Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 22707 – 956
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.