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HMT Rohna

Career image
Yard: Hawthorn Leslie (Shipbuilders) Ltd, Hebburn-on-Tyne, England
Numbers: Yard No. 542
Contract Date:
Laid down:
Launched: 24 August 1926
Completed: 5 November 1926
Operator: British India Steam Navigation Company
Fate: Sunk in air attack 26 November 1943
General Characteristics
Displacement: 8602 tons gross
Length: 461.4 feet
Beam: 61.8 feet
Draft: 29.9 feet
Propulsion: Twin Screw, 2 x 4 Cylinder Quadruple Expansion, 5, 000 I.H.P.
Speed: 14.3 knots
Capacity: Passengers: 281 First Class
33 Second Class
100 Third Class
5064 Deck Passengers (reduced later to 3851)
Complement: About 200

HMT Rohna, (named after a village in Sonipat District, Punjab) was the first troop ship carrying US troops to be sunk during World War II, on 26 November 1943. The ship sunk in the Mediterranean North of Bougie, Algeria following an air attack.

The ship was part of convoy KMF-26 (Annex) travelling east from Oran to the Far East via the Suez Canal.

1,138 men were lost, with 1,015 of them American troops and this still constitutes the largest loss of US troops at sea. A further 35 American troops of the 2000 originally on board later died of wounds. As well as the troops, 5 ship's officers and 117 ratings (of 200) died, along with 11 of the 12 gunners on board and 1 hospital orderly.

The heavy loss was in part due to a flotilla of seven empty LCI(L) craft failing to stop to pick up survivors, for which the commanding officer was relieved of his command. However, 606 survivors were rescued by the minesweeper USS Pioneer.

The blow was so devastating that it was classified until 1967. The full details were only released following the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act.

The sinking was also the first successful use by the Luftwaffe of a radio controlled glide bomb, the Henschel Hs 293 launched and controlled by a Heinkel 177 bomber and as such was the ever first casualty of a guided missile.

A memorial to the sinking was unveiled at the Fort Mitchell National Cemetery in Seale, Alabama in 1996.

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