Sgt. Charles Katt Killed Aboard Bombed Rohna Troopship

Sgt. Charles W. Katt killed in sinking of HMT ROHNA, Nov. 27, 1943.(April 7, 1944) -- Sgt. Charles W. Katt, U. S. Army, died Nov. 27, 1943.

The War department notified Mrs. Aileen Katt of Conover avenue that her husband had gone down on an Allied troop ship sunk as the direct result of enemy action.

The soldier, who was graduated from Nutley High School, married Eileen Rulison on July 10, 1941, his 20th birthday and they have a year old son, Charles Richard.

He is also survived by his parents Mr. and Mrs. Richard W. Katt, and three sisters, the Eleanor, Dorothea and Joan.

Sgt. Charles W. Katt, serial No. 32596914, was killed in service on Nov. 27, 1943. He is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing, North Africa American Cemetery, Tunis, Tunisia.

Nutley sons Sgt. Charles W. Katt and Pfc. 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.

Katz 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

(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.

The 22-year-old sergeant, who is the son of Mr. and Mrs. R. W. Katt, of Conover avenue, told in one of his last letters that he had met and spend two days with Donald Mulien of Harvard street. This was just five days before he was reported missing.

Letter From Ulio

His wife, the former Miss Aileen Rulison, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. H.  L. Rulison of town, who is living at the Conover street address with their nineteen months old son, Charles Richard, received an assuring letter from Adj. Gen. Ulio this week, however, which stated that "the term 'missing in action' is used only to indicate that he whereabouts or status of an individual is not immediately known.

"It is not intended to convey the impression that the case is closed. I wish to emphasize that every effort is exerted to clear up the status of our personnel. Under war conditions, this is a difficult task as you must readily realize.

"Experience has shown that many persons reported missing in action subsequently have been prisoners of war. However, since we are entirely dependent on the governments with which we are at war to forward this information, the War department is helpless to expedite these reports."

The soldier was inducted in December 1942 and received his training at Fort Jackson, S.C. and Camp Shenango, Pa.

He is a graduate of Nutley high school as is his wife, and is a member of the Sons of the American Legion Squadron, Post 70.

He was employed at the Atlantic Terminals, Port Newark, before entering service. His three sisters are Eleanor, employed by the American Insurance company in Newark, Dorothy, a student in Junior school and Joan who attends Washington school.

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

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.

Charles Richard Katt Guttilla was killed in action in Vietnam on Feb. 20, 1967.

From The Nutley Sun

Sgt. Katt, Reported Missing, Went Down On Troop Ship

American Battle Monuments Commission

American Legion Post 70 Memorial

The Rohna Survivors Memorial Association

Nutley Sons Honor Roll

World War II

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

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