|AMERICAN BATTLE MONUMENTS COMMISSION
Richard L. Ekiss
First Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces
322nd Fighter Control Squadron
|Entered the Service from: Illinois
Died: November 27, 1943
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at North Africa American Cemetery
|Awards: Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, European Theater of Operations Medal, World War II Victory Medal and National Defense Service Medal
heroism brings honor 57 years later
Sunday, June 25, 2000
Grateful son accepts Bronze Star Medal for Valor
By Tanya Albert / The Detroit News
NORTHVILLE -- When 58-year-old John Lane was just a baby, his
father and nearly 2,000 other American soldiers shipped out during the
height of World War II.
Lane's father was among more than 50 percent of the
soldiers on the ill-fated Rohna who never returned home. German
fighters sunk their ship off the African coast in November 1943.
Steve Perez / The Detroit News
For information, visit the Rohna Survivors
Memorial Association's Web site at: www.whidbey.net/rohna/rohna.htm
Lane was just a year and nine months old.
But more than half a century later, he's connecting
with the father he was too young to remember going off to war.
Through stories from Rohna survivors, Lane learned
his father, 1st Sgt. Richard Ekiss, died a hero the day his ship went
And in a solemn ceremony with 15 people earlier this
month, Lane accepted the Bronze Star Medal for Valor that his father
earned nearly 60 years ago when he lost his own life while trying to
save others. Lane's planning a memorial service and plaque dedication
at Arlington National Cemetery for next spring.
"One of my purposes in life was maybe to get
recognition for him," Lane said. "He was a hero."
Although more lives were lost on the Rohna than were
lost on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, it wasn't talked about for
Because the hit was so big, the American government
didn't talk about it and didn't release information until a Freedom of
Information Act request was filed decades later.
The Rohna sat in the Mediterranean Sea off the
Algerian coast when German bombers and fighters attacked it at about 3
p.m. Nov. 26, 1943.
Anti-aircraft fire drove away most of the fighters,
but not before the ship was hit by a German remote-controlled,
rocket-boosted bomb. It was the first successful air-to-ship missile.
The bomb hit the ship near the waterline, exploded
and killed about 300 men instantly.
The ship's engines and electrical systems were
destroyed and a 20-by-60-foot hole through the ship sucked in water.
Men jumped off the ship.
Sgt. Ekiss stayed with his troops, calmed them and
made sure they got out of the ship's hold.
The 29-year-old sergeant made it to safety, but went
back to the sinking ship to make one more check for any of his men
that may have still in the hold.
No one saw him again.
He was one of 1,138 U.S. soldiers who died at sea
that day. Many died of hypothermia in the water.
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