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World War II Honor Roll

Jacob Kessler Jenkins

Private, U.S. Army Air Forces

32487176

853rd Engineer Battalion, Aviation

Entered the Service from: New Jersey
Died: November 27, 1943
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at North Africa American Cemetery
Carthage, Tunisia
Awards: Purple Heart


PRIVATE JACOB KESSLER JENKINS was born in 1906 to Jacob K. and Jennie Jenkins. His father was a millwright, his mother Mary J. Jenkins was an immigrant from Ireland. In 1920, the family was living at 922 Federal Street in Camden NJ, and Kessler, as was called was still in school. He would leave high school after his freshman year. His older brother Emory had already left school to apprentice in a machine shop, and he had a younger sister, Ethel A. Jenkins, at home as well. By 1930 the family had moved to 1937 Springfield Avenue in the Delaware Gardens neighborhood of Pennsauken NJ. Jacob Kessler Jenkins had moved out his parentís house by this time. By April of 1930 he was working as a bus driver for the Public Service Company and he had wed, living with his wife Isabella Sauer Jenkins at the home of her parents, Henry and Amelia Sauer, 11 Clinton Avenue, in Merchantville NJ. 

Separated from his wife, Jacob Kessler Jenkins was inducted into the United States Army on September 1, 1943 in Camden NJ. By the time Jacob Kessler Jenkins was inducted into the Army, his father had passed away. Sister Ethel Jenkins had married Robert C. Shinn of Marne Highway Mt. Holly NJ, and his mother had gone to live with the Shinns. His brother, Emory Jenkins, had moved to Collingswood NJ.

Jacob Kessler Jenkins was assigned along with many other area men, to the 853rd Engineer Battalion, Aviation, where he trained in the South in the construction of airbases. 

In November 1943, Jacob Kessler Jenkins and his comrades shipped out to North Africa, where the were to continue on through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal to India, where they were to construct airbases to support the war effort in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations, and to bomb Japan.

On the November 26th, 1943 Jacob Kessler Jenkins and the 853rd Engineer Battalion, Aviation sailed out of Oran, Algeria on the British owned and operated transport ship, HMTS Rohna. Later that day, the convoy that the Rohna was a part of was attacked by German aircraft. After initially beating of the attack, another German plane approached the convoy, and launched a new weapon, a radio-controlled glider bomb, in essence, the worlds first guided missile. 

The Rohna was struck by the missile, which blew a hole through both sides of the ship, killing 300 Americans immediately, many of the members of the 853rd Engineers.  Jacob Kessler Jenkins most likely met his fate there. The ship quickly sunk, and over 1000 Americans were lost that in the ensuing hours.

The sinking of the Rohna was kept secret from the public during the war, for reasons of wartime security. Sadly, the government waited over 50 years before declassifying the story, and the families of those lost on the Rohna were never told the truth of their loved ones fate. Only in the 1990s, due to efforts of survivors of the sinking, was any official acknowledgement made.

Private Jenkins was survived by his wife Isabella Jenkins, his mother, Jennie Jenkins, his brother Emory Jenkins, and his sister, Ethel Jenkins Shinn. 


EVENING COURIER
CAMDEN, N.J., TUESDAY, JUNE !3, 1944

15 DEAD, 2 MISSING FROM SOUTH JERSEY
Former Camden Resident, Holder of Six Awards, Among New Casualties
SHILOH FLIER LISTED DOWNED IN EUROPE

Fifteen South Jersey men were among the 1511 reported by the War Department today as killed in action on the six fighting fronts. Two others from this area are reported missing.

Killed:
  
Staff Sergeant Ronald J. Pearce, of 330 Delancey Street, Philadelphia, formerly of 3404 Federal Street, Camden.
  
Private First Class Charles La Porta, of 142 Chestnut Street, Williamstown.
  
Private Frank Ballerino, of 2004 South 10th Street, Camden.
  
Sergeant Elmer F. Day, of 521 Lexington Avenue, Merchantville.
  
Corporal William T. Eastlack, of 142 I Street, Carney's Point.
  
Private Clarence T. Jaggers, of Columbia Road and St. James Walk, National Park.
  
Sergeant Carl E. Johanson, of 5019 Jefferson Avenue, Pennsauken.
  
Corporal Steven V. Koscianski, of 966 Bulson Street, Camden.
  
Private First Class William R. McKeon, of Pine Avenue, Blackwood.
  
Sergeant Andrew W. Olsen, of Dorothy.
  
Corporal Aldo Steffanice, of 74 Norman Avenue, Pennsgrove.
  
Private First Class John A. Landicina, of 402 Southeast Avenue, Vineland.
  
Michael Carr, of 1059 Everett street, Camden.
  
Captain Carlton P. Hogan, of 207 East Union Street, Burlington.
  
Corporal Millard E. Buckingham, of 38 Grant Street, Deepwater.

Missing:
  
Lt. Robert Probasco, of Shiloh.
  
Lt. John Ruggiero, of Bridgeboro Road, Beverly.

3 On Troopship Lost

Ballerino, Koscianski, and Carr are believed to have met their fates on the same transport. War Department telegrams to families of all three men reveal that each was a passenger on a troopship that was lost due to enemy action in the Mediterranean on Nov. 27, 1943. All have been awarded Purple Hearts.

This was the closest that the general public got to the truth of the matter. As a matter of fact, 12 of the fifteen men listed above were on that transport, the HMTS Rohna. Five other Rohna victims were also on the War Department casualty lists for that day. 

The following reported as dead in today's official casualty list were previously reported as missing: Sergeant Day, Private Jaggers, Corporal Koscianski, Private McKeon, and Private Steffanice.

Also listed as dead in today's official casualty list but previously reported in these columns are: Private Michael Yachus, 679 Ferry Avenue, Camden; Joseph H. Johnson, 1273 South Merrimac Road, Camden; Private Harry V. Taylor, 3 Kings Highway East, Haddonfield; Private Merl H. Reagle, Maple Avenue, Lindenwold; Private Jacob K. Jenkins, Marne Highway, Mt. Holly, formerly of Pennsauken; Private Harry E. Harker, 6 Beach Avenue Blackwood; PFC Jack S. Dubois,  Church Street, Williamstown, and Charles R. Stewart Jr., 319 Linden Street, Camden.


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