Able-bodied Seaman Felix De Rosa from Orange, N.J. spent most of his time in World War II in U.S. Army’s Floating Transportation. He sailed from ports along the east coast of the U.S. to ports in England. From the continent bringing supplies and soldiers to fight the war and returning wounded servicemen to the U.S. near war’s end.
“When I joined up in March 1944 I was 19-years old. I spent the next 31 months in the service fighting the war on both sides of the Atlantic,” the 89-year-old resident of the Douglas T. Jacobson Sate Veterans Nursing Home in Port Charlotte, Fla. said.
“I was a deck hand on a troop ship during our first crossing of the Atlantic. We went across in a convoy of 30 to 50 ships,” the old soldier explained. “On the way over our convoy was attacked by German submarines.
“An enemy sub torpedoed one of the ships in our convoy. They didn’t bother with us because we were in the middle of the convoy,” De Rosa recalled. “One reason we weren’t attacked by German U-boats is because we had destroyer escorts all over the place protecting us.
“We arrived in Liverpool, England on May 15, 1944 aboard the the Dominion Monark, a Canadian ship. From there we were sent to Southampton, England to deliver a bunch of crash boats. Southampton became my home port over there.”
De Rosa had been transferred to a 120-foot seagoing tugboat shortly after the D-Day invasion. After the breakout of Allied troops at St. Lo, along the French coast of Normandy, he and his buddies got a few days shore leave.
“I was ridding in this Jeep with four other guys near St. Lo when a German sniper’s bullet grazed my head. I got knocked off the Jeep unconscious,” he said. “It was July 18, 1944 when I got shot. I was sent to a French hospital and wasn’t released until sometime in September of that year. I was transferred to another hospital in Bath, Wales and I was finally discharged and returned to Southampton in November 1944.
“Almost immediately I went aboard LT-371 for a trip across the English Channel. We got caught in a channel storm. The ship ran aground on a sandbar and broke up.
“We had to abandon ship when it started to breakup. We ended up in the cold channel water in November and suffered from hypothermia. We floated around off the beach because the sea was too rough so we couldn’t be rescued. Finally we washed ashore,” he said.
De Rosa went back into an English hospital momentarily, but was quickly released and given a couple weeks R & R to recover from his channel rescue. Two men aboard the LT-371 were lost, the chief engineer and a mess boy died before they could reach shore.
His next trip from England to Ghent, Belgium was aboard a tanker, Y-73, full of gasoline for Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army fighting on the continent.
“I was on the wheel off the port’s entrance when we heard the Germans had mined the entrance to the harbor. There was only one way in, through the minefield,” he recalled. “My knees were shaking as we sailed into the enemy minefield. For some reason the ship’s electronic steering kicked out. I told the captain about the steering problem. He pushed me aside and took over the wheel. He started flipping switches and got things going again. We made it into port without incident.”
His next job aboard ship was as the first loader on a 40 mm anti-aircraft pom-pom gun mound on the bow of another seagoing tug, LT-533.
“We were ordered to Falmouth, England. The skipper cleared the harbor at Falmouth and we became the decoy to kill a German sub that had been sinking Allied ships as they sailed out of the harbor. There was an English gunboat waiting if the U-boat attacked. Unfortunately, the German boat didn’t take the bait so an enemy sub wasn’t sunk,” De Rosa said.
The ship sailed for Rouen, France where the crew received a commendation for the part they played in the Allied Invasion and continued maritime activities on the Western Front. By this time it was June 1945, De Rosa’s hitch was up, so he opted to head back to the States. He sailed for the USA aboard the USS Ernst.
“We sailed into Norfolk, Va. on July 4, 1945,” he recalled. “They told us as we were being unloaded we could get a 30 day pass and leave right away if we paid our own way home. I paid my way from Norfolk to Orange by bus.”
“On January 6, 1946 I married the love of my life, Mary Arnold, a Brooklyn girl. She was the one who fingerprinted me when I entered the Army almost three years earlier,” he said. “I ended up dating her after the war. We were married 51 years and had three daughters: Frances, Susan and Jean.”
He spent a few years in the home construction and tile business after the war. Finally he opened his own home improvement business he ran for years until Mary became ill in 1968 and De Rosa retired to Florida’s East Coast.
“I served as the chief building inspector for Broward County for 15 years. We lived in Pembroke Pines, west of Hollywood until Mary’s death in 1997.
“I moved to Port Charlotte in 1990 to be near my daughter who was living here,” De Rosa said. “I moved into the Veterans Home on March 1. This place is working out fine. It’s a wonderful place with a wonderful staff.”
Name: Felice J. DeRosa
D.O.B: 8 Oct 1923
Hometown: Orange, NJ
Currently: Douglas T. Jacobson State Veterans’ Nursing Home, Port Charlotte, Fla.
Entered Service: 27 March 1944
Discharged: 31 July 1946
Unit: MV Albany Socony
Commendations: Merchant Marine Emblem – Atlantic War Zone Bar – Victory Medal, Certificate of Service – US Merchant Marine Veteran in WWII. Honorable Service Button, Mariners’ Medal – VE Ruptured Duck
Civilian Service: Disabled American Veterans – Robert L. Cochran, Jr. Chapter 82 – Life Member
Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States Post 5690 – Life member
American Legion Post 110
American Merchant Marine Veterans – Robert J. Mack Alvannah Chapter – Past president
Charlotte County (Fla.) Veterans Council – Delegate
Natinal Association for Uniformed Services – Member
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 and is republished with permission.
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