PFC Robert O Bennett

Photo added by Dan Phelan

PFC Robert O Bennett

Birth
Fort Lee, Bergen County, New Jersey, USA
Death 27 Nov 1943 (aged 19)
Jijel, Jijel, Algeria
Burial Carthage, Tunis, Tunisia
Memorial ID 56245584 · View Source
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The average age of Ridgewood's 113 Honored Dead is 25 years old. In general, sailors died at sea, soldiers died on the ground and airmen were shot down. Robert Bennett went counter to those three elements: he was not from Ridgewood, he was much younger than the average and he was an untested soldier who died at sea.
Born August 18, 1924, he did not grow up in Ridgewood. Nicknamed "Speed", he was 5' 6" tall, weighed 133 lbs. and had brown hair and brown eyes when he graduated from Fort Lee High School in 1942. While there he was on the Senior Council, Finance Committee and ran intramural track. His brother, sister and mother moved to Ridgewood after he finished high school and lived at 319 East Franklin Turnpike.
Bennett joined the service, trained at Fort Dix and Camp Attenbury, Indiana and was assigned to the 31st Signal Construction Battalion in November 1942.
A year later, on November 26, 1943, the day after Thanksgiving, he was one of 1,988 Army and Red Cross passengers aboard the British transport HMT ROHNA on its first day at sea sailing from Oran, Algeria. The ship, badly in disrepair, was part of Convoy KMF-26 en-route to Bombay transporting American troops and Red Cross workers to the China-Burma-India Theater of war. Shortly after 5:00 in the afternoon, and 15 miles north of Djidjelli, Algeria, the Rhona was hit in the engine room on the port side, just above the waterline by a missile launched from a German bomber. It marked the first successful hit by a remote-controlled rocket-boosted bomb, launched in the air from a German bomber, marking the start of the missile age.
1½ hours later, after abandon ship had been given and the Indian crew had lowered two lifeboats for themselves and departed, the Rhona sank. The remaining davits were rusted and immovable; regardless, the GIs had not received any training in the use of the davits. Heavy seas generating 15 to 20 foot waves contributed to the disaster. Many of the initial survivors died of gradual exhaustion from the very effort of trying to preserve life by attempting to remain afloat in the 60° water. 1,015 American troops, 3 Red Cross workers and 120 ship's officers and crewmen perished. Bennett was among those reported missing November 27, 1943. Over eight hundred bodies were never recovered.
The event received little notice and the War Department immediately suppressed news of this catastrophe. No details were provided to the grieving families until much later. Bennett is listed on the Tablets of the Missing at North Africa American Cemetery, Carthage, Tunisia. At death he was 19 years old.

Gravesite Details Entered the service from New Jersey.

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  • Maintained by: Chris Stout
  • Originally Created by: CWGC/ABMC
  • Added: 6 Aug 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 56245584
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for PFC Robert O Bennett (18 Aug 1924–27 Nov 1943), Find A Grave Memorial no. 56245584, citing North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial, Carthage, Tunis, Tunisia ; Maintained by Chris Stout (contributor 48289027) .