Coast Guard Master Chief Boatswain's Mate
Robert E. Hammond, known as "Rocky" to his shipmates and friends, was born and attended schools in Plainfield, New Jersey. Following high school, he went to work at Raritan Arsenal located in Metuchen, NJ. In mid-1942 Hammond learned that the U.S. Coast Guard was enlisting African-Americans as Apprentice Seamen. This, coupled with a sense of national obligation was cause for Hammond to enlist in the U.S. Coast Guard in September, 1942, in Harlem, New York. After enough African-Americans were recruited to fill a recruit company he was sent to Manhattan Beach Training Station, New York, and assigned to Company 24 (a segregated all-African-American company).
After completing his basic training he was assigned to Salisbury Beach Station in Salisbury, Massachusetts which was manned by an African-American crew under the command of CPO Jackson. Their primary duties were beach patrol and search and rescue. He then volunteered for duty aboard the USS Sea Cloud, the first racially integrated U.S. naval vessel in history. Her commanding officer, LCDR Carlton Skinner, permitted the crew to strike for any rate regardless of race. After striking for Boatswain's Mate, Hammond next assignment was to the assault transport USS George M. Randall.
During his Coast Guard career Hammond commanded USCGC 95315 while he trained a Haitian crew and then delivered the cutter and its new crew to Haiti. He participated in the U.S. Military Mission to Monrovia, Liberia, that trained Liberian personnel which established a Liberian Coast Guard. He received a Commandant's Letter of Commendation for a search and rescue case involving his command, CG-64308 in the Long Island Sound. He then oversaw the construction, shakedown and delivery of the CG-65610 to its homeport in New York and was the cutter's first officer-in-charge. He also served aboard USCGC Rockaway.
He rose through the ranks to Master Chief Boatswain's Mate. He received an appointment to W-1 but for personal reasons did not accept that promotion. He retired from active duty on September, 1963.
"Looking Back: A Veteran Remembers the First Steps to Racial Equality", by PA2 Christopher Evanson (Coast Guard Magazine, Issue 4, 2007).