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Remembering World War II
Name: Robert Le Roy Cosman Service Number: Z351408 Rank: Able Seaman Service: SS John Straub (Liberty Ship), US Merchant Navy Date of Birth: June 13, 1920 Place of Birth: Seattle, Snohomish County, Washington Date of Enlistment: Unknown Place of Enlistment: Unknown Address at Enlistment: Snohomish Co., Washington Age at Enlistment: Unknown Height: 5 feet, 10 ½ inches Complexion: Ruddy Hair color: Brown Eye color: Blue Occupation: General helper at the Puget Sound Naval Yard Marital Status: Single Next of Kin: Clara Lavinia Cosman, mother Date of Death: April 19, 1944 Age: 23 Cemetery: Edmonds Memorial Cemetery, Washington (Memorial) Grave: Buried at sea Robert Le Roy Cosman was the son of Frederick Miles Cosman (1863-1944) and Clara Lavinia (Hogan) Cosman (1882-1968). His father was born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and his mother was born in Billtown in Kings County, NS. His parents were married on December 27, 1905, in South Ohio, Yarmouth Co., Nova Scotia. They were already living in the United States but returned to Canada to be married. Frederick worked as a carpenter throughout the 1920’s and ’30’s in Washington State. Robert had five siblings Charles Frederick Cosman (1906–1975), Enid Mae (Cosman) Nagel (1910–2004), Ethel Jeanette (Cosman) Fogarty (1912–2004), Shirley Helen (Cosman) Trotter (1914-1998), and Doreen Frances (Cosman) Buell Lince (1917–2003). From as early as 1920, and maybe earlier, the family lived in Currie in Snohomish County, Washington. By 1940, the family was still in Currie, living on North Ninth Street. Robert was living with his mother in Bremerton City, Washington, when he registered for the US draft on July 7, 1941 there. He was working for the Puget Sound Naval Yard (PSNY) in Bremerton at the time. After enlisting in the Merchant Navy Robert served a US Liberty Ship, the freighter SS John Straub. The ship came from the shipyard of the Oregon Shi Building Corporation with her engine built and supplied by the Iron Fireman Manufacturing Company in Portland, Oregon. The ship was delivered to the United States War Shipping Administration in December 1943, and came under the management of the Alaska SS Company in Seattle. Able Seaman Robert Le Roy Cosman died April 19, 1944, with the loss of the SS John Straub in Alaskan waters. There are several conflicting reports as to the ship’s fate on April 19, 1944. The Straub was on a voyage from Port Townsend to Dutch Harbour, carrying 9,000 tons of Army cargo including explosives, when it sank with a high loss of life south of Alaska and 20 miles from Sanak Island. Over three quarters of her crew, fifty five from her total complement of 70 crew and gunners were lost. The Sawyer and Mitchell book, ‘The Liberty Ships’ states that she broke in two and sank, while an article dealing with the losses suffered by Armed Guards in WWII states that she exploded and sank, most likely after striking a mine. The Japanese claim that their submarine I-180 torpedoed and sank the ship. All reports give the same date and location, so obviously there is confusion as to the exact cause of her loss. Sawyer and Mitchell suggest that statistics show that during 1942 and 1943 there was a heavy loss of life due to welded Liberty ships breaking in two in Artic waters. It was estimated that 12.5% of all Liberty’s had weld defects, nearly 10% had already developed cracks and that one in every 30 had suffered major fractures. The statements “when they crack it sounds like an explosion”; “the cracks run like ladders in a stocking”; “the ships stand on a wave and the ends shake like a jelly” were all founded on some fact, and perhaps even accounted for the early reports that the John Straub was ‘sunk by explosion’. Able Seaman Robert Le Roy Cosman was lost at sea and therefore has no known grave. He is remembered on a family gravestone alongside his parents at the Edmonds Memorial Cemetery in Edmonds, Snohomish County, Washington.
Robert Le Roy Cosman
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Sources findagrave
1936 yearbook photograph
The Merchant Mariner's US Congressional Gold Medal