new heavy Cruiser (CA-30), was launched from Newport News, Virginia, on
September 7, 1929. That she was christened, USS HOUSTON, came about
largely through the efforts of William A. Burnrieder, an assistant to
the Mayor of Houston, as well as many other citizens of Houston,
including many hundreds of school children, who all wrote letters
petitioning the Secretary of the Navy to name the ship for their City.
From 1934 to 1939 she was frequently used by President Franklin D.
Roosevelt to take vacation cruises. During the four vacations taken
aboard the USS Houston, more than 35,000 miles were traveled.
1940, she was in the Philippine Islands, serving as the
"Flagship" of the Asiatic Fleet. On November 27, 1941, Admiral
Hart, CIC of the Asiatic Fleet, had received a warning from the U. S.
Navy Department that an attack on the fleet, by the Japanese, could be
expected at any time. Admiral Hart immediately ordered the USS Houston
to stop repairs that were underway and move from the Cavite Navy Yard
(across the bay from Manila) to the Port of Ilo Ilo, on the Island of
Panay, where she arrived on the 4th of December, four full days prior to
the first air attacks on the City of Manila and the complete destruction
of the Cavite Naval Installation.
Ilo Ilo, the USS Houston fueled, victualed and made ready for action
which was felt to be imminent by those in Command. The ship left Ilo Ilo
at 6:30 PM on Pearl Harbor day, just before a Japanese bomber attack on
that Port. That same evening, the USS Houston was joined by the light
cruiser, USS Boise, and on the following day by destroyers USS Stewart
and USS Edwards, the seaplane tender, USS Langley and the fleet oilers,
USS Pecos and USS Trinity. The convoy, thus formed, turned south and
steamed toward Borneo.
convoy arrived at Balikpapan on the 15th of December. The next day, the
USS Houston was ordered to leave the convoy and proceed directly to
Soerabaja, Java to prepare for convoy escort duty. The next month was
spent doing convoy escort duty between the Netherlands East Indies and
Australia. The ship had also become part of an allied fleet operating
out of Java.
the 4th of February 1942, while searching for a Japanese force,
consisting of three cruisers and 20 transports, they were attacked by 54
Japanese bombers. A direct hit knocked out the 8 inch gun turret, blew a
12 foot diameter hole in the main deck, killed 48 men and wounded 20
the vessel had lost one-third of it's major firepower, it participated
next in the "Battle of the Java Sea", where 12 Allied ships
were lost. These were, Dutch: light cruisers, Java & De Ruyter,
destroyers Kortenaer and Witte de With; British, heavy cruiser HMS
Exeter, (of Graf Spre fame) destroyers, HMS Jupiter, HMS Encounter and
HMS Electra, American destroyers USS John C. Ford, USS Alden, USS Paul
Jones and USS John D. Edwards. The only vessels to survive the
"Battle of the Java Sea" were the Australian cruiser HMAS
Perth and the USS Houston.
the night following the Java Sea Battle, these two ships attempted to
sail to the south end of Java via the Sunda Strait, which Dutch
Intelligence Officers reported to be free of enemy ships. The
intelligence report was wrong!
Japanese fleet, consisting of an aircraft carrier, five cruisers, 11
destroyers and several PT boats was in the Strait, covering the landing
of Jap troops from 40 transports. When the HMAS Perth and the USS
Houston reached the strait late that night (February 28, 1942) they
found themselves surrounded by enemy ships. After putting up a
tremendous battle, first the HMAS Perth and then the USS Houston were
sent to the bottom.
368 of the total complement of 1011 men of the USS Houston managed to
reach shore. The remaining 643 shipmates, including their skipper,
Captain Rooks, went down with the ship. Within a few days, all the
survivors became prisoners of the Japanese.