HMT Rohna secret connects Valley families

MADERA COUNTY, Calif.

The aging photos show three young men in uniform. They all served in the Army Air Corps. On November 26th, 1943 they were among almost two-thousand military and Red Cross members sailing in the HMT Rohna toward the Suez Canal when German bombers hit the convoy.

Janet Delude's father, Peter Sidoti, was among just 900 survivors. His terrible wounds healed but he suffered a life of mental distress. After his death his war canteen, with hand carved notes and names, revealed his connection to the Rohna.

Delude said, "He was severely wounded, had a metal plate in his head and he was in the water for 10 hours."

The sinking of the ship was made classified because the bomb used was not in the allies arsenal. The classed status was dropped in 1996 and now anyone to learn about the incident.

From Delude's computer in her Madera County home she found the Rohna Survivor's Organzation and became a board member. A twist of fate would bring another Rohna story to her from someone also lived in Yosemite Lakes.

Delude said, "We live in a very small town, what are the odds?"

It was Carol Hoover, whose father, Harold Wild also survived the sinking of the Rohna. A breakup in the family prior to the war left her without many details of him.

Hoover said, "I just thought he had died in a shipwreck, not even the name or anything, this was all new to me."

And from Fresno another Rohna connection: Marianne Messina, and what her husband told here about that day at sea when those able had abandoned ship. He was wearing his watch.

"I still have the watch. It stopped at 5:42, that he wore at the time," said Messina. "It's uh, he had a lot of memories of that, sometimes flashbacks."

How many more Rohna survivors and relatives with stories to share is anyone's guess, but it's clear, they may be closer than you imagine.

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