Maurice A. Rooney (POW)


Maurice A. Rooney was not a crewman on CVE 106 but he had very fond memories of the USS Block Island. A native of the United Kingdom he had spent over three years in the Japanese POW Camps on Formosa. He was rescued by American Sailors and Marines from the carriers Block Island and Santee along with the destroyers, Kretchmer and Thomas J. Gary. Over the years he had maintained contact with some of the CVE 106 crew. In March of 2003 Maury sent and email to one of the crew members indicating that he had been "under the weather" and would not be able to attend the 2003 Reunion. His Widow, Barbara, notified his friends that he died April 3, 2003.


Maurice Rooney visited the United States several years back and while here attended one of the USS Block Island reunions.
At that reunion he was given a baseball type hat that bore a picture of the Block Island and and the name of the Association. This hat was very important to him because it represented a time in his life when he faced conditions that came very close to ending his life. Like the little Ronson cigarette lighter that is shown as a survivor of the sinking of CVE 21, these little, what is considered incidental, keepsakes become very important to the memory process when it involves a "life and death matter".

Maury was in the airport terminal in an Eastern U.S. City and went to the rest room. He took the hat off and when he went outside to his waiting station he remembered that he left the hat in the rest room. Back he went and it was not there. He has been very ill for the past few years and the loss of the hat has been on his mind many times. The emails are a part of that process relating to the “hat”.


On May 29, 2002 Maury sent the following message to Jack Greer to be included on the website:


Hi My Friend ( Hi Jack sounds too sinister and nowadays you don't holler that on an airplane)

 

Thank you for the message and the feedback from those eager to help with the replacement hat. Please make it clear to whoever oblige that I would wish to reimburse any expenses incurred and extend to them my heartfelt gratitude. You almost have my  correct address, but needs slightly amending and is as follows;-  17 Abbey Close, Horsham St Faith, Norwich, Norfolk. NR10 3JW  England  Though having been to America several times in the last ten years, I have unfortunately been unable to attend a B I reunion. I first became aware of the B I Association in 1995 when a crew member of the 106 in 1945 John Norman hailing from Inwood, New York made contact with me in the mid nineties and we met in a several days stop over in New York in 1996 and was when he gave me the hat that has been lost and why I feel so vexed. Mainly because of health reasons and also unable to Email him (The most convenient way to correspond) we have not been in touch lately and I hope he and his family are O K. 'Butch' as  he is affectionately known, is a fantastic guy and it was  a great pleasure and privilege to meet him. I have a feeling he has not attended the reunion in recent years and perhaps you can confirm this. Look forward to visiting the website to learn more of the 2002 reunion. In the meantime take care, as you remark the veteran ranks of world war 11 are gradually depleting to take a rightful place in history. In spite of the harrowing times I have no regrets and wouldn't have missed it for anything and feel so proud to have been part of the era.  Thanks for all your kind help

 

Kind regards and best wishes

 

Maurice A Rooney




Dear Mr. Rooney,

 

I am Louis (Bud) Hellwig of the Block Island's ship's company. I was a radioman aboard the CVE-106 which rescued the survivors off of Formosa at the war's end. I want to know if you got a Block Island hat?????

Please let me know.

 

I would also like you to know that when we picked up you and your fellow prisoners off of Formosa that I  -  yes me, had the honor and the privilege of being the radioman who contacted a British battleship in the west Pacific and taking over 20 hours to accomplish      sent this battleship the names, serial numbers and the last known home addresses of ALL said survivors via international Morse code. It was my understanding, at that time, that for many of you this would be the first news of you for your families since your capture! The operating conditions were deplorable in that there was much interference and everything had to be repeated twice and acknowledged before going on to the next name!

 

Transmitting this information was then and is now my most satisfying radio duty I have ever been involved in and I am a ham radioman (WA7PVC)  located just north of Seattle in the state of Washington.

 

I WANT YOU TO HAVE A HAT!    LET ME KNOW IF YOU HAVE ONE!     IF NOT --

I PROMISE we will send you one.


Bud Hellwig



Maury got his "baseball hat" with this message before he passed away! 



As part of the special ceremony on Block Island, RI during the 2007 reunion the Formosa POWs were honored. The CVE 106 bell was rung and Michael Hurst, Director of the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society, read a poem entitled "Liberation" by Maurice Rooney. A fellow countryman, Cecil Clarke, who was held for three-and-a half years in a camp in Formosa was present. The poem follows:


Liberation


by M.A Rooney

Manila, September 1945


For three and half years we were Prisoners

Treated by the Japanese as though slaves

We had reached the stage when we could take no more

And so many now lie in their graves


Then on August the 13th '45

We were told the war had ended

How lucky were we, who had managed to survive

And whose spirit was never surrendered.


The waiting time was not easy, of course

All the time we kept hoping to hear

That someone, somewhere, would come to endorse

Our day of freedom was near.


September the Sixth dawned with little fuss

But later there were cheers and shouts

The Yankees' had come to liberate us

And their presence dispelled all our doubts.


How happy we were to see the American ‘Tar’

And I know it was felt on that day

That those brave men as if by the Bethlehem Star

Had been guided to us and our way


"How soon" we were asked "could you be ready to leave"?

"At once" came the immediate reply

So the moment arrived we could hardly believe

And we marched from the camp heads held high.


We arrived at a near-by rail siding

Boarded a train with no banners hung

We were just thrilled to be out of hiding

On our way to the port of 'Keelung'.


At the docks were two US Destroyers

Our hopes and our spirits soared

We were greeted by kind Yankee sailors

Picking us up to carry aboard.


As we sailed, my thoughts and feelings were mixed

I heard not the 'cast off” yell

As I stood at the rail with my eyes transfixed

For the first time in years, the tears fell.


With Formosa a speck on the horizon

I moved away drying my happy wet face

And though my eyes were blurred with emotion

I saw the BLOCK ISLAND, majestic in grace.


We were taken aboard and feted

Deloused, reclothed and well fed

It was lovely to be treated so kind hearted

They almost tucked us up in our bed


We arrived at Manila after a three day trip

And as I lie in this hospital of gold

I write these verses , even though on a 'drip'

For this story just has to be told.


My thoughts turn to a very dear Brother

We've not been together of late

Or heard a word since we last spoke to each other

And I am left wondering just what was his fate?


As for me I'm relieved and grateful

And there's a warmth which stems from my heart

For those who came to answer our call

God bless them all who took part.





Maurice Rooney’s brother died in 1942 at Nong Pladuc in Thailand

 

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