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Leon J. Stasiak

U.S Army
1943 | KIA - Rohna Casualty

Leon Joseph Stasiak (of Polaski Street in Elm Park, Staten Island) was born on August 6, 1922. He enlisted into the U.S Army January 25, 1943. He was a member of the 853rd. Aviation Corps of Engineers.

His family received a telegram around Christmas simply stating that “Private Leon Stasiak was Missing in Action.” Nothing else was provided and no further information about him was ever sent. It was a mystery for decades. My Dad and his brothers were World War II veterans and only knew their cousin never returned home.

It was not until 1993 , 50 years later that the truth came out as the documents were declassified and surviving family members could find out the truth about their loved ones killed during the attack on HMT ( His Majesty's Transport ) Rohna.

Today TV history documentaries have explained the Rohna tragedy and several books have been written. A memorial was erected in Arlington National Cemetery honoring the names of the soldiers killed onboard the Rohna. World War II like any war has terrible horrors and we see it today as tens of thousands of civilians are being killed in Gaza and the Ukraine.

Sponsored by Jack Bolembach

About the Rohna HMT ( His Majesty's Transport )
The Rohna was a British troop transport ship. The Rohna Ship was sunk November 26th. 1943 with slightly over 2,000 crew and troops on board. A total of 1,015 Americans were killed and 134 British and Indian crew members. This sinking was the largest loss of American life at sea during the Second World War and since. More than half were killed.

The Rohna was in a convoy steaming through the Mediterranean off the coast of Tunisia heading to the Suez Canal. She and the other Allied ships were attacked by about 30 Luftwaffe German airplanes consisting of bombers and fighters. Eight German planes were shot down during the attack with no casualties inflicted upon any of the ships in the convoy.

The planes retreated but one bomber remained and launched a solo attack using a new weapon developed by the Germans. It was an HS-293 Radio -guided missile. The Heinkel 177 Bomber piloted by Major Hans Dochtermann suddenly attacked the Rohna launching the missile as a second crewman controlled the weapon maneuvering it 90 degrees toward the ship where it struck just above the Engine Room causing a huge explosion that would eventually after an hour sink the ship.

The German plane under attack fled not realizing it had caused the sinking of the Rohna. Over 300 soldiers aboard the Rohna were killed immediately after the explosion 849 more would die. It was the biggest sinking disaster for American servicemen.

Most of the American soldiers belonged to a Combat Engineers Unit being transported to India and Burma to prepare airfields for attacks against the Japanese.

Of the 793 soldiers in the 853rd. Aviation Corps of Engineers only 126 survived to answer the morning Roll Call two days after the attack and sinking of the Rohna.

The sinking was Top Secret because a new German-designed radio guided missile was used and successful. Quickly attacked by Allied Fighter planes the German pilot fled before he could confirm his missile caused severe damage to the ship. Survivors were threatened with prison if they spoke about the Rohna sinking to anyone.

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