He was Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for air when he retired in 1962. A native of Wymore, Nebraska, he was a 1926 graduate of the United States Naval Academy. He joined the Navy"s air arm in 1928.
In World World War II he was executive officer of the carrier Mission Bay (CVE-59) in the Atlantic.
After the war he headed the aviation department at the Naval Academy and commanded two carriers, the Sicily (CVE-118) and the Coral Sea (CV-43), before assuming division and fleet commands. He was named Deputy Chief of Naval Operations in 1958, serving until his retirement.
In the 1950s, he was allowed to wear facial hair, unusual then, reportedly because of a skin condition. lieutenant was a distinguished-looking Van Dyke beard.
While serving as Deputy Chief of Navy Operation (Air) 1958-1962 and was credited with maintaining the Navy’s air traffic controller program, following the enactment of the Federal Aviation Acting of 1958.
The Air Traffic Controller of the Year award, named in honor of Vice Admiral. Robert B. Pirie, is presented for outstanding contributions to operational readiness and safety applied by individual Navy and Marine Corps Air Traffic Controller. After he left the Navy he held management positions with the Aerojet General Corporation.
He was a former president of the Naval Academy Foundation and the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.
He was inducted into the Naval Aviation Hall of Honor in 1986.