Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The List 5137 TGB

To All,

A bit of history and some tidbits



Today in Naval History


1851 The U.S. Navy expedition under Lt. William L. Herndon, which was exploring the Amazon valley and its tributaries, reaches Iquitos in the jungle region of the upper Amazon. The expedition covers 4,366 miles from Lima, Peru to Para, Brazil.

1941 USS Omaha (CL 4) and USS Somers (DD 381) intercept the German blockade runner Odenwald disguised as a U.S. freighter and board her after the German crew abandon the ship. They bring the ship to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where the boarding party is awarded salvage shares.

1942 The first officer and enlisted WAVES from training schools report for shore duty at installations around the United States.

1951 A P2V-3 Neptune patrol bomber assigned to Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron One (VQ-1) is attacked by two Soviet La-2 fighters over the Sea of Japan, about 18 miles from the Soviet coast near Vladivostok. All 10 crewmen are lost. Three days of search and rescue operations revealed no trace of them and they are declared deceased by the Navy in 1952.

1967 Helicopters from USS Coral Sea (CVA 43) rescue the 37-man crew of Liberian freighter Royal Fortunes after she runs aground on a reef in the Gulf of Tonkin.

1967 Pilot Cmdr. Joseph P. Smolinski and copilot Cmdr. George A. Surovik of VP-40 complete the last operational flight by seaplanes of the U.S. Navy in an SP-5B Marlin at NAS North Island, CA.

Thanks to CHINFO

Executive Summary:

• Russia is increasing involvement in Libya's civil war reports the New York Times.

• New York Times also reported on Iran's plans to reactivate Fordow, its most sensitive nuclear production site.

• Stars and Stripes reports 5th and 6th Fleet exercises are improving regional maritime security, while AFP notes the International Maritime Exercise (IMX) is attracting more partners, like Saudi Arabia.

• USNI News reported on the Navy's efforts to modify small boat procedures following the 2018 death of Ens. Sarah Mitchell in the Red Sea.

Today in History

November 6


Henry VI is crowned King of England.


The first winter snow falls on the French Army as Napoleon Bonaparte retreats form Moscow.


Abraham Lincoln is elected 16th president of the United States.


Jefferson Davis is elected to a six-year term as president of the Confederacy.


A Union force surrounds and scatters defending Confederates at the Battle of Droop Mountain, in West Virginia.


Comanche, the only 7th Cavalry horse to survive George Armstrong Custer's "Last Stand" at the Little Bighorn, dies at Fort Riley, Kansas.


Maine becomes a dry state.


The Bolshevik "October Revolution" (October 25 on the old Russian calendar), led by Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, seizes power in Petrograd.


As European inflation soars, one loaf of bread in Berlin is reported to be worth about 140 billion German marks.


The first landing of a jet on a carrier takes place on USS Wake Island when an FR-1 Fireball touches down.


Coleman Young becomes the first African-American mayor of Detroit, Michigan.


Guerrillas of the leftist 19th of April Movement seize Colombia's Palace of Justice in Bogata; during the two-day siege and the military assault to retake the building over 100 people are killed, including 11 of the 25 Supreme Court justices.


A British International Helicopters Boeing 234LRR Chinook crashes 2.5 miles east of Sumburgh Airport; 45 people are killed, the deadliest civilian helicopter crash to date (2013).


The Iran arms-for-hostages deal is revealed, damaging the Reagan administration.


The Rova of Antananarivo, home of Madagascar's sovereigns from the 16th to the 19th centuries, is destroyed by fire.


Australia's voters reject a referendum to make the country a republic with a president appointed by Parliament.


From the Birth of the Marines to the First Jet Fight by W. Thomas Smith Jr.


This Week in American Military History:

Nov. 7, 1811: The Battle of Tippecanoe is fought between U.S. forces – composed of U.S. Army infantry, Kentucky volunteers, and Indiana militia all under the command of Indiana Gov. William Henry Harrison – and elements of Shawnee chief Tecumseh's American Indian confederation under the command of Tenskwatawa (Tecumseh's brother).

The fighting, which takes place near present-day Battle Ground, Indiana, will be a victory for U.S. forces. And Harrison – destined to become a brig. gen. during the War of 1812 and ultimately president of the United States – will forever be known as "the hero of Tippecanoe."

Nov. 7, 1863: Union forces under the command of Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick decisively defeat Confederate forces under Maj. Gen. Jubal Early in the Battle of Rappahannock Station (Va.).

Though a "a complete and glorious victory" for the Union Army, Confederate Col. Walter Taylor will refer to the battle as "the saddest chapter in the history of this army … miserable, miserable management."

In six months, Sedgwick will be shot and killed by a Confederate sharpshooter during the bloody Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.

Nov. 8, 1805: The U.S. Army's Corps of Discovery – best known as the Lewis and Clark expedition – led by Capt. (future governor of the Lousiana

Territory) Meriwether Lewis and Capt. (future Brig. Gen. of Lousiana Territory militia and governor of the Missouri Territory) William Clark reach the Pacific Ocean.

In his journal, Clark writes (unedited): "Great joy in camp we are in view of the Ocian this great Pacific Ocean which we been so long anxious to See.

and the roreing or noise made by the waves braking on the rockey shores (as I Suppose) may be heard distinctly."

Nov. 8, 1942: U.S. and British forces begin landing in French North Africa, primarily Morocco and Algeria. Codenamed Torch, the operation is a huge success: Vichy French (Nazi collaborating) forces capitulate within two days, and the Allies establish a major foothold in Africa.

Nov. 8, 1950: U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Russell J. Brown, flying an F-86 Shooting Star, shoots down a North Korean MiG-15 fighter in history's first jet-to-jet combat. The dogfight, which lasts only 60 seconds, nearly kills Brown who barely manages to pull his shuddering aircraft out of a steep dive after the victory.

Nov. 10, 1775: Happy Birthday and Semper Fidelis to "the world's most exclusive gun club!" The Continental Congress authorizes the establishment of a force of American Marines for service on land and sea in the American War of Independence.

The legislation reads (unedited):

Resolved, That two Battalions of marines be raised, Consisting of one Colonel, two Lieutenant Colonels, two Majors, and other officers as usual in other regiments; and that they consist of an equal number of privates with other battalions; that special care be taken, that no persons be appointed to office, or enlisted into said Battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so aquatinted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve to advantage by sea when required: that they be enlisted and commissioned to serve for and during the present war between Great Britain and the colonies, unless dismissed by order of Congress: that they be distinguished by the names of the first and second battalions of American Marines, and that they be considered as part of the number which the continental Army before Boston is ordered to consist of."

This directive heralds the birthday of the Continental (eventually, U.S.) Marine Corps. The first recruits to enlist – two weeks later – will be a motley mix of young adventurers and street toughs captained by the barkeep of a Philadelphia alehouse. Quickly whipped into a crack contingent of seagoing soldiers, the Marines will evolve into one of the world's premier military organizations, or – as rocker Ted Nugent says in a 2008 tribute to the Corps – "the world's most exclusive gun club."

Nov. 11, 1839: Virginia Military Institute opens its doors for the first time.

Nov. 11, 1865: Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, a surgeon contracted to the Union Army, becomes the first and only female recipient of the Medal of Honor. Walker receives the Medal for "meritorious service." But her award will be rescinded in 1917 when standards are stiffened and recipients have to have been engaged in "actual combat with an enemy." Nevertheless, Walker refuses to surrender the Medal, wearing it every day of her life until her death in 1919. Walker's award will be reinstated in 1977.

Nov. 11, 1918: World War I ends with the signing of the armistice between the Germans and the Allies on the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month." Thus, Armistice Day, which in the United States will evolve into our present Veterans Day. In 1927, nine years after the war, Pres. Calvin Coolidge will issue a congressionally authorized proclamation calling for the display of U.S. flags on all government buildings to remember Armistice Day. In 1938, Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt will sign a bill into law making Armistice Day an official holiday within the District of Columbia. In 1954, Congress will change the name to Veterans Day to honor all American servicemen and women from all eras, and Pres. (retired Gen.) Dwight D. Eisenhower will call on the entire nation to appropriately observe the day.

Nov. 12, 1912: Nearly three years to the day before Lt. Commander Henry Mustin becomes the first American to make a catapult launch from a ship underway (see last week), Lt. Theodore Gordon Ellyson makes the first successful aircraft catapult launch in Naval aviation history. He does so in a Curtiss A-3 launched from a stationary coal barge. Ellyson will rise to the rank of commander, receive the Navy Cross for service in World War I, and be killed in a plane crash in 1928.

Nov. 12, 1942: The Naval Battle off Guadalcanal – pitting U.S. and Australian forces against the Japanese – opens, which will not only result in heavy losses for the Japanese, but will effectively turn the enemy's prosecution of the war from offense to defense.


Thanks to Carlm

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

The Mighty Hercules


Thanks to Richard

Subject: The REAL battle of Midway: Unseen pictures of the decisive US naval conflict that inflicted huge damage on Japanese fleet are revealed as Hollywood blockbuster is set for release this week

The battle took place between June 4 and June 7 in 1942 - six months after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese wanted to occupy strategic US-held atoll Midway.



Ram Admiral Cox released H-22 one year ago and worth the repeat

This H-gram covers the Spanish influenza outbreak of 1918–19, which killed 5,027 U.S. Navy sailors; the little-known sinking of the HMT Rohna by a German guided glide bomb, that resulted in the loss of over 1,000 U.S. Army troops; Operation Leader, the successful strike by USS Ranger (CV-4) north of the Arctic circle off Norway; the loss of USS Wahoo (SS-238) and her legendary skipper Mush Morton; the Battle of Vella Lavella, the last Japanese surface victory of World War II; and the end to Operation Rolling Thunder in the Vietnam War.

100th Anniversary of World War I

The Worst Killer of All: The Spanish Influenza, 1918–19

During World War I, 431 U.S. Navy personnel were killed as a result of enemy action and 819 were wounded. However, 5,027 died as a result of the Spanish influenza epidemic between the fall of 1918 and spring of 1919, more deaths than at Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, or Okinawa. The peak of the epidemic in the U.S. Navy occurred from September to November 1918, during which 121,225 Navy personnel were admitted to the hospital, and many more were sickened. It is estimated that as many as 40 percent of the 600,000 sailors in the Navy in 1918 contracted the virus. The hardest-hit ship was the armored cruiser USS Pittsburgh (ACR-4) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in October 1918, on which 663 (80 percent) of her crew contracted the virus and 58 died. During the epidemic, at least ten U.S. Navy nurses died as a result of aiding the afflicted and three of them would be awarded posthumous Navy Crosses. Worldwide, the pandemic is now estimated to have killed between 50 and 100 million people (3 to 6 percent of the world's population at the time) and over 700,000 people in the United States, with a mortality rate of between 10 and 20 percent of those infected globally. (For more on the impact of the Spanish influenza on the U.S. Navy, please see attachment H-022-1.)

75th Anniversary of World War II

European Theater: Forgotten Valor—USS Pioneer (AM-105) and the sinking of HMT Rohna, the Worst Loss of U.S. Life at Sea

On 26 November 1943, a German Hs-293 radio-controlled, rocket-boosted glide bomb hit and sank His Majesty's Transport (HMT) Rohna off the coast of Algeria, resulting in the deaths of 1,149 crew and passengers, including 1,015 U.S. Army troops (plus 35 U.S. soldiers who subsequently died from wounds.) The loss of Rohna constituted the greatest loss of U.S. life at sea due to enemy action. (During the attack on Pearl Harbor, 1,077 U.S. sailors died in port aboard the USS Arizona [BB-39], and 879 sailors were lost at sea in 1945 in the sinking of the cruiser USS Indianapolis [CA-35]). Approximately 1,192 crew and soldiers were killed in an accidental boiler explosion and fire aboard the Mississippi steamboat Sultana at the end of the Civil War in April 1865.) Over 1,100 survivors of Rohna were rescued, 606 of them by the minesweeper USS Pioneer (AM-105) at great risk to the ship due to ongoing German air attacks and risk of submarine attack. Under the command of Commander LeRoy "Roy" Rogers, USN, Pioneer's crew repeatedly displayed acts of valor, diving into the cold water in the gathering darkness at great risk to their own lives to assist struggling soldiers. In order to keep the Germans from learning how successful the guided-bomb attack had been, a tight lid of secrecy was clamped down on the incident, which continued long after the war. The details of the sinking were not released until the late 1960s and remained obscure long after that. Presumably as a result of the secrecy, neither the crew of the Pioneer, nor the ship itself, ever received any kind of formal recognition from the U.S. Navy for their heroic actions in rescuing so many of their brother soldiers. (For more on the sinking of HMT Rohna and the subsequent rescue effort, please see attachment H-022-2.)

Arctic Strike: Operation Leader, the U.S. Carrier Raid on Norway, and "Diz" Laird

On 4 October 1943, the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) launched two strike packages against German shipping targets along the coast of occupied Norway near Bod√ł (just north of the Arctic Circle) and Sandnessj√łen, 100 miles to the south. Armed with excellent intelligence derived from breaking the German's Enigma code and from the Norwegian Secret Intelligence Service, the raid caught the Germans completely by surprise and was a success. At least five German (or German-controlled) ships, including a large tanker and a troopship, were sunk or beached, and an additional seven or so damaged to varying degrees, for a loss of three aircraft due to anti-aircraft fire and one other due to operational mishap. Radar on Ranger detected German reconnaissance aircraft attempting to find the source of the strike, and two of three were shot down. One of the German aircraft was shot down by Lieutenant Junior Grade Dean S. "Diz" Laird and his flight lead, and the other by Diz alone. Diz would go on to be the only U.S. Navy ace to shoot down both German and Japanese aircraft, finishing the war with 5 ¾ kills. The raid on Norway, known as Operation Leader, was the first time U.S. Navy aircraft engaged German aircraft (aircraft from Ranger had engaged Vichy French aircraft during Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa in November 1942) and, although successful, it would be the last time U.S. aircraft carriers conducted a strike against Europe. So, as for Ocean Venture and Trident Juncture 18, those Navy Sailors who participated in Operation Leader would say, "been there, done that…long before." (For more on Operation Leader and Diz Laird, please see attachment H-022-3.)

Pacific Theater: Loss of USS Wahoo and Lieutenant Commander "Mush" Morton

On 11 October 1943, the submarine USS Wahoo (SS-238), under the command of the renowned Lieutenant Commander Dudley Walker "Mush" Morton, was sunk with all 79 hands by a sustained air and surface attack as she was attempting to exit the Sea of Japan via La Perouse Strait. At the time, all that was known was that Wahoo departed Midway Island on 13 September 1943 and was never heard from again, although intelligence derived from broken Japanese codes allowed her general movements to be tracked based on Japanese reporting of ship losses. She was listed as missing on 9 November after she failed to report as she was supposed to following her exit from the Sea of Japan. The commander of U.S. Submarines in the Pacific, Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, recorded in his diary that, "This is the worst blow we have had." At the time, under the aggressive and inspirational leadership of Mush Morton, Wahoo was the most successful submarine in the Pacific (after the war, she would be credited with sinking 19 ships under Morton, and Morton would be the third-most-successful submarine skipper in the war, even when Wahoo's sixth war patrol was a complete bust due to defective torpedoes). Wahoo's executive officer on five war patrols was Lieutenant Richard O'Kane, who would go on to be the most successful submarine skipper of the war.

After Wahoo was officially declared overdue on 2 December 1943, Lockwood put Morton in for a Medal of Honor (Morton already had three Navy Crosses), but the award was declined, possibly due to a controversial incident that occurred on Morton's first war patrol (Wahoo's third), in which Morton ordered Wahoo to fire on lifeboats with armed Japanese soldiers that had abandoned a ship (Buyo Maru) the submarine had sunk. It was not known until much later that many of those in the water and in the boats were British Indian Army prisoners of war being used as forced labor by the Japanese. There are some that argue that Morton committed a war crime (I'm not one of them), but the incident is a case study in the moral ambiguity that occurs in an existential war for survival and, in particular, with "unrestricted" submarine warfare. The wreck of Wahoo was found in La Perouse Strait in 2005, and subsequently conclusively identified; she was sunk as a result of a direct hit by a bomb from a Japanese aircraft. (For more on the Wahoo's extraordinary service life, please see attachment H-022-4.)

Battle of Vella Lavella: The Last Japanese Victory

On the night of 6-7 October 1943, a force of three U.S. destroyers attacked nine Japanese destroyers northwest of the island of Vella Lavella in the central Solomons. Despite advantages of radar, the new combat information centers (CIC) aboard U.S. ships, and improved doctrine, valor and audacity could not overcome numbers or the superior capabilities of Japanese torpedoes. Within a short span, the destroyer Chevalier (DD-451) had been hit by a torpedo, her bow blown off by a magazine explosion, and the destroyer O'Bannon (DD-450) got entangled in her wreckage, having collided from behind in the smoke of battle. Selfridge (DD-357), with squadron commander Captain Frank Walker embarked, continued to press the attack alone until she, too, was hit and crippled by a Japanese torpedo. With the three U.S. destroyers dead in the water and at his mercy, the Japanese commander opted to disengage, having lost one destroyer, and having been fooled by a grossly inflated report from a scout aircraft. Nevertheless, the Japanese force accomplished its mission to evacuate the last 589 Japanese soldiers on Vella Lavella before U.S. and New Zealand ground forces closed in. The Battle of Vella Lavella would be the last major battle of the Central Solomons campaign, and would also be the last significant Japanese victory of the war. Following Vella Lavella, the Japanese navy embarked on a sustained losing streak as its extensive losses in the Solomon Islands had taken their toll, and as U.S. improvements in integrating new technology, overwhelming numbers, and sheer aggressiveness turned the tide. Vella Lavella is also the first case I know of in which the U.S. commander fought the battle from the CIC rather than the bridge, a paradigm shift in naval warfare. (For more on the Battle of Vella Lavella, please see attachment H-022-5.)

50th Anniversary of Vietnam War

End of Operation Rolling Thunder

On 31 October 1968, President Lyndon Johnson announced the end of Operation Rolling Thunder, the bombing campaign against North Vietnam, effective 1 November. The cessation was the result of ongoing secret negotiations between the United States and North Vietnam to set up formal peace talks in Paris. These discussions had been occurring since the spring of 1968 and the North Vietnamese had finally agreed to a U.S. demand that South Vietnam be included in the talks. The United States conceded to a role for the National Liberation Front (NLF—the Viet Cong guerrillas in South Vietnam) at the talks, with the understanding that this would not constitute formal recognition by the United States of the NLF. The bombing halt and commencement of peace talks would be followed by months of negotiations over the shape of the conference table. The war was far from over, and fighting (and bombing) in South Vietnam would continue much as before as the negotiations dragged on for years (and North Vietnam repaired damage, reconstituted forces, and improved defenses unmolested by U.S. bombing. The United States would resume bombing of North Vietnam during the Nixon administration (operations Linebacker and Linebacker II), and would mine Haiphong Harbor when the North Vietnamese launched a major conventional offensive into South Vietnam (complete with tanks) in the spring of 1972. I will write more about the end of Rolling Thunder and the continuation of the war in Vietnam in future H-grams, but I would recommend reviewing H-grams 011 and 017, which discuss the beginning of Rolling Thunder. I would also commend Rear Admiral (ret.) "Bear" Taylor's Rolling Thunder blog. Bear took it upon himself to write a blog post every day for the duration of the 50th anniversary of Rolling Thunder (over 1,000 posts). It is a monumental and comprehensive work.


H-022-2: Forgotten Valor: USS Pioneer (AM-105) and the sinking of HMT Rohna, the Worst Loss of U.S. Life at Sea, 26 November 1943

H-Gram 022, Attachment 2
Samuel J. Cox, Director NHHC
October 2018

On 26 November 1943, a German Hs-293 radio-controlled, rocket-boosted glide bomb hit and sank His Majesty's Transport (HMT) Rohna off the coast of Algeria, resulting in the deaths of 1,149 crew and passengers, including 1,015 U.S. Army troops (plus 35 U.S. soldiers who subsequently died from wounds.) The loss of Rohna constituted the greatest loss of U.S. life at sea due to enemy action.

Although the sinking of USS Arizona (BB-39) and USS Indianapolis (CA-35) are far better known, the greatest loss of U.S. life "at sea," due to enemy action, was actually suffered by U.S. Army troops aboard His Majesty's Transport (HMT) Rohna off the coast of Algeria on 26 November 1943, when Rohna was sunk by a German guided glide-bomb. The U.S. Army lost 1,015 troops, and another 35 subsequently died from wounds. Indianapolis lost 879 U.S. Sailors by a Japanese submarine attack in the Philippine Sea.

On 25 November 1943, Rohna departed Oran, Algeria, and joined Gibraltar-to-Suez Convoy KMF-26. Rohna was an 8,600 ton, coal-burning passenger/cargo ship owned by the British India Steamship Company and requisitioned by the British for use as a troop transport. In addition to her Australian and British officers and mostly Indian crew, and 18-man British DEMS (Defensively Equipped Merchant Ship) detachment, aboard were 1,981 U.S. Army Soldiers. The U.S. Soldiers were destined for India to build B-29 bomber bases, and were mostly from the 853rd Engineer Battalion (Aviation) along with the 322nd Fighter Control Squadron, 31st Signal Construction Battalion, the 44th Portable Surgical Hospital, and several other "filler" units.

One of the rationales for invading Italy at Salerno (see H-gram 021) was to knock Italy out of the war to ease pressure on the long, vital, and vulnerable supply line from Gibraltar to Suez. However, even though Italy dropped out of the war and officially switched sides, the Germans just occupied many of the Italian airfields and ports and continued to attack Allied shipping in the Mediterranean. In but one attack, on 6 November 1943, the destroyer USS Beatty (DD-640) was hit by a German aerial torpedo while defending Convoy KMF-25A from a 25-plane German air raid off Algeria. The two planes that attacked Beatty were actually showing American Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) signals, but were correctly identified as German Ju-88 bombers. Beatty engaged, but in the smoke and haze, one was able to get close enough for a torpedo launch. Although the torpedo explosion broke the ship's back, Beatty's crew fought valiantly for more than four hours to save their ship, but the damage was too severe and she finally went down; the majority of her crew were saved.

On the late afternoon of 26 November, off Bougie, Algeria, Convoy KMF-26 was attacked by about 30 Luftwaffe bombers, mostly Heinkel He-177A "Greif" ("Griffin") long-range bombers, in two major waves. Four Free French Spitfire fighters put up spirited defense, followed later by several British RAF fighters. German bombers dropped many bombs in a horizontal mode, with the usual lack of success for that kind of attack. However, the He-177As dropped 42 Hs-293 radio-controlled, rocket boosted, glide bombs (also see H-Gram 021) against the convoy. (The Hs-293 had a 650 lb. warhead and a range of about 6.5 NM when dropped from about 4,600 feet, which achieved high speed with a 10-second burn by a liquid-fueled rocket motor, and was designed for use against unarmored ships.)

Despite the size of the attack, extensive anti-aircraft fire from the convoy and prolific use of smoke and maneuver all served to spoil the Germans' aim. In addition, at least six of the guided bombs were successfully drawn off target by new radio-jamming equipment on some of the convoy escorts. The German operators had to keep both the bomb and the target ship in sight throughout the bomb's entire flight, a significant weakness. The German's paid heavily for the attack. Four of the new He-117As were shot down with the group commander aboard one of them, and three more made it back to base but were not flyable afterwards. Several other German aircraft were shot down as well by determined and effective anti-aircraft fire from the convoy ships (even the old Rohna was festooned with a variety of AAA weapons and contributed to the barrage).

At about 1715–1725, during second wave attacks, Rohna was hit by an Hs-293, the only one of the 42 launched to score a direct hit on its target, although there were numerous other near misses on the escorts and the convoy ships. The bomb hit Rohna's port side, penetrated deep into the ship on delayed-fuse, and blew holes in the starboard side, quickly causing the ship to list to starboard. About 300 U.S. Army troops were killed in the blast or never made it off the ship. The bomb hit about 15-inches above the waterline, but nevertheless the starboard holes flooded the engine room, knocking out electrical power, including to the pumps, and set the Number 4 hold on fire. The blast also destroyed six of 22 lifeboats, and buckled plates on the port side so that no boats on the port side could be launched. Ultimately, only eight lifeboats could be launched, which turned out not to be in very good condition to begin with. All but two of the lifeboats that did get in the water were quickly overloaded, swamped and sunk. Although 101 rafts of various kinds (and condition) went into the water, most of the Army troops had to swim.

Although accounts of 15- to 20-foot seas are probably exaggerated, there was a stiff breeze and significant swell, and the water was cold, resulting in the quick onset of hypothermia. Some later accounts accused some of the Indian crewmembers of unprofessional conduct, contributing to additional deaths, but accounts by Lieutenant Colonel A. J. Frolich, the senior U.S. Army officer, and other witnesses indicated that the Indian crew behaved as well as could be expected under the circumstances, most of them were manual labor not trained for such a situation. Rohna's British-manned anti-aircraft guns continued to fire even as the ship was sinking. The ship's Australian master, Captain T. J. Murphy, the chief, 2nd officer, 3rd officer. and four U.S. Army personnel were the last to abandon the ship before she broke up and sank by the stern about 90 minutes after being hit.

Convoy KMF-26 had a pre-planned response in the event of the loss of a ship, with specific ships designated to conduct rescue operations. As the burning and sinking Rohna fell behind the convoy, in accordance with the plan, the Auk-class minesweeper USS Pioneer (AM-105), under the command of Commander LeRoy "Roy" Rogers—in command since 27 August 1943—immediately swung into action despite continuing German bomb and strafing attacks. Pioneer had barely missed being hit by a bomb during the attacks, and she had put up such a volume of anti-aircraft fire thought she was on fire. Other designated ships dropped behind the convoy as well, including the cargo ship Clan Campbell and the corvette Holcomb to assist in rescue operations. The British destroyer HMS Atherstone laid a smoke screen and provided protection against air or submarine attack when the other ships were vulnerable while rescuing survivors. The wind and sea state were bad enough that it was not possible to launch boats, and the rescuers were racing the clock in the gathering darkness as survivors succumbed to hypothermia.

Pioneer mounted a very aggressive rescue effort, aided by a lower freeboard than Clan Campbell. Sailors in Pioneer's 122-man crew demonstrated extraordinary courage as many dove into the cold water and rough seas, some tied with rope and some not, to assist soldiers who were quickly becoming too weak to climb ropes or cargo nets. The evolution was dangerous, as a number of Soldiers were killed by Pioneer's props, or were sucked under the ship as she heaved up and down. Nevertheless, the crew of Pioneer worked into the night, bringing 606 survivors on board, quickly causing the ship to become top-heavy. Despite the risk, Pioneer's skipper ordered the use of searchlights and continued rescuing survivors until no more could be found in the dark, and there was literally no more room to bring any more aboard. Among the survivors brought on board was Frolich (misspelled Frolick in Pioneer's log,) who was the senior Army officer aboard Rohna. Six of the survivors would die from wounds or the effects of exposure in the water before they could reach hospitals ashore.

Clan Campbell, despite the challenge of her high freeboard, rescued 110 survivors. Atherstone joined in after dark, rescuing another 70. British sailors on Atherstone performed the same kind of heroics to rescue U.S. soldiers as those on Pioneer. Several other ships, including the tug Mindful, rescued a number more, also displaying great determination and courage to rescue as many as possible. In the end, 1,149 personnel were lost in the sinking of the Rohna. This included five officers and 117 Indian sailors of Rohna's 195-man crew, one member of the British DEMS detachment, and one hospital orderly. U.S. casualties included 1,015 lost during the sinking. Afterward, another 35 U.S. Army personnel died, making the total U.S. loss 1,050. Of 30 officers and 793 enlisted men in the 853rd Engineer Battalion, 10 officers and 485 enlisted men were lost.

Following the landings at Salerno in September 1943, the Allies had become painfully aware of the development and employment of German guided bombs and the limited means to counter them. In order to prevent the Germans from learning how effective the guided bomb had been against Rohna, the entire matter was classified, and wartime censorship was used to delay any public revelation of the number of casualties and to prevent specific details from becoming public knowledge. The secrecy prevailed for many years after the fact, and until the 1960s, only those who were involved in the incident had significant knowledge. The tragedy was not covered in the standard histories of World War II. For example, Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison's History of U.S. Naval Operations in World War II does not mention it. In some cases, veterans of the sinking had difficulty proving that their injuries resulted from the sinking, because there was no publically available documentation that the event even occurred. In addition, neither the commanding officer of Pioneer, the crew, nor the ship received any formal recognition from the U.S. Navy for their valor in rescuing so many of the survivors (few if any would have survived the night). Not until the passage of House Concurrent Resolution No. 408 in October 2000 did the soldiers and sailors aboard Rohna and USS Pioneer receive U.S. government recognition for their courage and sacrifice.

Of the 4.5 million U.S. troops transported to Europe during the war, 3,604 were lost, including the 1,015 on Rohna. Pioneer was incorporated into the Mexican navy in 1972, and sunk by that service in 2006.

(Sources include, Forgotten Tragedy: The Sinking of HMT Rohna and Allied Secret both by Carlton Jackson, Naval Institute Press (1997), and University of Oklahoma Press (1997), respectively; Soldiers Lost at Sea: A Chronicle of Troopship Disasters by James E. Wise and Scott Barron, Naval Institute Press (2003); unanimously passed House Concurrent Resolution No. 408, October 2000.


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