Memorial Post #274                Hudson-Adams-Carpenter Post #473

Saturday July 27th, 2002

At the grounds of American Legion Memorial Post 274

Broadway & Jefferson Street, Camden NJ



Click on Photos for Enlarged Views

Phil Cohen at Podium,
Yatzus and Steffanice families seated
Sean McCormack, Phil Cohen, 
Rev. Guenther Fritsch, Colonel John Rawley
County Colors, 
Post 473 Camden NJ Colors 
Post 133 Woodbury NJ Colors
Rev. Guenther Fritsch delivers the Invocatopn
Sean McCormack's opening remarks Ed Caffrey delivering a message from 
The Rhona Survivors Memorial Association
Another view of Ed Caffrey speaking.
The woman in red is 
Gwendolyn Faison, Mayor of Camden NJ
A view of the monument. 
The names of Rohna victims 
Frank Ballerino and Michael Carr 
are visible.
Colonel John Rawley Sean McCormack & Colonel John Rawley
Mayor Gwendolyn Faison Mayor Gwendolyn Faison
Phil Cohen Phil Cohen
Closing Remarks Moment of Silence
Rhona Survivor Carlo Veterano Guest, World War II Combat Veteran
Leon B. Cohen
Colonel John Rawley Phil Cohen and a Next of Kin Survivor
William Wiltsey
Post Commander
Memorial Post 274, Camden NJ
Assorted Next of Kin Survivors. 
Harold Olsen, brother of Sgt. A.W. Olsen, with 
Robert Moore, President of VFW Post 11468
Left, Survivor Aaron Weber  Center, Survivor Abe Marks 
Click on Photos for Enlarged Views


Mayor Faison Gary from Post 473, 
and a Camden NJ Police officer
Joanne Lofland
Post 473 Camden NJ
Robert Phillips, 
Department Vice Commander
Department of NJ, 
& a guest from of Post 133, Woodbury NJ
Guests from Post 133 & Post 262 Guests from Post 286 & Post 262
Hudson-Adams-Carpenter Post 473 Drill Team 
Michael Feret, Vice-Commander 
American Legion Post 121 Camden NJ
Commander, Polish Army Veterans Post #121 Camden NJ
Alvin Deford, James McNamee,
 Michael Gryzbowski, Military Order of the Purple Heart


Kathy Lofland, Post 473 Drill Team &
Robert Phillips, Department Vice Cmndr.
Another Chow Line
Soldiers from US Army National Guard JoAnn Cohen & 
Admiral Thomas Siegenthaler, USN (Ret.)
Rohna Survivor Tony Bushur, Phil Cohen,
Carol Moore VFW Ladies Auxilary #2159, Robert Moore, President VFW Post #11468
Phil Cohen, 
Rohna Survivor Aaron Weber 
& his wife, Lucille Weber.
Carlo Veterano, Phil Cohen, Ace Baldisseri
Click on Photos for Enlarged Views


1.      Posting of the Colors

2.      Invocation, Reverend Guenther K. Fritsch  

3.      Pledge of Allegiance, Sean McCormack,
             Department Executive Committeeman, 
             Camden County American Legion

4.      Opening Remarks, Sean McCormack,
             Department Executive Committeeman,
             Camden County American Legion

5.      Message from The Rohna Survivors Memorial Association,
                Robert M. Brewer, President, 
                read by Edward Caffrey, Rohna Survivor

6.      Remarks from Colonel John Rawley, U.S. Army Special Forces, Retired 

7.    Address by Mayor Gwendolyn Faison, of Camden NJ

8.      Message from Congressman Rob Andrews,
                read by Phillip M. Cohen, 
                American Legion Memorial Post 274, Camden NJ

     9.      Moment of Silence

    10.      Closing Remarks, Phillip M. Cohen,
            American Legion Memorial Post 274, Camden NJ  

Benediction, Reverend Guenther K. Fritsch, Kresson Bible Church

Reading Of The Names Of Those Who Gave Their Lives For Their Country


    14.      Retire the Colors



July 4, 2002

         This statement is in remembrance of the historical and tragic sinking of the British troopship HMT Rohna on November 26, 1943 in the Mediterranean Sea off the North Africa coast     Those of us who experienced and survived that ordeal, and the hundreds of families who lost loved ones, stand together today in commemoration of that loss. 

The tragic loss of 1015 soldiers of more than 2000 aboard the Rohna marked the greatest loss of American military personnel at sea during wartime in our history.  It also introduced the deadly results made possible by the use of radio controlled guided missiles.  That weapon released at dusk from a German bomber overhead crippled the Rohna in its initial blow.  The vessel sank within an hour’s time.  The success of that attack immediately resulted in a cloak of secrecy by Allied Forces that, ironically, lasted over 50 years. 

 The Rohna Survivors Memorial Association was established years ago dedicated to let the American public know what happened and to reveal some of the frightful circumstances surrounding the incident.  Now, with one voice the organization has revealed the tragic story to the Congress resulting in official recognition in Joint Resolution #408.  Across the country we have publicized the story in newspaper articles, magazines, and in television programs.  Several books have been written by our own members and others.  Periodical newsletters go to our membership of over 600, and we have an active websiteThe Rohna Survivors Memorial Association was established years ago.

      We are proud of our efforts to tell the Rohna story.  Our crusade will continue as long as necessary to reach all those involved and particularly the families who to this day are not aware of how their loved ones were lost.  We honor those who died.  They were heroes.  The Rohna, with other convoy ships, was blazing a new trail into the China Burma India Theater of Operation through German controlled waters.  The Camden Community has done a magnificent job locating these families so they can be honored.  You are gathered here today in tribute to those men you lost when the Rohna sank.  We welcome you and we are proud indeed to add your names to our rosters.  Your voices will now be added to ours as we all remember the Rohna.  Those you lost certainly did not die in vain.  God bless them always. 

Robert M. Brewer, President
Rohna Survivors Memorial Association
as read by Edward Caffrey

The Membership
Rohna Survivors Memorial Association


I want to applaud the American Legion Post 274 and Post 473 for holding this important Memorial today to recognize the 20 South Jersey men who were killed in action when the HMT Rohna was sunk by a German guided missile on November 27, 1943 in the Mediterranean Sea off the North African coast.  Unfortunately, I am unable to attend this Memorial today because of a prior responsibility to my family.   America commemorates the soldiers lost aboard the HMT Rohna.  1,015 soldiers out of more than 2,000 aboard the Rohna marked the greatest loss of American military personnel at sea during wartime in our history.  A total of 20 men from South Jersey, 6 of them from Camden, perished in this tragedy.  The facts of this event were kept secret from our nation for reasons of national security.   Astonishingly, this secret was irresponsibly kept for over 50 years.  It was not until the 1990s when the truth was finally brought to light.  As a result of this decades old secret, countless family members were left in the dark as to what happened to their loved ones aboard the HMT Rohna. 

I want to acknowledge organizations such as the American Legion and the Rohna Survivors Memorial Association for informing the soldiers' loved ones and the public about the truth of this tragedy.  This has allowed some of the family members to attain some closure as to what happened to their loved ones.  It has also allowed our nation to properly recognize the heroic acts of bravery that these soldiers displayed in giving their lives for our country.  This is why I supported HOUSE CONGRESSIONAL RESOLUTION 408 in the 106th Congress in the House of Representatives, which expresses appreciation for the United States service members who were aboard the British transport HMT ROHNA when it sank, the families of these service members, and the rescuers of the HMT ROHNA's passengers and crew.  Again, I want to applaud the American Legion Memorial Post 274 and Hudson-Adams-Carpenter Post 473 for holding this important Memorial today to honor these soldiers who so proudly served our nation. 


60 Years ago, when most of the men honored here today were called to service, our country was at war. America had been attacked, by air, by sea, and on land. Our nation called on all its men….. not just its 19 year olds, not just its uneducated, and not just those without wealth and social connections. The first men called were single men aged 21 to 35. After Pearl Harbor, Selective Service extended its hand to married men 18 to 38, and briefly to those aged up to 45. America’s defense was everyone’s business. 
    America called, and all answered. They came from the countryside, like Andrew Olsen and Merl Reagle. They came from the factories, like William Eastlack, Millard Buckingham, and Emerson Spears. They came from suburban towns, like Clarence Jaggers and Thomas Walker, and they came from the city, like Michael Carr, Michael Yachus, and Lewis Riondino. They were teenagers, like Harry Taylor, and men years past 30, like Stephen Koscianski. They grew up in America, yet one, Frank Ballerino, had spent much of his childhood living under Mussolini’s Fascist tyranny. They were all very different…. They were all Americans.
There were many good reasons in 1943 for keeping the story of the Rohna secret. By the late 1950’s there were no reasonable excuses for this. Those of us here, myself included, who work in government, must strive to never let a situation like this ever happen again.
   Through the efforts of the Rohna Memorial Survivors Association, the American Legion, and our brother and sister organizations, perhaps the day will come when every family that lost a son in November of 1943 will have the answers that were not forthcoming for far too long. We thank the survivors of the Rohna, who have traveled so far to be here with us today, and the families of all lost, some from beyond South Jersey, who have traveled to share this day with us.
   By the wars end in 1945 every segment of American society had pitched in to defeat a brutal enemy and to preserve the freedoms we live under, to preserve what we had, and to strive for, as one great man put it, “a more perfect union”. Men and women of every race, religion, and ethnic background served America both in uniform and in the workplace. We are a better nation for their efforts.

   We owe a debt to the 20 we remember today, to the countless numbers who gave their lives as they did, and to those who served, came home and spent their years contributing to the America we live in and love today.

   Would those present who have served our country in time of war please stand?
    On behalf of those present here today, those not here, and generations yet to come, I thank you.

     At this time, I will turn the microphone over the Reverend Guenther Fritsch, who will lead us in the Benediction.

   Phillip Cohen, as read by himself

        This event centered on a memorial service to recognize the 20 South Jersey men who were killed in action when the HMT Rohna was sunk by a German guided missile on November 26, 1943. Due to the need for wartime secrecy, the facts of this event were held secret. Sadly, the government kept this information a secret, and only in the 1990’s was the truth brought to light, and family members were finally able to learn the truth about the fate of their loved ones. This event was the first official recognition of the sacrifice made by these men and their families to take place in the State of New Jersey.  At least 13 of the 20 affected families were [resent for this ceremony, as well as several survivors of the tragedy.

         This ceremony took place at 12:00 Noon, and featured messages from the military. our district's Congressman, and the Rohna Survivors Memorial Association. Our best estimate places 150 persons in attendance.


Families present for this ceremony are in BLUE letters

Frank Ballerino
Camden NJ

Stephen Koscianski
Camden NJ

Merl H. Reagle
Lindenwold NJ

William Eastlack
Pennsville NJ

Michael Carr
Camden NJ

Elmer Day
Merchantville NJ

William McKeon
Blackwood NJ

Millard Buckingham
Deepwater NJ

Joseph Johnson
Camden NJ

Carl Johanson
Pennsauken NJ

Carlton Hogan
Burlington NJ

Aldo Steffanice
Pennsgrove NJ

Michael Yachus
Camden NJ

Jacob K, Jenkins
Pennsauken NJ

Thomas Walker
Moorestown NJ

Emerson Spears
Salem County NJ

Lewis Riondino
Camden NJ

Harry V. Taylor Jr.
Haddonfield NJ

Andrew Olsen
Dorothy NJ

Clarence Jaggers
National Park NJ


        The video that was shot of this event was made by Jo-Ann Cohen. It was her first time using a camcorder, and credit is due her for her efforts in ensuring that the entire ceremony was caught on tape.      

Phil Cohen




The Rohna Memorial Survivors Association