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November 26th, 1943

UNITED KINGDOM: Destroyers HMCS Huron, Haida and Iroquois departed Arkhangelsk for Loch Ewe with Convoy RA-54B. (Dave Shirlaw)

FRANCE: Paris: Paul Claudel's play Le Soulier de Satin opens. It is a lavish costume drama about Catholic dogma. Due to the length of the play and the imposition of the curfew, the curtain must rise at 1:15 p.m.

 

GERMANY: A large Allied air raid targets Bremen in bad weather. It achieves modest results. (Glenn Stenberg)

U.S.S.R.: The Red Army has driven the Germans out of Gomel, north of the Pripet Marshes, and is chasing them along a 100-mile front in White Russia. This powerful and well-timed blow has now cracked the Wehrmacht's winter line, and the Germans have been forced out of the deep belts of well-equipped dugouts where they had intended to spend the winter in comparative comfort.

Now they are being hounded into the marshes and forests where the snow is deep and the partisans lie in wait for the unwary. The German high command admits that the Russians are "trying to interfere with our disengaging movements."

Destroyers HMCS Huron, Haida and Iroquois departed Arkhangelsk for Loch Ewe with Convoy RA-54B. (Dave Shirlaw)

ALGERIA: The British transport HMT Rohna is sunk by a German guided bomb in the Mediterranean Not wanting to give the enemy any information about its success, the American and British military did not acknowledge the sinking. The secrecy prevailed even after the war About 2,200 American servicemen boarded the Rohna, which had been designed to carry 100 passengers in comfort, in Oran, Algeria.

The largest single unit was the 853rd Engineer Aviation Battalion, which was going to India to build runways. The Rohna left Oran and joined a convoy sailing from Great Britain. Since the departure was on Thanksgiving Day, the crew provided a holiday repast that didn't stay down long as the ship rolled through the swells. Seasickness, however, would be the least of their problems.

At 4:30 p.m. the next day, German bombers based in occupied France attacked the convoy. The attack lasted for an hour, and most soldiers saw none of it. All were ordered below, in many cases levels below deck. In additional to conventional bombs, German aircraft had Henschel 293 guided bombs. The large explosive was fitted with aluminium wings, rudders and rocket propulsion, and the bombardier guided it with radio signals. At about 5:15 p.m., a guided bomb struck the Rohna near the waterline on the port side, blowing a hole through both sides of the ship. It hit near where much of the 853rd was berthed. About 300 were killed by the blast itself. It is impossible to determine how many survived but couldn't get out of the ship before it sank.

Attempts to abandon ship were disastrous. Many of the lifeboats and rafts were frozen by rust or paint to their moorings. Instead of  life vests, which would hold heads out of the water if the wearer was unconscious, soldiers had inflatable life rings. Many drowned while wearing them. Seas were rough enough to inhibit visibility, and night fell shortly after the attack. Five ships criss-crossed the water searching for survivors, who bobbed in and out of sight of the searchlights.

The 853rd had 30 officers and and93 enlisted men when the Rohna left port. Now, 495 were gone, and 14and of the survivors were injured.

As well, 134 British and Australian officers and Indian crew members died. The total death toll was 1,149. (John Nicholas, Andy Etherington and Tom Hickox)

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PACIFIC OCEAN: From Glen Boren's diary: 

We changed Task Forces from 50.3 to 50.4. The USS Essex left us and the USS Monterey jointed us. Admiral Sherman joined us and we were Flag Ship for a while. We received and more fighters today. One glided over the wires and took the barrier, flipping upside down. Pilot was cut up some, but otherwise O.K. One of the men came up to me and said, "I got the clock!" Almost before the pilot was out of the aircraft. The aircraft. was pushed over the side as too badly damaged to repair at sea. The in-dash clocks were highly prized trophies as they were fine instruments. Never got one myself, but I wanted one. After sunset, jap plans came within 8 miles of us and dropped flares, but did not find us. Four of our planes chased a jap betty and shot it down and had to land on the Princeton as our deck was fouled and it was getting dark.

CANADA: Frigates HMCS Coaticook and Levis launched Lauzon Province of Quebec. (Dave Shirlaw)

U.S.A.: Destroyer escort USS Hissem launched.

Destroyer escort USS Newman commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)

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