My father was a survivor of the Rhona his name was Anthony paternoster he\'s no longer with us but I\'m sure he would have appreciated this website
I am the grandson of Vest,Drexel Pfc. 35798183 AC.I was wondering if any of the survivors remembered him? My father never got to meet him,as my grandmother was expecting him,when my grandfather shipped out.I would love to hear some stories about him,if at all possible?
My father, Frank Bryer, was a Rhona survivor. I had hoped to come to the reunion this year, as it is closer to me than other years, but I cannot. My father had nightmares and relived his experience for many years, although able to share it with high school students up until 5 years ago when his memory started to fade and speech became more difficult. He died in January this year and I honored his Army service and Rhona experience in his eulogy, showing his strength and faith from this experience making him the man he was. A Grove City College professor attended the funeral and after hearing the story, he wrote an article for a the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. I have attached the link to this email.
(http://triblive.com/opinion/featuredcommentary/10556968-74/frank-rohna-survivors) and the article is below:
Remembering the Rohna
By Paul Kengor | Saturday, June 4, 2016, 9:00 p.m.
A reunion will be held this month at the Crowne Plaza in Dayton, Ohio. It will be unlike any of your family reunions this summer. Very few will know about it, and fewer still will attend, including the tiny number of remaining survivors.
The survivors probably will not include many (if any) of the 19 men from Allegheny County who served in the 322nd Fighter Control Squadron and 853rd Engineer Aviation Battalion — who experienced the horror of the event.
The reunion will be for the survivors of something called the Rohna.
The Rohna was a huge British ship that on Nov. 26, 1943, the day after Thanksgiving, was transporting an American crew to the Far East. It went down in the Mediterranean, the victim of a German missile. It was not just any missile. This was the first successful “hit” by a radio/remote-controlled “glider” bomb. It was a guided missile, and the Nazis had achieved the technology first.
More than 1,000 soldiers perished, rivaling the loss at the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor. But these boys would get no memorial. Their government kept the entire episode secret out of fear of information being leaked about the Germans\' new weapon.
“The U.S. government placed a veil of secrecy upon it,” states the Website of the Rohna Survivors Association. “The events which followed were so shameful that the secrecy continued for decades until recently, when documents were grudgingly released under pressure of the Freedom of Information Act. The government still does not acknowledge this tragedy; thus most families of the casualties still do not know the fate of their loved ones.”
It is sad that only now, long after the few survivors are even fewer, that the Rohna survivors are attempting to hold reunions. One who will not be attending is Frank Bryer of Grove City.
“Dad was haunted frequently by this,” Frank\'s daughter, Mary Jo, told me, “but it was not so much the sinking of the ship, but his inability to save many men that haunted him.”
As the ship burst into a fireball, Frank was directed toward a lifeboat packed with injured soldiers. He was ordered to single-handedly lower the boat. This was no simple task, especially in a chaotic situation. A craft filled with men isn\'t light, and the engulfing flames didn\'t help. The ropes broke and Frank watched the men below him fall into the sea to their death.
Frank soon was forced to abandon ship as it quickly submerged. For his own crowded lifeboat, he and five other men seized a passing wooden bench. As the darkness slowly enveloped them, and with fear of more German missiles — and deadly sharks — Frank led the group in reciting the Lord\'s Prayer.
The crew of six clung to their floating device. To their great fortune, they were in the water only for about six hours. A mine-sweep picked them up.
They were taken to a facility in Algeria to recover. But for Frank, there was little comfort: “All I could think about was … the wounded soldiers that I could not save…. I couldn\'t sleep and had bad dreams, sometimes jumping out of bed and yelling for help.”
Worse, Frank was not permitted to share what he went through. The survivors were ordered not to write or talk about the Rohna with their family or even among themselves. The military censorship was so strict that they were threatened with court martial if they disobeyed.
But not anymore. This month in Dayton, the few survivors of the Rohna will talk openly at long last. But Frank Bryer will not be there. He died in January at age 92.
May Frank Bryer rest in peace. And may the few survivors of the Rohna find some measure of peace.
Paul Kengor is a professor of political science at Grove City College. His column appears on the first Sunday of the month.
He plans to write another article closer to Veteran\'s Day with more information. I have made a scrapbook of dad\'s story. I hope someday in the near future to get to a reunion.
Mary Jo Bryer Palmer
daughter of a Rhona Survivor, Frank E. Bryer
I have been deeply touched by the accounts of the Rohna and Nels Quam\'s letter to family members that described this tragic ordeal.
Knowing how many troop ships were relied upon during both
WWI and WWII, it is miraculous that horrendous events, such as this, did not occur more frequently throughout the war years. What a shame it has taken this long to have a Memorial in their honor. America...........we salute you, our
soldiers, sailors and those who served in Clara Barton\'s inspired American Red Cross. RIP
My great-uncle was Clifford Nulton who was a casualty of the Rohna. Sadly we have only one photo of him in his military clothing. He received a purple heart and too is sadly missing. My grandmother (his sister) said when he was leaving, he told their mother \"If the ship goes down, I am going to die. I do not know how to swim\".
My Grandfather Floyd Calvin Tressler was aboard this ship. He never liked to talk about this as he lost many friends that day. Sadly he has passed away . Today my son began asking alot of questions about his pappy. Very informational site i thank you.
My great-Uncle, Henry William Bly, known as Sonny, was lost on the Rohna. I have just taken my mother to the Brookwood Commonwealth Cemetary in the UK, where Sonny is rememebered as one of the missing. He served with the Royal Army Medical Corp as a Private. I am finding it very difficult to find out any information on the British that died on this ship; Can anyone provide me with any information please?
I just found out tonight that my second cousin once removed died when the Rhona sank. His name is Drexel Vest and he was a Private with the 322nd Fighter Control Squadron.
Can\'t wait to attend the reunion.My grandfather was James Earl Steely. From Williamsburg,Ky.Body never recovered.Anyone remember him?I\'m bringing things my grandma had or my grandfather gave her.Some pictures also.Thanks
I never knew of this disaster. I am glad they have received recognition for their bravery and sacrifice.
My father is still with us. He said that the survivors at the time were told not to speak of what occured. So he never told us his story until now that he is old. and he even recieved a purple heart award. Why did the government tell them not to say a word. I want my father to be honored and put his name with honor on the list that he was there and can now talk about what happen.
Yesterday, my wife found two little coffee spoons in a box of bits and pieces, little table tennis (\'Ping Pong\') trophies. One of them is engraved SS Rohna, a relic of the ship\'s happier past as a passenger liner around India in the 1920-30\'s. Doing a little background research revealed to us this tragic story - sobering - RIP, and thank-you to these men for our freedom today.
Just saw the story about the Rohna on the history channel. I would like to welcome everyone to Dayton, Oh this year for Your reunion. Dayton is My hometown and I am sure You will enjoy the Wright-Patt AFB tour. Hope You get to spend some time at the US Air Force museum. God bless everyone of You and thank you for Your service.
It with great sadness that I announce the passing of our father, Charles Irving Gerstenmaier. 4-19-1924/3-1-2016. 91 years old. (almost 92:) He was a proud survivor of the Rohna and always attended the reunions until very recently. He mourned the loss of his long forgotten shipmates. He was an inspiration to our family and lived his life with joy, love, happiness and a never ending thirst for knowledge. He was an amazing man from an amazing generation of men. He is survived by Katherine, his loving wife of 67 years, and a whole LOT of family whom they created. Our Dad will be forever missed, and the Rohna tragedy shall never be forgotten. Loving Son, Dave
It with great sadness that I announce the passing of our father, Charles Irving Gerstenmaier. 4-19-1924/3-1-2016. 91 years old. (almost 92:) He was a proud survivor of the Rohna and always attended the reunions until very recently. He mourned the loss of his long forgotten shipmates. He was an inspiration to our family and lived his life with joy, love, happiness and a never ending thirst for knowledge. He was an amazing man from an amazing generation of men. He is survived by Katherine, his loving wife of 67 years, and a whole LOT of family whom they created. Our Dad will be forever missed, and the Rohna tragedy shall never be forgotten.
This is an awesome webpage to honor those that lived and died on that day. My father ( Robert P.Neveu) was a survivor. He\'s no longer with us , but as long as I can remember part of our Thanksgiving celebration was my dad retelling about this and honoring those that died.
He always found it frustrating that there was no information on this tragedy until I found an article in a WW2 publication that told the story.
He kept that article until he passed. I just wish he had lived to see this.
Thanks to all who worked hard to honor these men\'
My grandfather James T. Gillespie as a ship surgeon on one of the liberty ships which delivered servicemen to Algiers- after which they boarded the Rhona.
John J. Galvin
Will be respected Sunday 2/21
@ D\'Andrea Funeral Home
My Grandfather Joseph Malena from Monesson PA. was a seaman on the Rohna when it was bombed. My mother recalls having two uniformed Naval Officers come to their home and tell her mom of the fate of her husband. There is still a sadness in my mothers heart as she learned of the tragedy after her mother had passed as was not able to tell her of the secreacy of the mission and that is why the media was not able to talk about the truth of the Rohna for years. Problem is my grandfather\'s name doesn\'t appear on the list as deseased or missing on your website. However, my mother is determined that she was told by the V.A. that there is a memorial with her father\'s name somewhere in North Africa. How can we find out more information?