Robert John Esslinger graduated from the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, Class of 1930. He retired as Rear Admiral.
Award Citation as published in February 1942:
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Lieutenant Robert John Esslinger, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism as Engineer Officer of the destroyer USS Kearny (DD 432) during the torpedoing of that vessel by an enemy submarine on 17 October 1941. After a quick and accurate analysis of the situation, Lieutenant Commander Esslinger, working under extremely hazardous and difficult conditions, coolly and skillfully surmounted all obstacles and kept the engines operative, permitting the Kearny to proceed out of the dangerous submarine area and make port. His efficient and loyal performance of duty without regard for his own personal safety and his excellent leadership were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Award Citation as published in September 1945:
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Captain [then Commander] Robert John Esslinger, United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity as Commanding Officer of the destroyer USS Sproston (DD 577)
, in action against enemy Japanese forces off Okinawa from 30 April to 1 June 1945. While on radar picket duty stationed in advance of other units of the Fleet, Captain Esslinger skillfully fought his ship against attacking suicide and bomber planes and, directing his gun batteries in throwing up accurate anti-aircraft fire which resulted in the destruction of several hostile aircraft, defeated all attacks by enemy planes. Although under constant threat from enemy suicide, bomber or torpedo aircraft for an extended period of time, he maintained his ship at a high state of efficiency and alertness. His professional ability, courage and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.