Orville Roones of Port Charlotte, Fla. served in the Merchant Marines during World War II. It’s one of the few outfits where men risked their lives serving their country during the Second World War that isn’t recognized for what they did, and he isn’t happy about it.
“I sailed as a radio officer in the Merchant Marines during WWII,” Roones wrote. “I was halfway through a Coast Guard run radio school in Boston, Mass., when Pearl Harbor came.
“After graduation I spent the first 14 months on a sea-going tug. Mainly we made two trips to Venezuela to tow back sabotaged freighters to be refitted. I also made two trips to the Panama Canal with replacement gates (for the locks),” he wrote.
“I also made several trips to Cuba, took a three-month trip to Ungava Bay in lower Hudson Bay. Next I traveled on several ships going back and forth across the Atlantic delivering mainly ammunition to African ports, as well as Cherbourg and Marseille, France.
“We unloaded trucks going right to the front lines in various ports in England, Scotland and Ireland. We went back to the Panama Canal and down the west coast of South America. We rammed a tanker amidships the first night out and had to return to Panama for three months while a temporary bow was put on,” Roones said.
“We sailed all the way to Valparaiso, Chile, and back to Baltimore, Md., for a new bow,” he added. “We then sailed through the Panama Canal again and on to the Hawaiian Islands.
“Now for my beef: Every time I go to a military band function at Punta Gorda they play all the military songs and recognize the services. However, there is never any recognition of the Merchant Marines.
“I don’t expect them to come up with a song, but I think the Merchant Marines should have some recognition. It took a long time for members of the Merchant Marines to get veterans status,” Roones wrote.
Orville, I couldn’t agree with you more.
Talk about brave men. The Merchant seamen serving aboard the tankers crossing the North Atlantic in the early months of the war had to be dedicated and brave considering they had to run through the German U-boat wolf packs.
Not to belittle what U.S. Navy seamen did aboard battleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers and destroyers who make the same trip, but at least they had a fighting chance because of the armament aboard ship. The Merchant seamen on the tankers had little or nothing to shoot back with. All they had was guts.
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Thursday, July 4, 2002 and is republished with permission.
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Orville I. Roones, 94, died May 1, 2014. He was born in Milnor, N.D., on April 7, 1920, to Hans and Anna (Stockstad) Roones.
He served in the Merchant Marine during World War II, and retired as an Equipment Engineer with AT&T.
Orville is survived by his wife, Trudy (Hickman) Roones of Cheshire; sons David (Patty) Roones of East Granby, CT; Kevin (Glenna) Roones of Stamford, CT; and Steven (Terri) Roones of Clovis, CA; sister, Alice Decker, of Lisbon, N.D.; and brother, Olav (Carol) Roones of Heyburn, ID. Also left to mourn are six grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday May 24, at 7 pm, at Elim Park, 150 Cook Hill Rd, Cheshire, in Nelson Hall. Burial will be in the Veteran’s Cemetery in Middletown, at the convenience of the family and there are no calling hours.
The Alderson-Ford Funeral Home of Cheshire is assisting with arrangements.