2nd Battalion, 131st
USS Houston (CA-30) Survivors
HISTORY Of THE LOST
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Organization is composed of the men of the 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery and those
men who swam ashore from the Cruiser USS Houston (CA-30) when it was sunk, and who
survived 42 months of "hell" as prisoners of the Japanese during World War II.
The 2nd Battalion,
131st Field Artillery, 36th Division (Texas National Guard), was mobilized in November
1940. One year later, this one Battalion was detached from the Division and sent to Angel
Island, in San Francisco Bay, to become part of a contingent of troops, who were all in
route to a destination with the code name "PLUM." It was generally conjectured
that the Philippine Islands was where the Battalion would finally be stationed.
The Unit sailed from the United States on November
21, 1941 aboard the Army Transport Ship, USS Republic, and arrived at Pearl Harbor on the
28th of the same month. A day or two prior to reaching Hawaii, it was announced
that we were under a "black-out" and "radio silence" and that an
attack by the Japanese was expected at any time. After refueling in Hawaii, the ship,
accompanied by several other troopships, including the Chaumont, Hallmark, Holbrook,
Admiral Halstead, Bloemfontein, Farmer and Gregg, a Corvette and the Cruiser USS Pensacola
sailed south, rather than west, as we had
expected. Little did we realize that within a week Pearl Harbor would be attacked by the
On December 6, the convoy crossed the Equator, and the next morning the Unit was informed of the attack on Pearl
Harbor. The USS
Republic had been in dry-dock just prior to the Battalion"s boarding and had four
3-inch guns and one 5-inch gun (on the "fan-tail") mounted on her. The Battalion
manned these guns from this time until their arrival in Australia.
The convoy made a
short stop at Suva, Fiji Islands and then sailed on to Brisbane, Australia, crossing the
International Dateline (180th Meridian) on December 13, 1941. This Unit was among the
first American Troops ever to land on Australian soil. The Battalion spent Christmas 1941
in Brisbane, but before New Year's Day, it was again on the high seas, aboard the Dutch
freighter Bloemfontein, bound for the Island of Java in the Netherland East Indies, via
Darwin, Australia. Coincindentally, the escort vessel for part of the journey, was the
Cruiser USS Houston.
On January 11,
1942, 35 days after the outbreak of War with Japan, the Battalion was on Java, the only U.
S. ground combat Unit to reach the Netherland East Indies, before the Dutch capitulated to