Private Frederick Comer Killed Aboard Bombed Rohna Troopship

Katt and Comer KIA

In Different Divisions, Both Are Casualties On Same Day

Wives And Young Sons, Unacquainted Live Just Around The Corner From Each Other

THE NUTLEY SUN (January 7, 1944) - Nutley's casualty list was enlarged this week with reports of two more soldiers missing in action on the same day and in the same area. They are Charles Katt, a sergeant in the infantry and Frederick Comer, a private in a construction battalion, both of whom arrived in the North African area the later part of October.

Although their wives and young sons are not acquainted, they live just around the corner from each other, and have been told that the news that their men have been missing since November 26 came just last week. Both declared that they had received cables assuring them of their husband's safe arrival abroad and related that their men had embarked without final furloughs.

Frederick Comer, 38, a private in the 31st Signal Construction Battalion was reported missing in action since Nov. 26.

Pvt. Comer is married to the former Miss Gertrude Miller, daughter of John Miller of 27 Princeton Street. They have a 17-month old son, David.

Pfc. Frederick W. Comer was in the 31st Signal Construction Battalion. He is listed on the Tablets of the Missing, at North Africa American Cemetery, Carthage, Tunisia.

NOTE: The extent of the ship tragedy was not released for more than 50 years. The spouses or families likely never learned the circumstances of the soldiers' deaths.

Nutley sons Sgt. Charles W. Katt and Pvt. Frederick Comer were killed when their troopship HMT Rohna was destroyed in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Algeria on Nov. 26, 1943. Of the nearly 2,200 soldiers aboard the ship, 1015 soldiers perished and 606 were rescued.

According to The Rohna Survivors Memorial Association, on Nov. 26, 1943, during WWII, 1.138 perished when a British troopship, the HMT Rohna, was attacked from the air and destroyed in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Algeria.

Two important but virtually unknown historical events occurred at that time. It was the first successful “hit” of a merchant vessel at sea carrying US troops by a German remote-controlled, rocket-boosted bomb, thus giving birth to the “Missile Age”, and it resulted in the greatest loss of troops (1,015) at sea in U.S. history. Combined with the loss of ship’s crew and officers, and three Red Cross workers, more lives were lost than on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor.

The “hit” was so devastating that the U.S. government placed a veil of secrecy upon it. The events which followed were so shameful that the secrecy continued for decades until recently, when documents were grudgingly released under pressure of the Freedom of Information Act. The government still does not acknowledge this tragedy, thus most families of the casualties still do not know the fate of their loved ones.

Pfc. Malcolm Christopher, son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry C. Christopher of Chestnut Street, Nutley was reported missing in the European area. Christopher was aboard the Belgian troopship Leopoldville when it was sunk by a German submarine on Christmas Eve killing 802 men of the 2,235 aboard. Christopher served in the 264th Infantry Regiment, 66th Infantry Division. He received the Purple Heart. He is listed on the Tablets of the Missing at Normandy American Cemetery, St. Laurent-sur-Mer, France.

From The Nutley Sun, January 7, 1944

In Different Divisions, Both Are Casualties On Same Day

American Battle Monuments Commission

American Legion Post 70 Memorial

Charles Katt

National World War II Memorial

The Rohna Survivors Memorial Association

World War II Honor List of Dead and Missing, State of New Jersey, War Dept. June 1946

Nutley Sons Honor Roll

World War II

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NUTLEY SONS HONOR ROLL Remembering the Men Who Paid For Our Freedom

Nutley Sons Honor Roll


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