WORLD WAR II HMT Rohna Disaster
Submitted by Jackie Martin Hufschmid
Before dawn on November 27th a German HS293 glider bomb was dropped by a Henkel 177 bomber which hit the Rohna. The device blew open a huge hole near the after end of the engine room and the No. 6 troops deck. Hundreds died upon impact. After the explosion that destroyed the Engine Room, the ship was engulfed in flames and started to sink. It was impossible to lower the lifeboats on the portside due to the side plates forced outwards by the explosion. Many of the lifeboats on the starboard side were lowered but were soon capsized because of the hundreds of troops that were already in the water and trying to climb into them. Others perished from cold and exhaustion while darkness and rough seas hampered rescue efforts. A total of 1,015 American troops, 3 Red Cross personnel, and 120 crewmen perished.
Stories were told of desertion of the Indian
crew, equipment failures, and the deplorable condition of the lifeboats and
rafts. Then there were the cold
waters of the
Rohna was the first transport
World War II. Also, two important but unknown historical events occurred at that time. It was the first successful "hit" of a merchant vessel at-sea carrying US troops by a German remote-controlled, rocket-boosted bomb, and it resulted in the greatest loss of troops at sea in
It was so devastating that the U.S. Government placed a veil of secrecy upon it. The events which followed, were so shameful that the secrecy continued for decades until recently, when documents were released under pressure of the Freedom of Information Act.
In January of 1944 Howards family received
word from the War Department that on
Howards squadron continued on to
Howard is listed on the Tablets of the Missing
Memorial services were held April 30, at
Surviving Corp. Olson are his wife Una Mae; three children, Glenn, Allen and Doris who make their home with relatives at Elroy; and a brother, Maurice Olson of Racine.
For more information on the tragedy of the HMT Rohna you can go to the following websites:
The Rohna Survivors Memorial Association - http://www.rohna.org/
Rohna (British India Steam Navigation Co Ltd) 1926-1943 - http://www.merchantnavyofficers.com/rohna2.html
Photo courtesy of Rohna (British India Steam Navigation Co Ltd) 1926-1943