Robert Leo Gillen
Dates of Service: 6/30/1978 - 9/26/1980
Birth Date: 3/8/1933
Death Date: 7/6/2018
Born in Boston on March 8, 1933, Robert Gillen enlisted in the navy at age 17 and did his basic training at Newport, Rhode Island. Further schooling at San Diego and Imperial Beach, California resulted in his being designated a cryptologic technician and, for the next 10 years, he served at Naval Security Group activities in Morocco, Maine, Washington, and Germany. He rose to chief cryptologic technician by 1961. Selected for commissioning as a special duty officer in cryptology, Gillen underwent training for the first half of 1963, initially at Newport, Rhode Island, and then Corey Field, Florida. He then served at Naval Security Group Activities in the Philippines, Washington, Alaska, and Spain. As a lieutenant commander, he was on the staff of the Second Fleet from 1972 to 1975, and then the Atlantic Fleet’s staff from 1975 to 1978.
Gillen’s assignment to Constitution was the result of a special arrangement, because special duty officers are not normally placed in such positions. During his command tour, he paid particular attention to the development of systematic maintenance procedures that resulted in economies of both effort and funds. He also produced a study that resulted in the establishment of a support activity in Boston to oversee and coordinate national and international ship visits. On one turnaround cruise, he hosted Leverett Saltonstall, former Senator and Governor of Massachusetts. More than two decades earlier, Senator Saltonstall had helped pass Congressional legislation that ensured the ship’s continued existence in the U.S. Navy. In 1980, Gillen and Constitution led the Tall Ships parade into Boston. Gillen retired from the navy on October 1, 1980.
In retirement, Gillen became the naval science instructor and head of a Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) unit at a local Boston high school. He remained involved with Constitution, maintained connections with fellow former commanding officers, and was involved with the activities surrounding the ship’s 200th anniversary in 1997. Gillen died on July 6, 2018 in Charlestown, Massachusetts.