THE PENTAGON KEPT QUIET ABOUT THE SINKING OF THE WORLD WAR canada goose II TROOPSHIP FOR 50 YEARS
They came on foot, by wheelchair and leaning on canes, carrying cherished relics of their horrific experience in simple plastic shopping bags: Two olive drab life preservers, stiffened by time. A torn fatigue jacket. A wrinkled service uk canada goose cap. A unit flag. A helmet. A medical kit. A canteen.
They were Staff Sgt. Alfred Corbin Jr. Charles Gerstenmaier of Darien, chief mechanic, 80th Air Depot Repair Squadron; Tech Sgt. Andy Kalyan of Enfield, mechanic/turret gunner, 322nd Fighter Control Squadron; and Sgt. Reginald Canada Goose Online A. Lamson of Salisbury, lineman, 31st Signal Construction Battalion.
Today they were having lunch in canada goose factory sale The Courant’s Connecticut Room, exchanging stories while accompanied by wives and a son. But on the afternoon of the day after Thanksgiving 1943, they were among nearly 2,000 troops on His Majesty’s Transport Rohna, sailing from Oran, Algeria, and bound for Bombay, India, via the Suez Canal, when they were hit by a remote controlled, rocket boosted glide bomb.
The world’s first guided missile claimed the lives of 1,149 men, including 1,015 American GIs in one of the worst at Canada Goose sale sea disasters in maritime history. Only the courage of sailors on the minesweeper USS Pioneer and other rescue vessels averted even greater losses by pulling close to 900 soldiers from the sea, while ignoring the presence of German submarines and strafing aircraft.
But it was not until last year, when both houses of Congress approved a resolution recognizing the incident, that the Rohna disaster found its official place in the pages of American history.
For more than a half century after the Rohna slipped beneath the sea there had been no official recognition of its fate. Even family members were unaware of the circumstances under which their loved ones had perished, only canada goose outlet shop being informed that they had been “lost aboard a troopship which was sunk as the result of enemy action.”
Corbin, 25 and unmarried, had tired of waiting canada goose outlet to be called up. So one October morning in 1942, instead of going to his job as a draftsman at Billings Spencer on Park Road in Hartford, he walked to the induction center in Union Station and enlisted in the Army Air Corps. Why the Air Corps? He loved building model warplanes. He was married to Frances Casavecchi when he was drafted at 25. But instead of listing himself as 3A at the induction center, he mistakenly put down 1A. Otherwise, he might never have gone to war.
Upon graduation from Darien High School in 1942, Gerstenmaier, 18, enlisted simply because it was the right thing to do. He trained as a flight mechanic, specializing in C 47s.
Kalyan enlisted in 1939, at 18, in Pottsville, Pa., where he grew up. A canada goose outlet sale self described “crazy kid,” he and close chum, Roy Corpy, quit school and joined the Air Corps. There were only two openings after basic training, one in Panama and another in the Philippines. They flipped a coin. Corpy won the Philippines. Kalyan won Panama. When the United States joined the war, Corpy perished in the infamous Bataan Death March, while Kalyan was assigned to a new unit that was being organized at Bradley Field.
Lamson, a native of Salisbury, was 19 when he and his brother, Harrison, joined the Army one goose outlet canada month after Pearl Harbor. After their dad died in a trucking accident during the Depression, Reginald had left school to help support the family, sawing cakes of ice at North and South Pond on Mount Riga for a dollar a day in winter and mowing lawns in summer. The Lamson boys enlisted partly for economic reasons. The Army would match any allotment canada goose outlet parka money they sent home. Mom would be taken care of during the war.
And then there was a man living halfway around the world who would change their lives forever, Maj. Hans Dochtermann. He was born in 1913 in Augsburg, Germany, the son of a self employed textile merchant. In school, canada goose black friday sale Hans’ favorite subjects were chemistry canada goose outlet in usa and German history. But his love was flying. In 1934, at the age of 21, he applied for pilots’ training school. Of 4,000 applicants, he was one of 36 accepted in the newly organized Luftwaffe program.
His flying skills quickly https://www.outletcanadagoose.biz blossomed. When the war broke out in 1939, he was chosen to experiment with new weapon systems being designed at the Henschel Co. in Kassel, Germany, under the direction of Professor Dr. Herbert A. Wagner. The guided bomb Wagner was developing was the Henschel 293, the missile that would sink the Rohna.
The Rohna’s story began in early October, 1943, in Newport News, Va., with all the hoopla of a Broadway musical on opening night. At dockside, an Army band launched a convoy of more than 100 Liberty ships with heart pumping patriotic tunes, fireworks and waving flags.
Spirits soared. The tide was beginning to turn against Germany. The Allies had driven the Germans from North Africa. President Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin were meeting in Tehran to discuss plans for the liberation of Europe under the code name “Operation Overlord.”
By the second day at sea, however, mal de mer was sweeping the convoy like a cheap canada goose plague. “Seasick? I was seasick from the time we left until we arrived in Oran,” said Corbin. “Those Liberty ships bounced like corks. There was a tanker next to us that pulled so close every night that canada goose outlet reviews it kept banging against us. We were under blackout conditions. It was a boring nightmare of a trip.”
Gerstenmaier added, “For some reason I never got seasick. It took us three weeks to cross the ocean. It was laboriously slow. We were moving at about five knots.”
The convoy arrived safely at Oran and troops were trucked to a preliminary staging area where they pitched tents in rain and mud and slept on mattress covers filled with straw. Some three weeks later, on Nov. 24, they were moved to El Khebir where they first glimpsed HMT Rohna, a coal burning troopship, 461 feet long and 62 feet wide.
It had been built in Newcastle, England, in 1926 as a passenger and cargo vessel for the British India Steam Navigation Co. With the outbreak of war it was put into service as a troop carrier and armed with 18 guns, ranging from 20mm Oerlikon antiaircraft pieces to 4 inch deck guns.
The rusting Rohna was painted hearse black, its decks a dreary chocolate brown. The tired old carrier’s gray and rotting wood railings and staircases were carved with initials of thousands of wartime passengers. “Looking back,” said Corbin, “but not to tarnish the memory of the gallant men who were lost, she is now where she should have been then, resting in 200 canada goose outlet online uk feet of water.”
Gerstenmaier added, “Just looking at her was depressing.” Lamson laughed. “Even the rats were running down the gang planks and jumping overboard.” The Rohna’s Indian crew saw the rodents evacuating the ship as an evil sign. They chanted prophetically, “Two moons. Two moons,” meaning the ship had two days to live.
Boarding was completed early on Thanksgiving morning, Nov. 25. The passengers were Air Corps and infantry replacements headed for bases in China, Burma and India. Their mission was to support American units already in place and canada goose outlet jackets to help train and supply the Chinese in their fight against the Japanese, provide communications and build airstrips for the new B 29 Superfortresses.
The Rohna was deemed dangerously overloaded. So A Company of the 31st Signal was ordered off and assigned to the HMT Rajula. Lamson, a member of B Company of the 31st, remained on the Rohna. “I came that close to missing the whole show,” he said.
Crowded aboard the Rohna were 1,988 American soldiers, including 92 officers, plus seven members of the American Red Cross. The ship’s crew of 198 was made up largely of Royal Indian seamen under the command of British officers and Capt. Murphy, an Australian.
With four other British transports, the Rohna steamed out of the Gulf of Oran at mid morning. They were to join convoy KMF 26, which had left Glasgow, Scotland, on Nov. 15.
The canada goose outlet store “special” Thanksgiving meal hardly enhanced the holiday spirit aboard the Rohna. The menu consisted of canned chicken, dehydrated potatoes, fruit cocktail and slimy camel’s butter spread on doughy rolls.
“The rolls looked like raisin bread. Only it was filled with all different kinds of canada goose outlet canada bugs you never saw before in your life,” said Fonte. “The cooks told us, ‘Don’t worry about them, mates. They’re safe to eat.”‘ Instead of the Thanksgiving spread, many GIs opted for C rations. Canada Goose Outlet Many suffered from seasickness and buy canada goose jacket cheap weren’t interested in food. The decks below reeked with the stomach buy canada goose jacket turning odors of greasy food, tobacco smoke, engine oil and vomit.
That evening President Roosevelt’s annual Thanksgiving Day message, broadcast over Armed Forces Radio, was piped aboard ship. He said, reassuringly, “All of our American boys are having turkey with all the trimmings on this special occasion.” Groans of laughter filled the ship, Fonte remembered.
The first night out, the reality of life on the Rohna set in. Instead of bunks, the GIs were stacked six high in canvas hammocks on three decks below. Their “beds” swayed from side to side to the meter of the rolling vessel. Many chose to sleep on empty mess tables or in blankets on the top deck.