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Robert (Bobby) OBrien
Second Lt., USNR, Active


Bobby O’Brien was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, one of 13 children of John Patrick and Wilhemina O’Brien. In the middle of the ‘tribe’ as he fondly called his family, he wanted to do something to ‘stand out’ instead of being ‘one of the crowd.’ With in a staunch, Irish-Catholic family, he knew he needed to be an individual, rather than go along with the crowd.

His father worked for the railroad, often working 12-14 hours a day on the Railway Express loading dock, in order provide for his large family.  His off-hours were spent at home, often sleeping. However, when he did spend time with his family, he was a warm and loving man, but the time he could give to the ever increasing family was too little, as far as little Bobby was concerned.

His brothers Bart and Frank were the closest to him in age, and the three of them did almost everything together, from delivering papers in the morning, to serving Mass, to playing stickball on the street, with their mother’s broomstick and a ‘pinkie’ ball. In his family, his nickname was ‘Runt’, because he was the last of the boys, and the shortest in stature. The rest of the boys in the family were dark, tall and thin, and somehow, he was dark, but short and stocky, compared to the leaner members of his family.

He made his name in football, as a tough, determined, little guy, often surprising his bigger opponents with his speed and skill. He attended St. Bridget’s grammar school, St. Michael’s High School in Union City, and won a scholarship to St. Peter’s Prep, for academics. All through his schooling, he looked  beyond his world, longing to ‘get out’ and get away from the ‘mile square city’. On graduation he looked into all branches of the service, and liked the Navy saying of ‘Join the Navy, and see the world’ so he signed up, and entered as an enlisted man.

His natural ease with challenges, and with men immediately got him notice with his superiors. Soon he found himself recommended to the Officer’s training program, and quickly went from rating to ensign.  Once in leadership position, he earned the respect and admiration of many in the way he took over situations, and made them successful.

After serving six years in the Navy, he was introduced to Chip Morton, as the Seaview's new Exec was in Norfolk, checking details on the progress of 'Nelson's Folly'. O'Brien had come to the shipyard to look at the boat, having heard so much about it from a friend who was working on the project. Although she was far from finished, Seaview had captured his heart and imagination. He dreamed of one day serving aboard her, although realistically he didn't believe that it could ever happen. However, he made it his business to keep track of the project's development, and finally had been able to get to the shipyard to see her, however unfinished she was.

It was, to say the least, a fortuitous meeting. Morton was impressed with the young officer, and brought him to Capt. John Philips attention. Within a month, Lt. Robert O'Brien, found himself in Santa Barbara, California, with a job on the Seaview, when she was completed; temporary housing, until the housing on the Institute grounds was completed, and a commission in the Naval Reserves, as a Second Lieutenant. He was assigned to assist Morton, until the boat was finished, and then his berth would be that of Dive Officer, serving as Second Officer in the chain of the boat's command.

Bobby, as he became known to the Senior Staff, developed into a dedicated member of the crew, often, in the presence of injuries or illness to Crane and/or Morton, taking command of the boat, and on more than one occasion, successfully completing a mission and bringing all hands safely home to port.

On a personal level, Bobby fell for a certain, much younger officer in the Institute's staff. He kept his feelings to himself, however, for many years, finally revealing his feelings to her after particularly harrowing mission of hers. From that time, the relationship blossomed, and they did, eventually marry.


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