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Blogging A – Z Challenge 2022: H Is For Herbert E. Thiel & A Government Coverup

Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 22707 – 958

Here’s the haps:

I’ve written about this a few times before so some of my regular followers know that I am named for my dad’s two favorite brothers, Herbert and Clarence. It still amazes me that the biggest loss of American lives at sea, 1,015, could be covered up for so many years. Who knows what other secrets they have?

This is a copy of the first post I did about him rewritten a slight bit to change tenses. Before that I would like to share a link to the site that has been working on a documentary about it. Rohna Classified and a page from the 853rd Aviation Engineer Battalion tell about the disaster in as much detail as is known.


When I was growing up and even to this day when I am around certain relatives and people who have known me since I was young, and some elderly folks, I bore the moniker, “Little Herbie.” Man, I hated that. I hated to be called Herbert, too, because there was NObody even close to my age that had a name like Herbert! What were my parents thinking to name me Herbert and allow people to call me “Little Herbie?”

Okay, now that the giggling, laughing, chortling, chuckling snorting and outright guffawing have simmered down I will tell you.

My dad used to talk about his brother all the time. He often told the story of how, when he was a little boy, growing up on the farm with 11 brothers and sisters, his older brother, Herbie, bought him a train set for Christmas. In the 1930s, times were tough, you did not have a lot of money, and you did not get many “things.” You had to use your imagination to play games, there was no Nintendo, no TV and you might get to listen to the radio if you finished your chores and didn’t have something more fun to do. My dad cherished the toy train and valued it so much, that when other kids would come over to visit, he would put it away in his closet so they wouldn’t see it and possibly wreck it. He cherished his brother even more. His brother was a hero to him as well.

My dad wanted to sign up for WWII, but his hearing was bad and he was a little young and they wouldn’t take him. My German grandfather hated what Hitler was doing and wanted to fight, but the Army told him, as politely as they could, that he probably needed to be home with his wife and those twelve kids. That’s when my uncle volunteered. He went down and signed up and the whole family, the whole town, really, was very proud of him. It appears from what little I know of it that Herbie was a popular fellow in the town of Saukville, WI and he was a hero before he even did anything. That was how it was in WWII and how small towns were and are. The town’s American Legion post, Landt-Thiel post #470, is partly named after him.

A new guided-missile technology used by the Germans made a deadly hit on the boat and killed over a thousand troops (1015) and the government feared there would be panic if the news got out that the Germans had this rocket-powered technology. This was almost as many American troops dead as Pearl Harbor, but while the USS Arizona and the USS Indianapolis were becoming household words, the poorly manned, British-owned, Indian-operated HMT Rohna, was being swept under the carpet. The maritime disaster of the HMT Rohna was not covered by the news and was actively suppressed by the government. Survivors were ordered not to talk about it under penalty of court-martial and the families of the casualties were informed, first, that their soldier was missing in action which was later changed to killed in action by enemy activity – no further information available.

There were many heroic deeds done that day and my dad still choked up after all those years every time we talked about his brother, but there is one thing he pointed out with every telling. My uncle wanted to do the right thing. He knew joining the military and serving his country was the right thing for him to do, but he also had a secret. He told my dad that he would go and do what he had to do, of course, but he really did not want to kill anyone and had prayed he wouldn’t ever have to kill someone. His prayer was answered.

Grandma, Uncle Herbie, Grandpa


23 responses to “Blogging A – Z Challenge 2022: H Is For Herbert E. Thiel & A Government Coverup”

  1. Amber Avatar

    You look like him. You have a big heart like him too

    1. Herb Avatar

      Aww…Thank you.

  2. Jacqui Murray Avatar

    What a wonderful memory, Herb. I will now cherish it with you.

    1. Herb Avatar

      Thank you.

  3. cheriewhite Avatar

    This is such a beautiful story, Herb! It made my heart swell the way your dad cherished that train. Much honor and respect to your uncle Herbie for his service! 😊💖🇺🇲

    1. Herb Avatar

      Thank you so much.

      1. cheriewhite Avatar

        My pleasure! 😊

  4. Tony Laplume Avatar

    I like how much you know about him. My family has always been thin on its history, and what little I was told was mostly when I was young.

    1. Herb Avatar

      It’s kind of funny because there are a lot of gaps in my knowledge about some of my dad’s family. One of his sisters and his three brothers got the most air time.

  5. annemariedemyen Avatar

    Interesting history. Your uncle was a good man and it would appear that you are very worthy of being his namesake. Have a great week, Herb! 💞

    1. Herb Avatar

      Thank you so much.

  6. dumbestblogger Avatar

    I remember you sharing this before. Still a fantastic story. I think we can safely say that this is the only incident the government has ever covered up.

    1. Herb Avatar

      Of course you can trust the government. Ask any Native American..

      1. dumbestblogger Avatar


  7. J P Avatar

    I don’t recall hearing about the Rohanna before. Thanks, Government, for always doing what’s best for me.

    I have long been fascinated by the way child names go in and out of style.

    1. Herb Avatar

      There’s more info on the Navy’s history site

      I don’t understand the whole name thing, either.

  8. […] from an IED; the tears in my dad’s eyes and emotion in his voice whenever he spoke of his favorite brother who was killed in an attack that remained covered up by the government until 50 years later; the […]

  9. […] favorite brother. In fact, I told it most recently last year during the A – Z challenge, here. The soldiers that were lost at sea in the government-covered-up Rohna Disaster are memorialized on […]

  10. […] written on this blog on more than one occasion, including a post in the 2022 A-Z challenge, about how this ship was destroyed. And because the Germans had used a […]

  11.  Avatar

    This was the weapon you spoke of; we quickly developed counter measures:


      ? It’s me…

      1. Herb Avatar

        Weird. I have glitches in the comments frequently that I can’t figure out.

    2. Herb Avatar

      It’s strange to me that they would have kept it classified for all those years then. Some of the families never knew what happened to their love ones.

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