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HomeWorldNow 99, he survived World War II's 'best-kept secret' | News

Now 99, he survived World War II’s ‘best-kept secret’ | News

Now 99, he survived World Conflict II’s ‘best-kept secret’ | news

BEVERLY — Saul Gurman was within the kitchen of his Beverly dwelling one evening 22 years in the past when he heard the authoritative voice of NBC Nightly news anchor Tom Brokaw coming from the TV within the different room. “And now for the best-kept secret of World War II,” Brokaw introduced. “The sinking of the Rohna.”

Gurman dashed into his den to listen to the news. However the truth is, the best-kept secret of World Conflict II was no secret in any respect to Saul Gurman.

As a 20-year-old U.S. Military soldier, he was aboard the British ship Rohna on Nov. 26, 1943, when it was struck by a radio-controlled missile dropped from a German aircraft. The assault sank the ship and resulted within the deaths of 1,138 males, together with 1,015 Military troops, making it the best lack of U.S. life at sea as a consequence of enemy motion.

However the story of what occurred that day, together with Gurman’s dramatic story of survival, remained principally secret for almost 60 years. The U.S. authorities labeled the matter to forestall the Germans from studying how efficient the guided bomb had been in opposition to the Rohna, and ordered the survivors to not discuss or write dwelling about it.

With one other anniversary of the tragedy arising on Saturday, Gurman, now 99, was keen to inform the story that he’d been pressured to suppress for therefore a few years. Sitting on the sofa in his dwelling throughout the road from Lynch Park, he appeared in strong health and displayed a pointy reminiscence for the main points of that day.

“I was bursting all these years,” he stated of being sworn to secrecy. “I wanted to get it off my chest.”

Gurman, who grew up in Chelsea, stated he joined the Military after his older brother, who had already enlisted, was reported lacking within the battle of Guadalcanal (his brother was finally discovered alive). Gurman educated as an plane propeller specialist with the Military Air Corps and ended up aboard the HMT Rohna, a British cargo ship that was transporting U.S. troopers and British troops to India to construct bases for B-29 bombers.

Gurman stated he was in a maintain close to the bow of the ship when he heard a sound like scraping metallic. Years later, the identical sound, attributable to a practice arriving on the station again in his hometown of Chelsea, would spark an assault of post-traumatic stress that despatched him to the hospital.

“It felt like somebody lifted the whole ship out of the water,” he recalled. “An English officer came up to me and said, ‘Better get off the ship, Yank. She’s going down fast.’”

Gurman remained on board so long as he may, releasing lifeboats that have been tied to the railing and dropping them to the boys who had already jumped overboard. At a seasoned 20 years outdated, Gurman stated he felt a duty to assist the youthful troopers.

“I was a cool cucumber,” he stated. “I stayed on the ship until the very end.”

Ultimately, with the ship sliding into the Mediterranean Sea, Gurman crawled to the bow, took off his sneakers, jacket and helmet, and slid his inflatable lifebelt from his waist to his armpits. “I looked at the horizon and just stepped off,” he stated. “When I went down I didn’t think I was going to come back up.”

Gurman stated the one time he panicked was when he resurfaced and located himself amongst a swirl of ropes. “My only thought was, ‘OK, what is Eva (his girlfriend and future wife) going to think when I don’t come home?’” he stated.

He started dog-paddling for half an hour, possibly an hour, when he heard a voice calling for assist. The soldier advised Gurman his legs have been damaged, so Gurman took off his personal lifebelt and put it across the injured man. The 2 floated collectively for an additional hour when Gurman noticed a purple gentle within the distance. The sunshine was coming from a lifeboat, however by the point it received to Gurman and the injured man, it was the wrong way up. One of many males, whom Gurman knew, was sitting on the overturned boat and singing, “Nobody can stop the Army Air Corps.”

At round 11:30 p.m. — six hours after the bomb struck the Rohna — Gurman noticed a cargo ship on the horizon. The boys on the ship threw a rope overboard, and Gurman made a sling and tied it across the injured man so he could possibly be hauled aboard. One other man, who had change into a detailed buddy of Gurman’s, was not so fortunate. As he tried to climb a rope ladder to board the rescue ship, weakened from exhaustion, he yelled to Gurman, “I don’t think I’m going to make it,” and fell again into the chilly Mediterranean waters.

Gurman himself finally climbed a ladder to the ship’s deck and was pulled by his hair over the railing. Requested how he felt in the intervening time he had been saved, he stated, “I don’t think I was thinking anything. Even the next day I can’t remember having any thoughts.” He was considered one of 966 survivors.

Gurman had injured his elbow and misplaced a tooth when he banged in opposition to the ship whereas climbing the rope ladder. His highschool commencement ring was gone, apparently slipping off as his fingers shrunk from the chilly water. He stated he doesn’t keep in mind the chilly, or the 10-foot waves, or the fixed strafing from German planes overhead. “I was so focused I never saw any of that or heard any of that,” he stated.

Gurman returned dwelling after the struggle and married Eva. They moved to Beverly and raised three kids. Gurman stated he advised his spouse that one thing horrible had occurred to him in the course of the struggle, however he by no means advised her the main points till the day Tom Brokaw spoke up from the opposite room.

Gurman, who offered trailer hitches for a residing, labored up till a number of years in the past. Eva died in 2012. Gurman has been to a number of reunions for survivors of the Rohna, and has been interviewed for an upcoming documentary on the tragedy.

Gurman stated his reminiscences of the sinking, and the thousand-plus males who died, come flooding again right now of yr.

“I just get into an ugly mood,” he stated. “I never got over it. But I was really lucky.”

Employees Author Paul Leighton might be reached at 978-338-2535, by e-mail at [email protected], or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.

Editorial staff
Editorial staff
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