A Sailor's Story: Fireman First Class Robert Penn

Born October 10, 1872, in City Point, Virginia, Robert Penn was raised in an agricultural community and worked as a field hand before enlisting in the U.S. Navy.

Fireman First Class Robert Penn served aboard the USS Iowa during the bombardment of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the blockage of Santiago de Cuba.  He was the only African-American sailor aboard the USS Iowa at the time.

He earned a Congressional Medal of Honor when a boiler malfunctioned and blew out a manhole gasket.  Fireman First Class Robert Penn repaired the boiler by balancing on wood and coal buckets above the boiling water, saving his fellow sailors, and rescuing the USS Iowa.  After leaving the U.S. Navy, he moved to Las Animas, Colorado.  Fireman First Class Robert Penn died on June 8, 1912.


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

In addition to the travel writings at www.takethebackroads.com, you can also read her book reviews at www.riteoffancy.com and US military biographies at www.everydaypatriot.com

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