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Description During the Allied invasion of Sicily the SS Robert Rowan (Liberty ship K-40) explodes after being hit by a German Ju 88 bomber off of Gela, Sicily (Italy), on (11 July 1943).
The Liberty ship SS Robert Rowan was built at the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, Wilmington, North Carolina (USA). She was laid down on 3 March 1943, launched 6 April, and delivered to the Isthmain Steamship Company on 13 April. Her maiden voyage started on 14 May 1943 at Hampton Roads, Virginia (USA) to Oran (Algeria) as part of convoy UGS-8A. She was sent on to Gela, Sicily (Italy) to support the invasion of Sicily ("Operation Husky"). She arrived at Gela 11 July 1943 with a cargo of ammunition and 334 soldiers of the 18th Infantry. She also carried 14 U.S. Navy personnel, 32 U.S. Navy armed guards, and 41 crewmen. Just before 14:00 hrs German Junkers Ju 88 bombers appeared overhead and attacked the ships in the bay. During the attack the Rowan was hit by three 500 kg bombs. One bomb passed through the ship, but the other two exploded in the holds. Because of the nature of the cargo the ship was abandoned without any attempt to put the fire out. All 421 men on board safely evacuated the ship and were picked up by PT boats and transferred to nearby destroyers. Within twenty minutes the fire reached her munitions with a tremendous explosion tearing the ship in half. The burning ship came to rest on an even keel and burned for two days. The destroyer USS McLanahan (DD-615) attempted to sink the ship because the fires lit up the area during the night, but this failed as the water was too shallow. The hulk lay in the waters off Gela until 1948 when it was sold and scrapped.
Date 11 July 1943
NARA Logo created 2010.svg This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the ARC Identifier (National Archives Identifier) 531165.

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U.S. Army Signal Corps Photo no. MM-43-L-1-23 (Lt. Longini); U.S. DefenseImagery photo VIRIN: HD-SN-99-02682.
Author photographer: Lt. Longini, U.S. Army Signal Corps


Public domain This image is a work of a U.S. Army soldier or employee, taken or made as part of that person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

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