1905 was the year and Lexington, North Carolina was the place. On April 3rd, Robert Frederick Sink was born. Robert attended Duke University in 1923, prior to deciding to join the army in 1924. He was appointed to the United States Military Academy. In 1927, he graduated from West Point.
His early career offered up many assignments. He went to Puerto Rico in 1929, with the 65th Infantry Regiment. Pennsylvania, with the 34th Infantry Regiment was another. In 1940, Robert Sink was assigned to Fort Benning, with the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment.
Just 2 years later, in 1942, he was named as Commander of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Their base, Camp Toccoa in Georgia. It was at this point, while reading an article in Life Magazine, he declared “My men can do better than that”.
The challenge was a world record for marching 100 miles in 72 hours, currently set by a Japanese army battalion. Colonel Sink chose 2nd battalion. They marched 118 miles in 75 hours, all the way to Atlanta. Next for the regiment and their commander was Fort Benning and earning jump wings. The shout of Currahee could be heard loud and proud that night.
Finding himself, in Aldbourne, in the UK, Colonel Sink had to deal with a group of NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers) that stated they had no wish to serve under Captain Sobel. To quote Colonel Sink “I ought to have you all shot! This is nothing less than an act of mutiny before the goddamn invasion of Europe!”
Colonel Sink was not happy, but this was enough for him to question Captain Sobel. Captain Sobel was transferred with emphasis on his excellent training skills being suitable for his new position
Colonel Sinks first combat jump was June 6, 1944, as he participated in Operation Overlord. His second as he jumped into Holland for Operation Market Garden. Colonel Sink was the regimental commander throughout the war. It’s well known that Colonel Sink turned down promotions to stay with his unit. The regiment was nicknamed “The Five-Oh-Sink”. It was his regiment. He was their commander through one of the most harrowing experiences in Bastogne, during the Battle of the Bulge
After the liberation of the majority of Germany, Sink and his regiment went to Australia. A French Commander competing with Colonel Sink to get to Berchtesgaden, The Eagles Nest. The race was won by Colonel Sink. Easy Company did slow the French with a few rocks in their path.
After the war, his career continued. He was Division Commander of the 7th Armored Division closely followed by Division Commander of the 44th Infantry Division. He was Commander of the XVIII Airbourne Corps at Fort Bragg. That is just a few of his many roles in life. His final role, that he held until retirement was that of Commander of US Forces in Panama. Robert Sink retired in 1961 as a lieutenant general.
He died on 13th December 1965, aged just 60. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, with his wife. They had three children.
Robert Sink was a respected man, but he was a demanding man too, particularly of his soldiers. He had the benefit of a strong mind and a critical one. He loved to read and find out things that he didn’t know. He was strong minded with his children too and if they doubted anything he would tell them “If you don’t know, find out”.
In a piece written for the Fort Campbell Courier, (May 20, 2016), his daughter, Robin Sink McLelland talks of her father. Robin said, “As a teenager, I wasn’t interested in the stories, and he wasn’t talking to teenage girls about the war”. She went on to say, “He died when I was 23 years old, so that opportunity for me to mature and for him to age to a point where I would sit down and listen to stories never happened for us.”
What was the Fort Campbell Post Library, was dedicated to Robert Sink approximately 50 years ago. Since the passing of family members, Robin is now the one that is left to represent her father and that legacy he created
She also donated her father’s desk to the Sink Library. It shares space that is filled with Robert Sink memorabilia. It shares space with those who will come to the library for inspiration. It will be there for patrons to use and admire for many years to come.
Robert F. Sink was not just army personnel. He was a son, a father and more. While Robert Sink is now a memory, this library, his desk and his remaining family will keep his legacy alive.
Lieutenant General Sink – Thank you for your service.