Clark County Press, Neillsville, Wisconsin

November 26. 2008, Page 28

Contributed by "The Clark Co. Press"

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 


Compiled and contributed by Dee Zimmerman


Clark County News

 November 1873


Eyerly & Breed have bought an interest in A. W. Clark’s saw mill at the mouth of Cunningham Creek.  The mill is to be almost entirely rebuilt and greatly enlarged.  The upright saw will be removed and a double rotary put in its place.  An edger and lathe saw is also to be added.  Work has commenced and by spring the mill will be in complete running order, then capable of supplying the local demand for lumber at greatly reduced rates.


The fact that Clark County will soon become one of the leading dairy counties of the West becomes more apparent every day.  A number of farmers here, have, as you could say, a more than “one-cow” business.  Mr. George Frantz sold a sled load of prime butter to the Hewett & Woods store, which netted him the nice little sum of $300 last week.


The Clark County Board met at the Courthouse on Tuesday, all the members (were) present except Mr. Yorkston, of Lynn, as follows: Beaver – S. H. Pickett, Eaton – M. B. Warner, Grant – J. S. Dore, Chairman; Hixon – M. H. Withee, Levis – Ezra Tompkins, Loyal – Wm. Welsh, Mentor – Orin Wilson, Pine Valley – W. T. Hutchinson, Sherman – W. B. McPherson, Weston – Loren Gates, Washburn – J. T. Canon and York – John B. Mason


A petition was presented to the County Board for detaching townships 26 and 27, range 3 west from the Town of Weston and adding them to the Town of Eaton.


The County Board has made the Town of Grant square in form by attaching thereto the north half-mile of town 24 one west taken from the Town of York with the order for the change to take affect on the 20th of the next March. 


By action of the County Board, the Town of Beaver was divided into four towns as follows:


Towns 29, 30 and 31, range 1 east and 29, 30 and 31 range 1 west to compose a town to be called Mayville.


Towns 28 1 east and 28 1 west will compose a town to be called Colby.


Town 27 range 1 east is to compose a town to be called Unity.


The Town of Beaver is now composed of 27 one west.


For the purpose of apportionment of taxes, the county Board has classed the real estate of the several towns in Clark County, per acre as follows:


Pine Valley is $4.00; Weston is at $3.50; Beaver, Eaton, Grant, Loyal, Lynn, Sherman, and York are at $3.00 per acre; Hixon, Mentor and York are at $2.00 per acre and Levis is $1.50 per acre.


The Ladies Aid Society of the Methodist Church will give an oyster supper, at the residence of W. C. Allen, on next Wednesday evening for the benefit of Rev. Mr. Wheeler.  No committees, no formalities, but a general good time to which all are invited.  Tickets are 50 cents per person.


B. F. French gave a dance and oyster supper at the Mormon Ripple House last evening.  A number of Neillsville dancers attended but have not gotten back home in time to report on the evening.  Mr. French’s reputation is warrant enough for saying they had a good time.


November 26, 1943


Thanksgiving Day


The Rohna Story


By Thomas W. Brooks


One afternoon in late September 1943, a troop train pulled out of Jefferson Barracks, near St. Louis with 252 enlisted men and five second lieutenants heading for the East Coast.  For some unknown reason, the base officers designated the writer as C. O. of shipment AF 826 B.  No travel orders were issued, merely a roster of all the men.  The orders were vocal and simple, the one word GO.  Thus we left, with destination unknown and arrived four months later.


We sailed from Newport News, Va., aboard a U.S. Liberty ship, as part of a 15-ship convoy headed across the Atlantic.  It was an uneventful voyage, going thru Gibraltar and arriving at Oran, North Africa, in 18 days.


On November 25, 1943, we sailed from Oran enroute to Port Said and Bombay via the Suez Canal with four other ships and joined convoy K.M.F. 26.  Although we never saw more than ten to fourteen ships in the convoy, there were 24, forming six columns, four ships in each column and being escorted by seven or eight British destroyers.  The convoy was made up mostly of British ships, entirely under their control.


Our ship, the H.M.S. Karoa, which was closest to Rohna, the target ship; all were registered by the British India Steamship Navigation Company.  They were combination carriers of freight and passengers from Britain to Bombay and Calcutta; being manned by British Officers and Asian crews.


On the afternoon of November 26, 1943, at 1645 the convoy came under air attack by about 30 German Hinkels 177, and these with later arrivals kept up the attack for a period of 2 hours and 20 minutes.  There Germans made their first attacks upon the escort vessels, trying to knock out the cruiser H. M. S. Coventry, and the destroyer H. M. S. Atherstone.  The Atherstone survived five near misses by radio controlled glider bombs during this period, and the troopship H. M. S. Banfora had a very close miss. There were a total of eight German planes shot down during this attack by guns on Allied escorts and troopships.  The large planes carrying glider bombs stayed off at a safe distance to release their controlled bombs.


At 1700 four new planes appeared to join the attack. Then at 1725 two larger bombers appeared and one of them released a glider bomb headed for H. M. S. Rohna from an altitude of 3,000 ft.  This was a radio controlled glider bomb that struck H. M. S. Rohna midship on the port side at the engine room level, just above the water line.  The engine room was flooded, all power failed.  The No. 4 bulkhead collapsed tearing into one of the troop decks.  The whole area exposed to the blast caught fire and shell plates on both port and starboard sides were blown outwards.  The Rohna was mortally wounded by the bomb hit.  Communication was out.  It took some time for abandon ship orders to reach everyone.  Passage from any part of the ship to another was almost impossible.


The Rohna carried 22 lifeboats, with six being destroyed by the initial explosion.  A number of boats were lost when troops cut the falls; they fell into the water without being loaded and sank.  Some lifeboats had block and tackle that jammed; so eventually only eight lifeboats were lowered safely.  There were 2,000 troops aboard and 195 crewman, 25 officers and 13 other personnel.  A report from the Imperial War Museum lists 1,050 Americans, five ship’s officers and 115 Asian crewmen as being lost in this disaster.  There were 800 men rescued from the Rohna and most landed at Phillipville, North Africa.  This was quite remarkable considering the condition of the ship with fire raging, few lifeboats launched, darkness coming so quickly and delay of rescue ships in arrival.


The stricken Rohna was damaged in so many ways that those left alive after the first explosion and fire had a very difficult time saving themselves.  It must be remembered that for the men on the Rohna to be rescued, and to escape the fire, they had to get off the ship; either by jumping into the water, or being lowered to the water by lifeboat.  Only eight lifeboats were successfully lowered; so that meant that most men had to jump into the water.  Their pickup time ranged from one to seven hours.  Although some of the men commented about life rafts falling on men already in the water; it should be pointed out that drum life rafts fall by gravity into the water after being cut lose; and cannot be controlled.


All of the survivors of the Rohna are important; however, Tom Hollimon is somewhat special, since he was a member of the 853rd Engineer Aviation Battalion, belonging to their Headquarters Company.  That battalion was commanded by Lt. Co. Alexander J. Frolich, and had 30 officers and 793 enlisted men aboard the H. M. S. Rohna bound for India.  The disaster claimed 10 officers and 485 enlisted men.  Of the 278 survivors there were 138 who suffered injuries.  Tom Hollimon was awarded a Purple Heart for his injuries.


At the time the “bomb” hit the Rohna, Tom was three decks below the main deck, along with a majority of other men from the Battalion.  Tom and some survivors picked up the stairway and replaced it in a position so they could use it to escape.  Tom reached the main deck, several lifeboats were being lowered, and he slid down a rope leading to a boat already in the water.  The lifeboat was heavily overloaded, so Tom asked others to join him in going into the sea, which he did.


Darkness came quickly and the sea was heaving in large swells many feet high after Tom was in the water, where he spent part of the next few hours hanging onto a raft, which was hard, with the raft going up and down; sometimes rapidly in the large sea swells.  It was cold in the water, and a brisk wind made it feel even colder.  Rescue ships finally arrived, and with the darkness and the rough sea they had much difficulty in finding and rescuing the men who were still alive in the water. 


Tom made his way to a rope ladder hanging over the side of H. M. S. Minefield.  The Minefield crew was praised by several survivors for searching so diligently for the men who often were hid in the high swells of ocean waves.  In climbing the rope ladder Tom had to really hang tightly, for as the ship rolled from side to side the ladder would hang way out and then slam back against the side of the ship and often knocked men off.  Tom made it to the top and was pulled aboard where he collapsed.  His rescuers stripped off his clothes, wrapped him in blankets and placed him in a warm bunk below.


The rescue of Tom points up one common factor about most survivors; they each had to be in good physical condition in order to have strength to make it from the Rohna to a rescue ship and a strong will to live; some died and some lived, and Tom Holliman was one of them.


In the afternoon of November 29, 1943, near Crete, three German bombers attacked the H. M. S. Karoa.  Do not think we knew they were coming, but as soon as they were sighted we began zigging and zagging as best we could at 10 knots.  Our only protection was four British 40 caliber guns; two forward and two aft.  Every body got on deck with a life preserver on and all we could do was watch and wait and plan.  The planes were the same size as our B-25 and one of them made two runs at our ship dropping 500 lb. bombs.  I looked up and saw a string coming down; and I told myself if I could count to 30; all would be well; and I made it.  The bombs landed as close as 25 feet; mostly straddling us.  They would hit the water and make a fountain as they exploded.  I was real proud of the way our men behaved under the attack.  It just proved that most men are able to think clearly right up to the last seconds while alive when death seems so close. 


Most American observers of the glider bomb attacks for the first time were awed by such advanced weapons of war; and classified them as a Buck Rogers copy.  The use of the word “Glider” denotes and is defined as an aeroplane without power.  This word “Glider” was used most often in describing the bomb that sunk the Rohna.  But after WWII publications on German aircraft of that period show these bombs as being powered and guided by newly developed methods. The bombs were designated to be named Henschel Hs193A and the Germans made 1900 in one model, and 1700 in the second model, from which the Rohna bomb came.


Those who witnessed the use of the “glider bomb” did not know they were looking at the forerunner of our modern rocket missile.  It was several years later before news became widespread about these rocket advances.


All the witnesses I know, and the survivors who wrote to me, have a vivid memory and cannot forget and like myself are reminded each year at Thanksgiving of what happened.


(This article hasn’t been printed in its entirety, due to space.  However the story hits home for soldiers and seamen who have survived battles on land and at sea.  One of the survivors of the Rohna sinking, Clarence “Curly” Becker came home to Neillsville at the end of World War II.  As we gather to celebrate this Thanksgiving Day, reflecting on our many blessings throughout the past year, may we also include the veterans in our midst.  The next time we see “Curly” Becker, or other veterans we know, may we remember to tell them “Thank You” for their sacrifices in keeping the freedoms we have in our country. D.Z.)



The H. M. S. Rohna vessel was struck by a German glider bomb and sunk on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1943.  There were 2,000 troops, 195 crewmen, 25 officers and 13 other personnel aboard with more than half of those being lost in the disaster; one of the great tragedies of World War II.





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