Sometimes in war, the ‘little’ stories tend to be more interesting than the big picture. This is partly because it’s easier to focus on a specific location or event, whereas the entire battle can result in an inundation of facts and figures
wrongly attributed to Joseph Stalin.
Yes, we identify with the young man: a dreamer (or a realist), who shows up for training, and ships out for war, more than we ever could with the hundred, the thousand, or the five-hundred thousand who perished on a battlefield somewhere ‘over there.’ It’s not right, but it is.
Yet, to omit them would be to erase the importance of the sacrifices that are made. Victory is often expensive.
over 22,000 casualties.
over 30,000 casualties.
over 130,000 casualties.
Though they suffered massive losses, mostly as prisoners to the allies, the Axis was able to withdraw over 130,000 troops from Sicily before it fell.
Take a look at the picture above. In the foreground, you can see rooftops. The photographer is some distance inland. Further out, the surf is coming in, and beyond that, a few landing craft are seen approaching the beach with a larger vessel behind them. In the background, there is the plume of a massive explosion that is ... that WAS a large ship.
Her name was Robert Rowan. Like her 2,750 sisters, she was named after a prominent American. By March of 1943, the production line was so streamlined, she was completed in just over a month. She may not have been a destroyer, battleship, or aircraft carrier, but the Robert Rowan was important:
Delivered in May, she was in theater soon after. Her first official action was carrying supplies for the invasion of Sicily. She arrived on July 11, holds full of ammunition and transporting over 400 fighting men. That same day, German dive bombers attacked Allied ships at anchor and the Robert Rowan was hit by three massive bombs. Two exploded in her holds, and, knowing the situation to be extremely dangerous, she was ordered abandoned. Shortly after, there was a massive explosion splitting the ship in two. She burned for two days, the wreck to remain visible in the shallow waters until long after the war.
In 1948, she was sold as scrap metal to Italy.
So, what did she contribute to the invasion? The ammunition she carried was the cause of her death but the soldiers she carried survived to fight another day. Her destruction made for a great photograph and that in turn makes a great story.
Perhaps that is her legacy.