August 27, 1943
Pennsauken Sergeant Downed In Flak-Torn Plane Off Sicily
Engineer Ignores Action in Letter to Parents,
Flak bursts were coming too close for comfort when the Missouri Waltz- a B-25 Mitchell bomber- flew over the southern coast of Sicily, July 13, to support American invasion troops.
And the first thing Staff Sergeant Alfred A. Rockafellow, 20, former Merchantville High Scholl football and track star knew- the bomber with its five man crew was forced down in the Mediterranean. They were five miles from land, which, with the invasion but four days old, was mostly enemy territory.
The story of how Rockafellow, engineer of the ship, and his crew companions were rescued by the American Sea Rescue Service, while P-38 Lightnings hovered about and beat off enemy planes was revealed yesterday by the Army Air Corps.
But that is not the story Alfred told his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Verton Rockafellow, of 2224 42nd Street, Pennsauken Township.
The parents received first details of the accident last night from a Courier-Post reporter.
“That’s just like him”, was the father’s first happy remark. “We’ve been waiting to hear what happened. Look, this is all he wrote us.”
He then produced a V-mail letter from Alfred which said:
“I am in a rest camp in Algeria. Not bad at all. Don’t get the wrong idea. There’s nothing wrong with me. We’re just here for a rest.”
That one was written on July 21, eight days after the battle.
In another letter , written on July 27, Alfred told his parents:
“My pen and pencil set were lost in an accident that occurred not long ago. I would really like to have another. My watch was also ruined but I don’t want anything like that.”
Mrs. Rockafellow bought a new set on the day the letter was received and sent it to her son.
The only other clue to Alfred’s hair raising experience came from another son, Corporal Verton R., 22, who is on duty with an infantry division in England.
Verton said that he had received a letter from Al, “who hadn’t been up for the last few days, but couldn’t tell me why.” He asked his parents to write and tell him what it was all about.
With Rockafellow in the Missouri Waltz were Lieutenant Theodore Wright, Gillette WY; Lieutenant Davis, Stantaquing UT, navigator; Lieutenant James A. Bradley, Kansas City MO, pilot; and Lieutenant B.W. Anzalaone, Wakefield MA, bombardier.
The Rockafellows moved to Pennsylvania from Rush County IN, in 1930. The young engineer-flier’s Merchantville High diploma had to be mailed to him after he left school on February 12, 1942 to enlist.
The elder Rockafellow served with the Marines during World War I. He reenlisted on April 23, 1942, and was honorably discharged on February 12, 1943 after assisting the Corps to install a classification system. He resumed his position as sales manager for a local dairy company after being retired from service.
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