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God rest the men of USS Houston

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  • God rest the men of USS Houston

    Excerpts from The Fleet the Gods Forgot by W.G. Winslow

    “The Japanese claimed to have sunk the heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA-30), flagship of the United States Asiatic Fleet, so many times during the first three months of World War II that she was nicknamed “The Galloping Ghost of the Java Coast.” On several occasions she had come perilously close to fulfilling those pronouncements, but it was not until the night of 28 February 1942 that her luck ran out and, off the northwest coast of Java, Houston vanished with all hands.”

    “Blocking the entrance to Sundra Strait were two heavy cruisers, a light cruiser, and ten destroyers. The Houston and the Perth were trapped.”

    “A few minutes past midnight, she was observed dead in the water and sinking, but with her guns still firing. When Captain Rooks realized that the Perth was finished and escape impossible, he turned the Houston toward the transports, determined to sell his ship dearly. From then on, every ship in the area was an enemy, and we began a savage fight to the death.”

    “Within a few minutes the fire was out, and turret one lay silent and dark. The shortage of ammunition had forced turrets one and two to use a common magazine. When that was flooded to prevent an explosion, it deprived turret one of ammunition. The Houston’s big guns were now silent forever, but a few 5-inch guns, along with the pom-poms, and .50-caliber machine guns continued the fight.”

    “Enemy ships closed in to rake the weather decks systematically with machine-gun fire. In spite of the order to abandon ship, and the fact that the Houston was plagued with fires and dangerously listing to starboard, a few stouthearted sailors and marines refused to discontinue the battle. Their diversionary fire served to disrupt the gunning down of many men attempting to get over the side. They undoubtedly saved the lives of shipmates but, in all probability, not their own. Who these heroic men were, will never be known.”

    “After having been subjected to so much punishment, the ship should have capsized instantly. Instead, the Houston rolled tediously back on an even keel. With decks awash, the proud ship paused majestically, while a sudden breeze picked up the Stars and Stripes, still firmly two-blocked on her mainmast, and waved them in one last defiant gesture. Then, with a tired shudder, the magnificent Houston vanished beneath the Java Sea.”
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  • #2
    That was an amazing story.
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