Archie Arlie Dalton

853rd Engineer Battalion, Aviation


Madisonville Democrat, Jan. 12, 1944

Cpl, Archie A. Dalton has been reported missing in action in the north Africa area since Nov. 26, his mother, Mrs. Bessie L. Dalton of Epperson, has been notified by the War Department. A letter said it was hopeful that Cpl. Dalton is a prisoner of war. The last letter from him dated Nov. 19 and enclosed a postal money order for $60 for the family to buy Christmas gifts. He carefully instructed his mother to select a gift for his friend, Miss Dorothy Davis. Cpl. Dalton has been in service a year. Mr. and Mrs. Dalton have two other sons in service, Enos Dalton tank driver, and Cecil Dalton, truck driver in the Air Corps, both overseas.





America lost thousands of soldiers to the sea During World War II. Many died while serving on the U.S.S. Arizona, bombed while docked at Pearl Harbor on December the 7th, 1941 by the Empire of Japan: also with the tragedy of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, returning from her secret atomic bomb mission in August of 1945. But you may have never heard of the Rohna. Why? The sinking of the Rohna represented an historic first. It was the first U.S. ship destroyed by a guided missile in the history of warfare. Its destruction by those means was deemed classified, so that even the families who lost fathers, brothers, and sons were not told the circumstances of their loved ones deaths.

The Rohna began its fateful journey on November 24th 1943 at the port of Oran in Algiers, North Africa. There, over 2,000 American enlisted men boarded, And in the end, 1, 015 American men lost their lives. Another milestone representing the greatest loss of American Military personnel at sea, ever.


H.M.T. Rohna




One Monroe County serviceman was a passenger on this British transport ship Pvt Archie Arlie Dalton.  Archie Dalton was born in the community of Epperson in 1923 to John Ervin Dalton and Bessie Lucinda West . On January 11th, 1943, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was proudly serving his country with the 853rd Engineer Battalion, Aviation.




On November 25, 1943  at Oran, Algeria, Archie boarded the Rohna headed for the China-Burma-India theater. Destination was Port Said, Egypt. There was a crew of 195, along with 1,981 American troops and 7 Red Cross personnel. The Rohna sailed along with four other ships and joined a convoy that same day; she was the second ship in the port column, for a total of 24 ships.  The following day the USS Pioneer joined the convoy.  According to 2nd Officer Wills of the Rohna, there were no warnings of enemy aircraft received.



On November 26th, 1943 the 24 ship convoy was in the Mediterranean as three Luftwaffe squadrons descended on them. The men on board each ship knew that the probability of attack was great, but no one guessed that the German bombers carried the latest in technology.. rocket-propelled, radio-controlled Henschel HS-293 glide bombs. British, American, and free French fighter planes rushed from bases in North Africa to aid the besieged convoy. Finally a Heinkel 177 bombardier set his sights on the Rohna, guided the payload with deadly accuracy. Hundreds died upon impact.  After the explosion that destroyed the Engine Room, the ship was engulfed in flames and started to sink.  It was impossible to lower the lifeboats on the portside due to the side plates forced outwards by the explosion.  Many of the lifeboats on the starboard side were lowered but were soon capsized because of the hundreds of troops that were already in the water and trying to climb into them.  Others perished from cold and exhaustion while darkness and rough seas hampered rescue efforts.  A total of 1,015 American troops, 3 Red Cross personnel, and 120 crewmen perished.


Stories were told of desertion of the Indian crew, equipment failures, and the deplorable condition of the lifeboats and rafts.  Then there were the cold waters of the Mediterranean Sea, the darkness and the heavy seas, which made the rescue operations difficult.  The United States, British, and French rescue ships worked courageously to save the passengers and crew who made it off the Rohna. One U.S. ship, the USS Pioneer, picked up 606 survivors.

In January of 1944 Daltons family received word from the War Department that on November 26, 1943, he was missing No other details were given.  So many other families received the same message.



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Researcher and Designer

Joe Irons