Pioneers On A Submarine
Friday, September 14, 2012
THE ROZAR BROTHERS
Pioneers On A Submarine
Pioneers On A Submarine
When Leonard and Albert Rozar spent the days of their youth working on their father's farm in the Burgamy District of northwestern Laurens County, they never dreamed that they would spend decades serving as stewards and mess attendants aboard submarines and in other positions in the United States Navy.
The Rozars grew up in a time when the number of black sailors serving aboard sailing ships was systematically restricted and when the number of black submariners was even more limited. All of that began to change in the years leading up to the beginning of World War II.
It was in those days before modern, nuclear powered submarines patrolled the waters of the oceans of the world when these two Laurens County brothers, "Big Rozar" and "Little Rozar" became pioneers of sorts. The Rozars set the standard for longevity of a duo of brothers with each serving for three decades in the United States Navy.
In his definitive work, Black Submariners in the United States Navy, 1940-1975, Glynn A. Knoblock interviewed scores of African-American sailors who served aboard submarines. Two of those sailors whom Knoblock interviewed were Leonard and Albert Rozar, of Laurens County, Georgia.
Leonard Cicero Rozar, (LEFT) the second son of Monroe Griffin Rozar and Mattie Rozar, was born on the second day of July 1917. After the fall crop of 1939 was harvested and the winds of war began to howl out of Europe, Leonard Rozar traveled to Macon in the week after Thanksgiving to enlist in the Navy of the United States. Rozar was quoted as saying "No army for me. I'd heard devious things about them."
Rozar reported for duty at Norfolk. After undergoing the usual military training exercises, Leonard was assigned to duty as Mess Attendant, Third Class. Black sailors had historically been relegated to menial duty as cooks, stewards, and laundrymen for the crew and officers aboard submarines. Nearly all of the other submarine crewmen were white. Ironically by serving in close quarters with other stewards and white crewmen, these cooks and servants developed closer bonds with their crew mates.
Rozar left for duty in Pearl Harbor on the day after Easter in 1940. His first assignment was aboard the U.S.S. Plunger and later the U.S.S. Pollack, on which he served for the remainder of the year. Rozar joined, as a Mess Attendant 1st Class, the crew of the newly commissioned, U.S.S. Tuna, on the second day of 1941. A year later, the Tuna set out for Pearl Harbor, a month after the Japanese attack on the island base. Rozar's boat set out to patrol the waters of the East China Sea until it was assigned to the waters around New Guinea later in the year, 1942.
"I was a qualified sound man aboard (the Tuna), and my battle station was in the forward battery. I was on the standby sound gear, and also in the control room, ready to pull the demolition plug if needed," Rozar recalled.
Just days before Christmas, Leonard transferred to the U.S.S. Saury, on which he would serve until the last day of 1944. During his two years aboard the Saury, the sub saw little action except bad weather and broken equipment. Rozar recalled that he enjoyed being aboard the Saury. It was years later when he discovered that fellow Steward's Mate 1st Class, William Henry Cosby, was the father of actor Bill Cosby.
Rozar was promoted to Steward First Class and transferred to the U.S.S. Sailfish, which basically sat out the rest of the war in the Pacific, working instead as a training boat off the Atlantic coast of the United States.
Over the remainder of his 30-year career, Leonard Rozar served aboard the Sailfish, the Flying Fish, and the Chopper, before moving to New London, Connecticut in 1962. Rozar ended his career by serving as a Chief in Athens, Georgia, not far from home, and finally with a 20-month tour aboard the Cruiser Little Rock, an assignment which he did not care to have. In 1969, after three decades in the United States Navy, Leonard Rozar retired as a Senior Chief Petty Officer, the second highest enlisted grade in the Navy.
Leonard Cicero Rozar died on March 31, 2008 in San Diego, California.
Albert Rozar, (LEFT) the third son of Monroe Griffin and Mattie Rozar, was born in 1919. A highly gifted athlete in high school, Albert followed in his brother's footsteps when he joined the Navy on August 14, 1941. After attending boot camp at Norfolk and machine gun school at Mare Island, Albert Rozar reported for duty at Pearl Harbor. On December 11, 1941, as a late addition to the crew of the U.S.S. Gudgeon, Albert Rozar rode aboard the boat in the first war patrol of a U.S. submarine in World War II.
A transfer to the Pargo gave Albert Rozar more opportunities to come out of the galley for duty as telephone operator in the forward battery and when on the deck, the opportunity to man the 40mm guns. On his first patrol aboard the Pargo in the late fall of 1943, Rozar's boat was a part of only the second wolfpack operation by U.S. submarines. He remained aboard the Pargo, which sunk six ships, until the fall of 1944.
After leaving the Pargo, Albert Rozar was assigned to the staff of Commodore Charles "Weary" Wilkins on Midway. When the war was over, Albert was transferred to New London, Connecticut. In 1946, Albert reported for duty aboard the U.S.S. Segundo. Another year meant another assignment. In 1947, Rozar served aboard the U.S.S. Greenfish, which was one of the first submarines to receive personnel via helicopter from an aircraft carrier.
During the 1950s, Albert served aboard the Cobbler, the Shark, and the Orion. He equaled his brother's tenure in 1971, retiring as a Senior Chief Petty Officer.
The careers of Leonard and Albert Rozar spanned five different decades, three wars, and totaled sixty years of service in the United States Navy. They saw the roles of African-American sailors aboard submarines go from mess attendants and stewards aboard untested, relatively primitive submarines to respected positions as Senior Chief Petty officers and commissioned officers in the modern nuclear navy.