Clyde L. Bellomy, GM1C
Our thanks go to Clyde Bellomy who shares his own audio taped story of his experience as a member of the Pioneer Crew. We are pleased to include this manuscript of the tape as it provides another perspective and point of view of the tragic incident. (Slightly edited)
THE SINKING OF THE H.M.S. ROHNA
NOVEMBER 26, 1943
“As I remember it.”
We had just come off watch and sat down for our dinner, when we heard the call, “General Quarters, All Hands Man Your Battle Stations.”
We left our dinner, which went all over the mess hall. It was an attack on the convoy (KMF-26) by German bombers. They were using a new radio-controlled bomb, being launched from the plane, and guided by radio control.
We manned our battle stations and started “pouring lead”. The Germans released a bomb and it headed straight for the Troopship H.M.S. ROHNA with some 2000 men aboard.
The men who were able abandoned the ship, by any means they could. Some jumped overboard and others tried to lower the lifeboats, but that was impossible because all the lines and pulleys were rusted, making them inoperable.
After the bombers left, we, the crew of the U.S.S. PIONEER, started taking survivors aboard. They were climbing cargo nets that we had put over the side.
I would see men struggling, trying to work toward the ship. I would jump over the side to help them. I had done this two or three times when I heard the Captain yell at me to go back on the ship, that we already had too many people out there.
There was one of the survivors that I had brought aboard and was giving respiratory treatment, when he came around. He said, “Oh God, your killing me.” I was so glad to hear him able to talk that I said, “Shut up, or I will throw you back.” I have no idea what his name was, but he came around later and gave me his combat knife. It wasn’t a regular issue, but was a special knife. I carried it until I was transferred from the ship, in January of 1945.
I would like to meet this man, or at least hear from him. One of my shipmates wanted to look at the knife when I was ready to leave the ship. He dropped it and it shattered like a piece of glass. He felt bad, and I felt bad, but it couldn’t be helped.
Later, after we had transferred the survivors from the ship, the Captain asked me to go ashore and see if I could find some 20mm gun barrels. We had burned up all that we had.
I went ashore and found a high-ranking officer and asked if he could help me get the barrels. He said that he could. He took me across a compound littered with bodies. I don’t know if they were off the ROHNA, or from some other area. He put me on a plane and sent me off to Naples. Naples wasn’t exactly secured at the time, which I didn’t know!
I got twelve gun barrels and ammunition and returned late in the afternoon. The Captain said, “Where have you been?” I said, “Naples.” He said, “Oh Lord.”
I would have gone to hell for that man.
My good friend Harrel Jones was on the starboard side of the ship, going into the water after whomever he could help. Old Jonsie was smarter than I was; he tied himself to a rope. That was a big help.
There wasn’t a member of the crew that didn’t do everything possible to get those men aboard. We did get 606 out of 900 or so that was rescued.
This is my story. Each person that hears this, I hope, will add his own story and keep this tape going. Then we will have most of the story…