Robert Gene Charles was born in Columbus, Ohio, on December 30, 1918, son of Frederick Grover and Ann (Davis) Charles. He attended Ohio State University at Columbus, before enlisting on September 4, 1940 in the US Naval Reserve. On March 17, 1941 he was appointed Midshipman, USNR, and on June 12, of that year was commissioned Ensign. Advancing progressively in rank, he attained that of Lieutenant Commander to date from October 3, 1945, and on March 25, 1947 was transferred to the US Navy. He was promoted to Commander, to date from January 1, 1952.
After receiving his commission in June 1941 he was assigned briefly to Patrol Wing Six, and in July was ordered to the Section Base, San Francisco, California. He remained there following the United States entry into World War II, until January 1942, when he joined USS Eagle 32. Detached from that vessel in September 1943, he then had training at the Submarine Chaser Training Center, Miami, Florida. In November 1943 he reported aboard USS Edgar G. Chase and during the period January to March 1944 served successively at the Submarine Chaser Training Center, Miami, Florida, and the Naval Training Station, Norfolk, Virginia.
Ordered to the Brown Shipbuilding Corporation, Houston, Texas, he assisted in the fitting out of USS Straus, and joined that destroyer escort as Executive Officer upon her commissioning, April 6, 1944. Following her trails and shakedown, the Straus proceeded to the Pacific area, where she participated in the capture and occupation of Saipan, assaults on the Philippine Islands, the assault and occupation of Okinawa Gunto, and the Fifth and Third Fleets raids in support of the Okinawa Gunto operations. Detached from the Straus in September 1945, he commanded USS Oliver Mitchell from December of that year until February 1946, when he reported aboard USS Holt as Commanding Officer. Relieved of command of the Holt in July 1946, he transferred in a similar capacity to USS Silverstein.
Between January and July 1947 he was assigned to Sub Group Two, San Diego Group, Pacific Reserve Fleet, after which he attended the Naval School, General Line, Newport, Rhode Island. Completing his instruction in May 1948, he reported the next month as Executive Officer of USS Whetstone. Detached from that vessel in October 1948, he then joined Sub Group Three, San Diego Group, Pacific Reserve Fleet. He had duty at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Washington, from January to March 1949, after which he served as Executive Officer of USS Gunston Hall. During the period from July 1950 to March 1951, this ship was a unit of Pacific Fleet, Amphibious Force, engaged in Korean operations, including the Landings at Inchon Operations Branch, Cargo Operations Division, Military Sea Transportation Service, Washington, DC.
Commander Charles has the American Defense Service Medal; the American Campaign Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; the Navy Occupation Service Medal, Asia Clasp; the Korean Service Medal; and the United Nations Service Medal.