Robert Francis Flinn

NO. 17435  •  

Died 9 October 1951 at Tokyo Army Hospital, Japan, aged 26 years.
Interment: West Point Cemetery, West Point, New York

"Hail to thee blythe spirit ..."

FLINN DID WHAT HE COULD to CONFORM to the constraints and trivia of this world. He succeeded reasonably well most of the time, but not so well that we failed to recognize that he was one of the unchained, a spirit both to enjoy and to be our inspiration. Whether we were found unworthy or in fact his mission had been accomplished, too soon it seemed he was taken away from us.

Bob seemed to have unlimited compassion and ability to love. And his weakness, if it could be called one, was a constant craving for affection. Bob dated many girls, but tended to perplex them when they found they could neither understand nor possess him.

Bob was the poet who would climb a cliff to present a flower to a girl - his, yours or mine, no matter as long as he thought she might appreciate it.

Bob was the scientist who was conversant with cybernetics when the rest of us had little idea how to spell it, much less what the term meant. Bob was a mathematician, an artist, an engineer, a philosopher, a teacher, a wanderer, a thinker, and a doer. His thinking was original, objective, non-conforming, and completely moral.

Money, achievement, and recognition meant little to him; there was too much to do, to feel, to express. Curious, perhaps, in such a one, duty was respected as a trust to be discharged in all seriousness.

Almost as might have been expected, his was not the hero's death or a splendid gesture with obvious meaning. Bob was, however, very much a casualty of the Korean War. Bob contracted hemorrhagic fever and was sent to a hospital not far from Seoul. By the most remote chance Bob heard and recognized my voice as I happened to step into his ward to inquire my way on an infrequent visit to the hospital. We were able to share cokes and ice cream and hope. That hope soared when he was transferred to Japan while I was away on a trip. The shock and sorrow were profound when news of his death reached me weeks later.

For years it was hard to accept that there was no more Bob Flinn, and impossible to say so in writing. And perhaps I am not alone among those who counted themselves as Bob's friends in thinking that we have a plus going for us because we knew him.

- R.R.W.