How a Secrecy Veiled Tragedy Taught the Importance of War Stories- By Jeffery Worthington- iHistoryProject WW2

By Rachel Martin, Jeff Worthington, and iHistory Project WW2

War history. Veteran Stories. Why are they important?

I didn’t know. My dad didn’t know. I’m not entirely sure my grandmother knew. A small group of us sat in awed silence as my grandad recounted living through the catastrophic sinking of the HMT Rohna.We were awed to learn my grandad, a World War II veteran, was the survivor of a ship sunk by a Luftwaffe attack off the Mediterranean coast. Over 1,000 men were lost in the attack. Veiled in secrecy for years, the sinking of the HMT Rohna was the largest loss of US troops at sea.

HMT Rohna

My granddad was one of the 606 survivors of the November 26th, 1943 attack, and he clung to life in the ocean for days before his rescue. As one of the few survivors, he was one of the lucky ones.

The event was catastrophic. So much so, that the US Government veiled the incident in secrecy until 1996, almost 50 years after the incident.

How do you tell a story that was classified and veiled in secrecy for over 50 years?

How do you gather facts on a tragedy filled with “strong silent” types? It’s impossible to learn and tell a story unless you’re first ready to listen.

While he lived through a historic event, my granddad rarely spoke of his experiences.  

Granddad is gone now, and I’m so thankful for the opportunities I had to hear about his WWII experiences. Had I not talked to him about his experience in World War II, his story would be lost forever with his passing.

History is important and there are stories to be told.

That’s why we’re launching iHistory WWII. We’re working in cooperation with the Library of Congress to bring stories of veterans to life. iHistoryWWII is providing students with the opportunity to hear stories first hand, and the chance to win free equipment for their classroom!

Visit our website, and stay tuned for more details!

For more information, visit the iHistory Project-WW2 or contact me directly atjeff@ihistoryproject.org.

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Silence…isn’t Always Golden.

Little girl whispering
little girl whispering

It has been said that “silence is golden”. While this maxum rings true in many circumstances, when it comes to blogging, silence is just… well, quiet.

Unfortunately the iHistory WW2 blog has been silent for a while now. But, there is good news!

We are up and running once again. Soon, we’ll begin posting updates for iHistory WW2, stories from World War Two, and ways you can become involved!

Keep an eye out on the blog for new posts, and join us on Facebook and Twitter to follow our conversation there, too!

Ps. We just joined Pinterest– so be sure to follow us there, too!

Nobility In Response To Oppression – By Jeffrey Worthington, iHistory Project-WW2

The call to arms rang out across the land.  Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor and from every corner of the nation men and women answered the call.

Stop.  Think about those from whom the American dream was often, possibly even universally withheld; those whose heritage disenfranchised them from the words “all men are created equal.”  Among them was a young Navajo, Jack Jones.   His culture, even his name, was taken from him in the U.S. government’s drive to erase the Native Americans’ ways of life.

Jack could have said this wasn’t his fight.  His was a hard life.  As a child he was sent to boarding school where he was taught his native language, and all that made him Navajo, was bad.  He ran away from home and from boarding school.    He rode the rails, accepting the transient life of a hobo to that which awaited him on the reservation.  Are you angry, yet?  Are you ready to say,  ”Jack, don’t go?” His response will surprise you!

Jack, and many other young men of the Navajo nation, answered a very special call to arms.  Their language, once reviled, became a secret military code never broken by the enemy.  The Code Talkers, as they were known, coordinated combat operations, calling in air strikes and providing other essential battlefield communications.    Jack felt honored, even grateful for the chance to help his native language endure and to be an asset to the defense of the country.  He held no grudge.  He took solace in saving American lives, though he never rejoiced in killing.

History is witness to the Code Talkers’ contributions.  Jack Jones’ vision is realized.  Oppression was stopped.  The Navajo culture and its language continues, now living in a special place of honor and respect.

I hope you will support me (and hundreds of World War 2 enthusiasts and volunteers around the world) in challenging American teens across America, who are interested in military history, to participate in the iHistory Project-WW2.  We are committed to preserving these great World War 2 stories and memories and to bringing them to life so future generations will understand and appreciate the events of this conflict and how they shaped our world.

For more information, visit the iHistory Project-WW2 or contact me directly at jeff@ihistoryproject.org.

Yes Sir, General Patton, Sir! by Jeffrey Worthington, iHistory Project-WW2

What would a brash, determined old horse soldier do when he was told he couldn’t accomplish a seemingly impossible mission??  If that trooper was General George S. Patton, Jr., he’d call on his best units to get the job done. When his impossible task was to relieve the 101st Airborne at Bastogne, Patton called on the 4th Armored Division, Bob Eamello’s division, to help get the job done.

Bob Eamello grew up in the Great Depression.  He, like so many in his generation, already knew deprivation and personal sacrifice.  As a boy, he recalled, he would climb cherry trees and apple trees to find food and a meal of rabbit, squirrel and even an occasional blackbird was welcomed fare.  Maybe the hardships of youth prepared him for what was ahead.

Preparations ended for Bob Eamello shortly after the D-Day landings on the Normandy beaches.  The following month he and his comrades blazed a mechanized trail across Europe that ultimately brought him face to face with George Patton, himself.  Along the way Bob ran headlong into fighting against some of the fiercest fighters of the war, the famed and feared Panzer Armies.  When he recalled his meetings with Patton, Bob recalled that the only words any soldier needed, when addressing the general, was “Yes Sir!”  Bob and his brothers in arms marched with Patton to Bastogne, relieving the beleaguered 101st Airborne and helping to secure the Allied victory in the Battle of The Bulge.

The March to victory for Bob Eamello and the 4th Armored Division was never easy.  They helped liberate the Buchenwald death camp; looking into the faces of those who suffered at the hands of absolute evil.  They endured the bitter winter of 1944-1945 and they felt the loss of all who perished in freedom’s name.  Recalling the last day of the war, Bob said it was the day the men of the 4th Armored Division met their Russian and Czech allies.  “The captain yelled “quit fighting.”  It was over.  Speaking with a voice that still reverberates with profound relief, Bob said: “It was the best day of the war.”

Bob Eamello’s story is his own.  Each serviceman and every servicewoman has a story that is shared with others but is still personal and unique.  In their own personal stories, they all said “Yes Sir” just as Bob did when he stood toe to toe with General George S. Patton, Jr.

I hope you will support me (and hundreds of World War 2 enthusiasts and volunteers around the world) in challenging American teens across America, who are interested in military history, to participate in the iHistory Project-WW2.  We are committed to preserving these great World War 2 stories and memories and to bringing them to life so future generations will understand and appreciate the events of this conflict and how they shaped our world.

For more information, visit the I-History Project-WW2 or contact me directly at jeff@ihistoryproject.org

“I Made It My Mission To Come Home!” – By Jeffrey Worthington, iHistory Project-WW2

Whenever I think of tough going in war, I’m drawn to images of men fighting amidst the blaze of gunfire and cannon blasts.  Medic Ralph Rodriguez showed me another image of bravery and of sheer determination.  The story starts with the Bataan Death March and plays out to its end at Camp O’Donnell.

Camp O’Donnell was a U.S. military installation.  There is nothing in the name that makes it stand out but what happened there is quite remarkable.  On April, 1942, when the United States and its allies surrendered the Bataan peninsula to the forces of the Japanese Empire, the Death March of Bataan began and thousands of Americans and their Filipino allies either perished, or spent the next three years in unimaginably horrific conditions.  Ralph Rodriguez survived and he is adamant that clinging tightly to hope was the difference between life and death.  “I made it my mission to come home,” he recalls and it was that dogged determination that was his strength throughout the years of misery.

The atrocities started along the march.  “As soon as you fell,” Ralph told me, “the Japs butchered you…They killed people right and left for little or no reason.” He recounts instances in which soldiers were bayoneted for being as little as one or two steps behind on the tortuous sixty mile march.   The Red Cross insignia he wore, he added, may have helped him escape the onslaught of Japanese bullets and bayonets to which so many innocents fell.  Ralph made it, despite eight episodes of Malaria, a disease that often kills its victims in the first round, despite the malnutrition and the inhumanity of his captors.  “I made it my mission to come home, he said, and emphasized that only hope could save the men destined to endure the ordeal.  Even a perfectly healthy man who gave up hope would die within a day, he added.  One thousand in his camp never did get home.  There was no escape, just a constant struggle to stay alive.

Days turned to into months and then into years.  Finally, in late January, 1945, units of the Sixth U.S. Army Rangers, in a daring covert operation 20 miles behind enemy lines, rescued Ralph Rodriguez and his comrades, the men of Camp O’Donnell.  Ralph remembered the day vividly:

“The Rangers came in and started shooting…  All Hell broke loose…Within fifteen or twenty minutes it was all over.”

The men started off on another march.  This time it was a march not to enslavement, but into freedom. Elements of the 6th Army Rangers made sure the pursuing Japanese forces never again took these men prisoner.  The Rangers accomplished their mission of liberation and Ralph Rodriguez accomplished his, to never give up hope and to make it home!

I hope you will support me (and hundreds of World War 2 enthusiasts and volunteers around the world) in challenging American teens across America, who are interested in military history, to participate in the iHistory Project-WW2.  We are committed to preserving these great World War 2 stories and memories and to bringing them to life so future generations will understand and appreciate the events of this conflict and how they shaped our world.

For more information, visit the I-History Project-WW2 or contact me directly at jeff@ihistoryproject.org