THE RAMOS FAMILY HISTORY "BORN OF A PROUD HERITAGE":Information about Philip Raymond Ramos
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Philip Raymond Ramos (d. November 26, 1943)Philip Raymond Ramos (son of Juan Ramon Ramos and Blacina Corales) was born in New York, and died November 26, 1943 in North Africa.
Notes for Philip Raymond Ramos:
Army ID AG 201 Ramos,Philip R PC-N 133069 Parents lived at 728 W grand Elizabeth New Jersey. on May 20 1944
Research notes: Philip Ramos
Below is a trancript of the last letter sent by Phil before his death on the British troop ship Rhona enroute to India on November 27, 1943
Mr Freddie Vicente
Pct Phil Ramos854 Kelley St
322ND Fighter ControlBronx, NY
Bradley Field, Conn.
AIR CORPS. UNITED STATES ARMY
OCT 2, 1943
Fred my boy,
Received your letter and was happy to hear from you. Yes!that is right, Ididnt feel like going that night I left in a hurry. I wanted to have a good time with you and my brother, at least for the last time. Well I guess thats how an Army mans lives. Life is always living in a hurry and on borrowed time.
But when I get back I promise we shall do it, but this time shall be a greatone cause I have to celebrate my wedding also.
Oh. Yes, Alice and I got married in heartford, On the few days the Captain gave me. I couldnt come home, because I had to be in touch with the camp incase of a minutes niotice. You know how the Army is, never sure of one thing. Well when you reach this letter Ill be on my way over. But as I said before, I shall come back. Yes and when I do we shall have a big CELEBRATION.
Give my best regards to the family and hope that I come back in one piece. How did Judy's Baptism come along. Well pretty soon it shall be mine.
Well Im saying so long Old man , and its good to hear from you, so keep writing will you. Love to all.
The following is information about the attack that cause Philip's death:
The Sinking of HMT Rohna
By Carlton Jackson
More than 1,000 American soldiers were killed on 26 November 1943 when the British troopship Rohna was hit by a German guided missile in the Mediterranean--the greatest single loss of American lives at sea in World War II and one of the worst tragedies in maritime history. At the time, the disaster was kept secret for security purposes, but even after the war little information was given out. Now the story is told in full for the first time.
To accurately reconstruct the event that ushered in the guided-missile era, Carlton Jackson studied official Allied and German reports and countless documents in archives here and abroad, as well as tracked down survivors and the Luftwaffe pilot involved. He gives a detailed account of the Heinkel 177's attack on the Rohna, part of a convoy headed east through the Mediterranean. The only ship to take a direct hit from a guided missile, she exploded and sank, killing 1,149 people.
Many of those who managed to survive the initial explosion and avoid German strafing attacks, succumbed to the sea. A lucky few were rescued, their lives forever changed by a dramatic chain of events so ably chronicled in this book. Jackson's mesmerizing account of the attack and rescue and the survivors' recovery makes a decided contribution to World War II literature and to the history of the sea.
Carlton Jackson is professor of history at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. This is his first book on naval history.
Below are some eyewitness accounts of what occured in Phils final hours.
SOURCE 3k25rohn: 43-Nov-25-HMT Rohna
A recent book documents the tragedy of the Rohna. See the U. S. Naval Institute Press page for Carlton Jackson's book: "Forgotten Tragedy: The Sinking of the HMT Rohna".
An eyewitness to the sinking of the Rohna, Ken Keeling who was gunnery/navigation officer on the Rajula, painted a picture of the sinking.
oDate: 97-03-02 23:49:18 EST
The Rohna went down Nov. 26,1943 in the Mediterranean Sea between Algiers and Phillipville. My father was a survivor of that sinking. oDate: 97-03-03 21:00:53 EST
My Dad was a soldier in transport, I will send you more about the Rohna if you like, I have quite a bit on it, and there was a Professor that did a book but the last I heard he hadn't found a publisher. He's at the University of Kentucky. There was over 1,500 men and crew members lost that day, the Rohna was torpedoed. oDate: 97-04-05 19:07:27 EST
Sunk in the Mediterranean Sea between Algiers and Phillipville. It sank within 30 minutes. The Rohna, a British troopship sailing from Oran, Algiers en route to India in a British convoy.(KMF26) There were 2,193 passenger's and 195 crew. The passenger's consisted of 1,988 Americans. 1889 were enlisted men,92 were officer's and 7 were Red Cross worker's. A total of 1,135 men were killed in the disaster, 1,015 were Americans and 102 members of the crew.
Richard Herman Peach,Tec.5, Sig.Corp. Co.B, 31st Signal Construction Battalion(building the Burma Road) (China/Burma/India Campaign) o97-04-06 10:00:52 EDT
EX-CBI Roundup (magazine article) by Thomas W. Hook (he was with the convoy on another ship, Karona.): "What really happened to the Rohna"
"We sailed from Newport News,Va, aboard a U.S. Liberty ship, as part of a 15 ship convoy across the Atlantic thru Gibraltar to Oran, North Africa. ... On Nov. 25,1943 the Rohna sailed from Oran enroute to Port Said and Bombay via the Suez Canal with 4 other ships and joined the convoy, KMF26 (24 ships forming 6 columns, four ships each column, and being escorted by seven or eight British destroyer's)."
oFrom: firstname.lastname@example.org (Stewart McFie)
oDate: 97-08-19 20:23:48 EDT
I write on behalf of an artist friend of mine who has no Internet access. Ken Keeling was the Gunnery/Navigating officer aboard HMT Rajula, the sister ship to HMT Rohna in the same convoy when the Rohna was sunk. Ken was an eye witness to the event, and has painted a picture in oils as he recalls this tragedy in the Mediterranean. Ken is offering to have a limited number of prints made of the original for any survivors or members of their family who may be interested in buying a copy. [See the photo and details on purchasing it at http://www.fast.co.za/~stewpot/.] oDate: 97-11-19 02:54:31 EST
I spoke to Capt Ken Keeling today, and here are some of the answers to your questions regarding the convoy.
oYes the Rajula was carrying American Servicemen. Professor Don Fortune from California was one of the servicemen on board the Rajula at the time. He was the person who first corresponded with Ken, and told Ken that the disaster was now freed from the "secret list". Don will no doubt know how many American servicemen were on board the Rajula. The date was Nov 1943, and the convoy was on route to Port Said. The two troop carriers (Rohna and Rajula) were owned by British India Steam Navigation Company as was the Karona. oKen is not sure what the Karona was carrying (secrecy was of utmost importance in those days). Rajula joined the convoy after the landings at Solerno Beahchead. (Sept 19/20 1943)
The Rohna Survivors Memorial Association
The Rohna Memorial
On November 26, 1943 nearly two thousand American soldiers faced the most traumatic experience of their young lives. They woke up that morning aboard a vessel that some described as unfit for human habitation. Just a bunch of kids, mostly only a year or so out of high school. Exhibiting the expected Yankee cockiness, they were ready to take on anything the war had to offer. Having survived a Thanksgiving Day dinner the day before, things just had to get better. The sad part of it was, this would be the last Thanksgiving for over half of them!
Their self-confidence was shattered when a German guided missile slammed into the port side of their ship, the HMT ROHNA, off the coast of North Africa. Deserted by the Indian crew and not having the benefit of life saving equipment, due to the deplorable condition of lifeboats and rafts, the fate of the men was left to the cold waters of the Mediterranean Sea and rescue operations hampered by darkness and heavy seas. When the night was over, less than half of those two thousand young men made it to safety. There would be no tomorrow for one thousand and fifteen young American soldiers!
The survivors regrouped and served the rest of their tour of duty in the China-Burma-India Theater. They returned home to pick up the pieces of their lives and tried to suppress the memory of the event that changed their lives forever.
While the Arizona and the Indianapolis were becoming household words, it seemed that the Rohna would be relegated to oblivion! For the next five decades very little was written about the Rohna tragedy. In the August 1994 issue of AMERICAN HISTORY MAGAZINE, the editor, Ed Holm, wrote "After fifty years of scrutiny by historians around the world and the publication of thousands of books and magazine articles, it would seem that little new could be left to learn or reveal about World War II." He further stated, "I recalled that more than eleven hundred crewmen had been killed when the battleship Arizona went down at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, and that nearly nine hundred other Navy men had died when the cruiser Indianapolis was sunk in July 1945. But I never heard of the Rohna".
In the late 1980's and early 1990's, after years of silence and trying not to remember, survivors finally began to tell their stories in local newspapers. One article came to the attention of CBS News Commentator, Charles Osgood. On his CBS Radio Network program of November 11, 1993, he made the following comments.
"Nobody ever wrote a book about what happened. Nobody made a movie or a television documentary. It just doesn't seem right that so many people should have died in the sinking of the Rohna and that so few people now remember. It's not that we forgot. It's that we never knew."
On his November 26, 1993 program the fiftieth anniversary of the Rohna tragedy, he said, "It was not until 1967 the story came out, and even now there is no monument. Fievet thinks there should be one".
With that comment, the seed was planted for a memorial to honor the men who died on the Rohna. James Blaine, who lost his brother Frank on the Rohna, noticed an article in the LOS ANGELES TIMES describing a memorial to the one hundred and twenty six men who died on the St. Lo. A subsequent letter to Rosecran Cemetery in San Diego provided us with the information as to how one could request a memorial in a national cemetery. Letters of inquiry were sent to the Department of Veteran's Affairs and Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington replied with a "ho hum" letter offering space to plant a tree and an 18" x 12" marker. The Department of Veterans Affairs responded with an offer to permit the location of a Rohna Memorial in a national cemetery of our choice. They further stated that they were honored that we would consider a national cemetery to memorialize the brave men who died on the HMT Rohna.
The sincerity and empathy expressed by the Department of Veteran's Affairs led to the decision to place our memorial in a national cemetery. Even before we knew how it would be financed, an irrevocable decision was made to have a memorial dedicated to our comrades who died. At the 1995 Rohna reunion in Columbus, Ohio, it became evident that financing this project should be limited to survivors, next-of-kin and Pioneer crewmen. We would share this honor with no one else!
Since the Department of Veterans Affairs rules stipulate that only a next-of-kin can request that a memorial be placed in a national cemetery, James Blaine graciously accepted this responsibility. With the approval of Blaine and others, Fort Mitchell National Cemetery in Seale, Alabama was chosen for the memorial. Once we submitted proof that sufficient funds were available and that the monument we would supply would meet the Department of Veterans affairs specifications, it was suggested that the memorial be channeled through an established veteran's organization. Since these organizations had shown little or no interest in this memorial, we voiced our objections to this course of action and subsequently were offered the option of forming our own organization, or requesting a waiver and dedicate it by an individual. We chose to form our own organization and thus the Rohna Survivors Memorial Association came into being. Conforming to the Department of Veterans Affairs rules, a constitution and by-laws were submitted and approved and the Rohna Survivors Memorial Association was recognized as the donor organization.
John Fievet, President
Rohna Survivors Memorial Association
The memorial was officially dedicated on May 30, 1996.
Inquiries and suggestions may be made to:
P.O. Box 794
Clinton, WA 98236
Copyright © 1998 Rohna Survivors Memorial Association, all rights reserved.
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 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 own story and keep this tape going. Then we will have most of the story...
Inquiries and suggestions may be made to:
P.O. Box 794
Clinton, WA 98236
Copyright © 1998, 1999 Rohna Survivors Memorial Association, all rights reserved.
Thanks to Charles J. Williams of Orina, California for sharing his experience in the ROHNA sinking. Charles has recently found the ROHNA Survivors Memorial Association via this web site and would be very happy to hear from his old buddies. He was with B Company, 31st Signal Heavy Construction Battalion.
Here is Charlie's account, edited slightly for this site.
When the guided missile struck, it sent a rumble through the ship similar to a California earthquake. Several seconds later you could feel the ship starting to list. When the ship listed everyone headed for the stairs immediately. One of the older men in the outfit named Sullivan yelled out "Easy, easy, walk, walk" or something to that effect. It calmed everyone down and we all just walked up the stairs.
We were up on deck about five/ten minutes when the order came "Abandon ship". I walked up and down the deck looking for a friend, Marion Goracy and yelling his name. Marion was one of the replacements to Co. "B" during advanced training to bring the company up to full strength. Going over to Africa on the liberty ship we became good friends. The bunks on the ship were five high. He had the bottom bunk and I had the second from bottom. We talked for hours on end, and in Africa we buddied around together.
Not being able to find Marion I returned to the bow section of the ship over the hold in which we were quartered. There were a couple of men there from Co. "B". One was named Leyden and the other Shambis. (ed, note, Sgt. Deloss H. Shambis, casualty) Shambis could not swim and refused to leave the ship. He evidently couldn't swim. He refused our help and said he was going to stay with the ship until it went down. I have a feeling there were other men from Co. "B" in the area but I can't remember who they were.
By this time most of the troops were going over the side, and were in the water. While the men were in the water right near the side of the ship, someone was releasing the liferafts. (The life rafts about 8'w x 10'l x 3'd) and heavy. The rafts were hitting the water right in the middle of swimmers. I personally did not see anyone hit by a raft, but I'm sure it was more than possible, and men probably lost their lives in this manner.
When I decided to go into the water I did two things; first I took off my shoes and jacket, and second, I blew up my life preserver manually to where it resembled a tight inner tube. The life preservers we were issued were about six inches wide and laid flat. The preservers had gas pellets built in, in time of emergency squeezing the pellet would fill the preserver with lighter than air gas. A short hose was attached to the tube, which allowed the tube to be filled with air and a shut off valve for sealing the gas or air.
Leyden and I went into the water together, I partially climbed down a rope ladder until I was 15'-20' above the water and then jumped the remaining distance. A USN minesweeper, the "Pioneer" lay off our port 200-300 yards in the water. The current was sweeping the swimmers in a long line to the minesweeper. The minesweeper was perpendicular to the line of swimmers, and I headed for the ship.
Halfway to the minesweeper I passed a swimmer to my left; everyone was passing him for he was letting the current carry him. When I got approximately 10' passed him I heard him softly calling "help, help me." I felt I was in no danger, and I turned around and swam back to the GI. I asked what was wrong. He said, "I can't breathe". He had an O.D. shirt on, and the material in the collar was shrinking, slowly choking him. He had his hands out in front and didn't dare move them. I got my hand inside the collar, and ripped the collar open. The GI let out a sigh of relief, and when I asked him if he was okay, he said yes. I said, "Fine, I'm going for that ship".
When I started for the ship, he called out "Don't go, stay with me awhile". He was floating all right, but wasn't sure of the water. When he called I didn't know whether he was pleading or ordering me to stay. The minesweeper wasn't going anyplace so I decided to keep him company for a short period of time. The man was a little scared and very anxious, but he kept his head and was calm. I had one eye on him, and one eye on the minesweeper. A few minutes later, he exclaimed "There is a hatch cover over there. Get me to it and you can take off". So I dragged this man 20-30 yards to a hatch cover in the sea. When we got to the hatch cover, he grabbed on for dear life, and you could feel the tension leave him. After a minute or two he said "O.K. you can go, and thanks".
I assured him he would be all right, and took off for the minesweeper. I got within 30 yards of the minesweeper, and it slowly started to move and then took off like a shot. I remember dog paddling in the water and cursing like hell. However in the long run I'm glad I stopped to help the GI. Even though he was in no man's land, he kept his calm and composure. I am hoping he was one of the survivors. If he ever writes in about the incident, please let me know.
On the way to the minesweeper, I turned and looked back at the ROHNA. There was a hole in her port side, off centered from the center of the ship toward the rear. The hole was (best guess) 60'w x 25'h, and there was a raging inferno within.
I floated around for a time, and after about a half-hour I found myself at the bow of one of the ships in the convoy. A half-inch hemp rope line was hanging down from the deck. I yelled for help, which never came, but I had hold on that rope line. I was determined one way or other I was going to make it to the deck of that ship. The water was starting to swell, with the swells getting larger and larger as time went by. I was having no luck climbing the rope hand over hand. There were times when a swell would come and the ship went down at the same time. I timed one of these swells, and when the swell arrived and the ship went down, it lifted me 10' relative to the ship. I wrapped the rope around my right wrist at the peak of the swell, and it left me completely hanging out of the water when the swell resided. My weight was too heavy and the rope was too slippery. I slipped back into the water and the rope cut a gouge out of my right wrist. I never made it up that rope.
The following day at a British rest camp, sick called was sounded. At that time my wrist was bleeding and sore and I reported to sick call to have it bandaged. Several months later all who reported to sick call on that day were awarded "purple hearts".
After twenty minutes of trying to climb that rope I decided it was a lost cause and stopped trying. The currents kept pushing me into the side of the ship, and I decided to swim around the bow to clear it. When I cleared the bow of the ship, I spotted a lifeboat off in the distance. I said to myself "great", and swam for the lifeboat. The lifeboat was overloaded with men and taking water. When I started to climb into the boat, six pairs of hands grabbed me and threw me back into the water. Men were yelling at me, "You can't get on this life boat. It is overloaded". Since I wasn't too uncomfortable in the water, I felt I might be better off in the water. The men on the boat were squeezed and crunched together, and looked extremely cold.
I was hanging on the gunwale of the boat and noticed a GI hanging on about 4' to my right. The man was dead tired and he did not have a life preserver. There was a man in the boat helping him and encouraging him to hold on. The Good Samaritan or some one close to him was looking around and spotted a corpse in the water floating around with a life preserver. I don't remember exactly what happened next but someone suggested the idea of somebody swimming out and getting the life preserver. Since I was the only one in the water, and they saw me swimming for the lifeboat, I was elected to go for the life preserver. It took about 15 minutes to swim out and drag the corpse and life preserver back to the boat. It was too difficult to get the preserver off the body out in the water so the Good Samaritan rolled the body over, and we managed to get the preserver off the corpse and onto the dead tired GI.
We went on like this for 1/2 hr - 1 hr, and then the lifeboat capsized. I pushed off from the boat, and watched the men and boat go down. First the boat went down, and then the men went down. First their chest and shoulders and then their heads and all in unison. It was like watching a bad movie. After the boat and men went down, I paddled around waiting for heads to pop up. There were 45-60 men in that lifeboat and I didn't see anyone come to the surface. It was erie. I was trying to reason what would have caused all those men to drown. Since some of them went directly from the deck of the ROHNA. into the lifeboat, they probably had their shoes and jackets on which would make swimming very difficult. They were extremely cold and cramped, and maybe some had deflated their life preservers before or after getting into the lifeboat. Maybe some of the men who couldn't swim grabbed on to others as they were going down.
If there a chance the Good Samaritan lived and told his Story, I would like to know whom he is.
After the lifeboat went down I started to drift with the currents again. I came across a group of men just swimming together. Three of the men were GI's and one was an Indian seaman. One man was extremely sick from swallowing seawater, and the Indian seaman did not have a life preserver. The Indian seaman was weak from continually swimming, and constantly jumping on the weak GI who was wearing a preserver. The weak GI had a friend who was warding off the Indian, and trying to keep his mouth out of the water. The friend recognized I was a good swimmer and ask me for help in warding off the Indian seaman. We pushed away several times, and then agreed the next time the Indian tried to grab onto the sick GI we would push his head under water, hold him there to warn him what would happen if he didn't stop. The Indian approached again and I grabbed onto his shoulder and pushed him down, and the other GI did the same. The Indian was extremely tired, and as I held him down I could feel him give up the struggle. I held him in place for a minute or two, and then released my grip and he slowly sank, rubbing against my leg.
The GI and I killed the Indian seaman, but we didn't do it out of meaness, and it never bothered my conscience. It was like a case of triage. If there is a choice between a stranger and a friend in a critical situation, you always choose the friend.
After a time a raft from the ship came into view, and I took off for it. It seemed like a safer situation than the one I was in (just floating around). There was one man sitting on top of the raft, and several in the water hanging on to the sides. The man on top of the raft was Harry Taylor, the youngest man in Co. "B", and he didn't survive. The raft turned out to be quite dangerous. By that time into the night the water swells were getting rough, and if the swell was large and timed just right it would tip the raft end over end. The men in the water had to stay on the sides of the raft in order not to have the raft comes down on them.
We were with the raft for a long time until the minesweeper picked us up. The minesweeper appeared way in the distance. The only thing we could make out was a searchlight sweeping back and forth. It seemed like it took a long, long time before the searchlight started to approach us when the minesweeper pulled along side of the raft. The swells and the current started to crash the raft up against the side of the minesweeper, so we had to make sure we cleared the raft when we swam into the rope ladder on the side of the ship.
The minesweeper picked us up somewhere between 10:30---12:00 PM. About one hour after picking us up, the minesweeper took off for port. We landed somewhere on the African coast and stayed with a British