HOUSTON, Texas – Hundreds gathered at the Sam Houston Park on March 4 to witness the USS Houston Survivors Association and Next Generations’ 23rd Memorial Service for USS Houston (CA 30).
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Clifford L. H. Davis,Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
The ceremony set to honor those who lost their lives during the Battle of Sunda Strait on March 1, 1942, including the Sailors from the Australian, British and Dutch nations who attempted to stop Japanese naval forces from landing in Java.
After the presentation of colors by the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, Houston Division, the national anthem was sung by Matt Rejmaniak, cousin of the late Edwin Dombrowski, USS Houston Sailor, followed by a Boatswain’s Call by Wayne R. Thompson, Chief Warrant Officer Four, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret.).
Trudy Schwarz, the widow of Houston survivor Otto Schwarz, presented Director of the City of Houston Office of Veterans Affairs Carl Salazar with a framed photograph depicting 1,000 men of when on Memorial Day, 1942, 1,000 Houston men volunteered to join the Navy to replace the crew of USS Houston (CA 30).
Keynote speakers included Royal Australian Navy Commodore Peter Levey, Naval Attaché, Embassy of Australia, Washington D.C.; Royal Australian Navy Cmdr. Scott Craig, Assistant Naval Attaché, Embassy of Australia, Washington D.C.; Royal Netherlands Marine Corps and Naval Attaché and Assistance Defense Attaché to the U.S. and Mexico Cmdr. Carlo B. J. E. van den Berg,; Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of the Netherlands Jos Wellink; U.S. Navy Capt. R. Mark Stacpoole, former U.S. Naval Attaché, American Legation, Jakarta, Indonesia, and U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Michael R. Hudson, commanding officer inspector, instructor staff, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division.
Each speaker emphasized the dedication and courage every allied Sailor displayed despite language barriers, being outnumbered by the Imperial Japanese naval force during the battle, and the hardships of captivity experiences later as prisoners of war.
“It is you, in whom the blood of Houston flows. You have grown up with the stories of the valor of her crew, you know far better than I how the Sailors and Marines of Houston struggled against overwhelming odds, how they stood for flag, country and American civilization against an overawing enemy who, at that time seemed nigh on unstoppable,” said Stacpoole.
Multiple wreaths were positioned in front of a granite monument to the USS Houston, which incorporates the ship’s bronze bell that was recovered from the wreck and erected in Sam Houston Park in 1998.
The ceremony ended with a rifle salute performed by the Marine Corps League, McLamore Detachment, and the playing of Echo Taps by the Community Band of Southeast Texas and a rendition of “God Bless America” by Rejmaniak.
“Even when the ship finally took its final dive to sink, the flag was still flying and that stayed with many of them,” Schwarz said.
In the early morning of March 1, 1942, USS Houston and Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth were sunk by the Imperial Japanese Navy in the Battle of Sunda Strait. During the engagement, more than 700 U.S. Sailors and Marines onboard the Houston and 350 Sailors and three civilians onboard the Perth, including the captains of both ships, lost their lives. Only 368 Houston Sailors survived the sinking to become prisoners of war held throughout the rest of the war in grueling conditions; 79 died in captivity, and 289 survivors were liberated from various POW camps in September 1945.
For further readings, imagery and video on the USS Houston, visit https://www.history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/ships/uss-houston.html
The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. Naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy's unique and enduring contributions through our nation's history and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, nine museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.
For more news from Naval History and Heritage Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/navhist/.
- Ceremonies. Celebrations, Commemorations
- News Story
- Image (gif, jpg, tiff)