The inseparable twins Glenn Lewis Rives and Lynn Dean Rives were born into the family of Everett and Emma Tollman Rives on June 17, 1923, as the two youngest of nine other siblings.
Glenn was a mere five minutes older than his younger brother but always held that over his head.
The pair grew up on the family farm in rural Hettick until the age of 6, when they moved to Alton. Glenn and Lynn attended school in Alton until they graduated junior high on June 14, 1939. The two of them then took on jobs in the workforce.
A short time after they had entered the workforce, the pair decided to enlist in the U.S. Army in 1943, at the age of 19. In February they boarded a train headed to Peoria, where they enlisted in the Army side by side. They were put into active service on Feb. 11, 1943, at what is known as Scott Air Force Base today. Both also spent some time at Jefferson Barracks and Dyersville, Tennessee. From there, they traveled to the East Coast and were stationed there for some time. After leaving their stations on the East Coast, Glenn and Lynn were sent to Burma with the 853 Company C Unit as auto equipment operators. Little did they know this would be their last trip together.
On Nov. 26, 1943, they were below deck playing card games with a close friend, Max Slater, when an attack occurred. A German remote-controlled missile struck the HMT Rohna just off the coast of Algeria in the Mediterranean Sea. That card game would be the last time Glenn saw his brother. Lynn was announced missing in action after the missile attack.
Glenn, alongside a fellow soldier, Robert Dankert, was left treading water until another ship came to their rescue. Being unable to swim, it was a miracle that he was able to survive the attack.
Glenn went on to continue his duties, but he and Max didn't cross paths again during service.
Max Slater was born into the family of Julia May and Orville Slater on Aug. 5, 1914, in rural Pike County, Missouri. During his service, he befriended Lynn first, but quickly became friends with Glenn as well. After the events of Nov. 26, 1943, he was discharged because of injuries suffered in the attack. He and Glenn were able to reunite after Glenn was discharged, and they became lifelong friends.
Emma Tollman Rives wasn't notified of her son’s missing in action status until Christmas Eve in 1943. Sadly, she passed away in April 1944 before receiving either of the letters sent to notify her of her son’s death. The first letter was sent from House of Representatives member Calvin D. Johnson and was postmarked June 10, 1944; the second was from Senate member Scott W. Lucas and postmarked June 13, 1944. Family members say Emma died from a broken heart.
This bombing was so devastating that the U.S. government placed a veil of secrecy on it because it was the first successful German remote-controlled missile launch. Glenn didn’t talk much about the events because of this veil of secrecy. He was later decorated with a World War II Victory Medal, four overseas service bars, an American Campaign Medal, an Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon with two bronze battle stars, and a Good Conduct Medal. Lynn was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. The family received a letter postmarked for June 13, 1944, to notify them about his receiving of the Purple Heart at the request of the president.
Glenn returned to Alton in January 1946 and went on to marry Ruth Henrion. Together they had five children: Lynn, Karan, Ruthann, Donna, and Michele. Glenn passed away in December 1995 and his lifelong friend Max died in January 2003.
The falling of the HMT Rohna was a tragedy to all of America that is often forgotten. Remember the survivors and the fallen this Nov. 26.
For more information, visit rohnasurvivors.org.