Carson Valley Historical Society.
He was also the author of frequent letters to the editor of the Reno Gazette-Journal. A 1992 letter complained about political sign "blight" in Douglas County; a 2001 letter criticized the graphic design of the Nevada license plate; a 2004 letter suggested the local ABC-TV affiliate was guilty of biased political reporting.
Bob died on September 4, 2011; Bunny died 8 days later. They had been married for 68 years.
1942 draft card
1942 enlistment record
2000 article in Reno Gazette-Journal (NV) re an art exhibit of his (includes biographical details)
2001 letter to the editor in Reno Gazette-Journal (NV)
2004 article in Minden-Gardnerville, NV Record-Courier with biographical details
2011 Nevada Death Index
2011 obituary (for him and his wife) in Minden-Gardnerville, NV Record-Courier
SGT Bob Tompkins diary from WW2