The blast of an American transport vessel with ammunition “Robert Rowan” (SS Robert Rowan, type “Liberty”) during the invasion of Sicily in the area of Gela.
“Robert Rowan” was part of the invasion force. In total, there were 421 people on board — 41 sailors from the crew, 36 sailors accompanying the cargo, and 334 soldiers from the 18th Infantry Division of the US Army.
Around 2:00 pm, the German Junkers U-88 bombers began their raid. “Robert Rowan” received three 500-kilogram bombs hit and caught fire. All people on board received orders to leave the ship and safely evacuated to the approached destroyers. Twenty minutes after the bombs hit, the fire reached the ammunition and they exploded.
The explosion of the ship was split in half. After that, the burning ship stopped on an even keel and burned for two days. The destroyer McLanahan (DD-615) tried to sink the ship, as the fire lit up the neighborhood during the night, but it failed because of the shallow water. The shipwreck lay on the ground until 1948, after which it was sold and disposed of.
Location: Gela, Sicily, Italy
Photo date: July 11, 1943
Photo author: Robert J. Longini