Memorial Day – The HMT Rohna Coverup

Greetings, everyone. In the United States of America this is holiday called Memorial Day. People will be having picnics and barbecues and doing a lot of fun things. We will be going over to Ben’s house and having a variety of things, including, of course, German Potato Salad. It’s going to be a fun day, but before all that I thought I had some somber thoughts about what this holiday means.

We should fly the flag on this day of remembrance. Proper flag etiquette for today is to raise the flag briskly and then lower it to half-staff and fly it at half-staff until noon when it should be hoisted to its full height. If you don’t have the kind of flagpole that allows for this, then it is appropriate to fly it at its full height. This is a day that is set aside to honor those who have fallen in battle from any of the services. It was originally called Decoration Day because you are supposed to visit the grave of a fallen soldier and post a flag and/or put flowers on it.

The other day I was asked if Herbert is my real name. Many of you know me, but some of the newer folks may not. How I was named was an entry in the first month of this blog. On October 27, 2004, I posted about my dad’s favorite and beloved brother, Herbert E. Thiel, and why my dad loved his brother so much. In the original post, I linked to my cousin’s page that she made about him and another link that I’ve since discovered to be broken. I kind of got upset, thinking, worried that the whole government cover-up would just go away. But then I found out that they are making a documentary about this.

It’s about time. The country entered the war with the attack on Pearl Harbor when 2,403 people were killed and it was incredibly huge news and the very next day the country was at war. 879 men died in the sinking of the USS Indianapolis July 30, 1945 which was stated as the largest loss of life at sea for WWII. But what about the 1,149 Soldiers, sailors and crewmen who were killed on the HMT Rohna? November 25, 1943, Thanksgiving day, after eating “watery canned chicken and weevil-ridden bread,” they departed, and the day after they set sail, their convoy was attacked by the German Air Force. The Germans were using a new, highly sophisticated type of guided missile, and the attack was never reported in the news. The War Department had made it classified indefinitely. They thought that if the American people learned that Hitler had this incredible secret weapon that the country would be in fear and panic. They also did not want the enemy to know how successful their attack had actually been. The 966 survivors were ordered to never talk about what happened or they would be court-martialed. Since most of the bodies were not recovered, the government told their families that they were Missing In Action and later changed their status to Killed In Action.

If you want to read a better historical account I found an article on called A Calamity at Sea, 70 Years Ago and a pretty extensive website with a lot of resources and information called Rohna: Classified.

On the Rohna:Classified site I found this video, which is a preview trailer for a documentary that is being done about this disaster and the cover-up that followed. When I hear the emotion-charged voices of these older people talking I seem to hear the echoes of my dad’s tears every time he talked about his brother. I don’t want this to be forgotten.


    • I’m sorry if I didn’t make it clear in the post itself. It’s a day to remember fallen soldiers. I don’t think the use of the term martyr is appropriate in this case.

      • Well you actually did make it clear. I am sorry for asking unnecessary questions.
        I wonder why the word Martyr is not appropriate. That is the terminology used where I live to refer to fallen soldiers. Is it different in america?

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