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Remembering World War II
Robert Leroy Cosman
SS John Straub (Liberty Ship),
US Merchant Navy
Date of Birth:
June 13, 1920
Place of Birth:
Seattle, Snohomish County, Washington
Date of Enlistment:
Place of Enlistment:
Address at Enlistment:
Snohomish Co., Washington
Age at Enlistment:
5 feet, 10 ½ inches
General helper at the Puget Sound Naval Yard
Next of Kin:
Clara Lavinia Cosman, mother
Date of Death:
April 19, 1944
Edmonds Memorial Cemetery, Washington (Memorial)
Buried at sea
Robert Leroy 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 Leroy 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 Leroy 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,
Robert Leroy Cosman
1936 yearbook photograph
The Merchant Mariner's US Congressional Gold Medal