Robert James Vaughn was born in High Springs, Florida, on 7 September 1906, son of Robert W. and Florence Day Vaughn. He received his early education from public schools in High Springs, graduating with honor from High Springs High School in 1922. He was an honor graduate of the University of Florida at Gainesville (BS, 1925) and Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, (MD, 1929). Commissioned Assistant Surgeon, with rank of Lieutenant (jg) in the US Navy on 25 June 1929, he subsequently advanced in rank to that of Captain in the Medical Corps of the Navy, to date from 1 August 1943.
After a period of internship (Roentgenology) at the Norfolk Naval Hospital, Portsmouth, Virginia, he reported to the US Naval Hospital, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, where he was assigned to X-Ray and family practice until February 1931. He returned to Norfolk in March and after four months’ service at the Receiving Station, was ordered to USS Wright, flagship of Commander Aircraft, Base Force, for duty as Junior Medical Officer. After a year at sea, he reported in June 1932 to the Naval Hospital, Washington, DC, to serve as Assistant Radiologist until July 1935. During that period, he had postgraduate instruction in Radiology at Cornell University from May to September 1933.
Duty from August 1935 until July 1937 at the US Submarine Base, Coco Solo, Canal Zone, preceded a tour of duty as Chief of Radiology at the Naval Hospital, Annapolis, Maryland, ending in November 1940. During the next six months he was Senor Medical Officer on board USS Capella, and from June to November 1941 he served as Chief of Radiology at the US Naval Hospital, Pearl Harbor, T. H. He was Senior Medical Officer of USS Phoenix when the Japanese attacked the U S Fleet at Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941, and that cruiser, unharmed at anchor near Ford Island, joined the light cruisers St. Louis and Detroit, and several destroyers also untouched, to form an impromptu task force which conducted a vain search for the enemy carriers from which the attack had been launched.
The Phoenix returned to escort the first convoy from Pearl Harbor back to the United States to evacuate civilian personnel, and Dr. Vaughn was subsequently detached for shore duty as Chief of Radiology at the Naval Hospital, Jacksonville, Florida. In April 1943 he again joined Phoenix, and served for six months as her Senior Medical Officer. He next had duty as Executive Officer of the US Naval Hospital, Trinidad, BWI, and in February 1945 returned to the Naval Hospital, Norfolk, Virginia, for similar duty throughout the remaining months of the war.
He was Chief of Radiology at the Naval Hospital, Norfolk, Virginia, from December 1945 until October 1946, when he reported to the Navy Department, Washington, DC. There he had brief instruction in the Office of Naval Intelligence prior to his assignment as Assistant Naval Attaché and Assistant Naval Attaché for Air, American Embassy, Moscow, USSR. During his stay there from December 1946 until February 1949, he had collateral duty as Physician to the International Diplomatic Colony in Moscow, and in March-April 1947 was Physician to the delegates of the conference of Foreign Ministers there.
Returning to the Navy Department in April 1949, he had naval intelligence and public relations duties for three months in the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. In July 1949 he reported as Force Medical Officer on the Staff of Commander Service Force, Atlantic Fleet, and served in that capacity until January 1952. From February of that year until May 1954 he had duty as Executive Officer at the US Naval Hospital, Newport, Rhode Island, after which he was assigned to Foreign Medical Intelligence in the Office of the Vice Chief of Naval Operations. Since 20 October 1955 he had been Commanding Officer of the Naval Hospital, Key West, Florida.
Captain Vaughn had the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with star; the American Campaign Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; and the National Defense Service Medal. He had also been awarded the Brazilian Order of the Southern Cross, degree of Commendador, presented by the President of the Republic of Brazil for services rendered the Government of Brazil while on duty in the USSR.
Dr. Vaughn was a Diplomaté , American Board of Radiology (Diagnostic and Therapeutic) and a graduate of the Special Weapons Course (Atomic Energy) at Sandia Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and of the Advanced Course in Hospital Administration-Inter Agency Institute for Federal Hospital Administrators. He was a member of the Naval Order of the United States; Order of Military Surgeons; American College of Radiology; and various social, medical and scholastic fraternities. He was a Master Mason, Scottish Rite Mason, and a Shriner (Almas Temple, AAONMS, Washington, DC), and was a member of the Army and Navy Country Club, Washington, DC.