Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Honoring the men of the USS Houston (CA-30)

Congressional Record Volume 164, Number 44 (Tuesday, March 13, 2018)]
[Extensions of Remarks] [Pages E306-E307]

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Mr. GENE GREEN of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to bring your attention to a memorial ceremony for the men who served aboard the USS Houston (CA-30) held this month in Sam Houston Park in my hometown of Houston. Descendants of the sailors and Marines of the "Flagship" of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet that was sunk by Imperial Japanese Naval forces on March 1, 1942 which honored their bravery and determination. Seventy-six years ago, the American heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA-30) and Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth, outnumbered and outgunned by an Imperial Japanese Navy Battle Fleet, fought to the last in the Sunda Strait between Sumatra and Java. Both went down with their captains aboard and their guns still firing. Nearly 1,000 Allied servicemen perished. It marked the end of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet and the naval forces of the American-British-Dutch-Australian (ABDA) Command. As the crews abandoned the sinking ships, Japanese sailors machine- gunned the decks and the men in the oil-soaked sea. Only 368 sailors and Marines, including four Chinese stewards and mess attendants from the Houston, made it to shore where they were taken as POWs of Japan. Some were held in a POW camp on Java, eight officers were sent to Japan to corporate POW camps, and others to the infamous Changi Prison in Singapore. Most, 220 of the survivors were shipped to Burma to be slave laborers constructing the Thai-Burma Death Railway. 

For the next three and one-half years, the surviving men of the Houston and Perth suffered together through humiliation, degradation, physical and mental torture, starvation and horrible tropical diseases. Only 291 men from the Houston's complement of 1008, and 214 of the Perth's complement of 681, returned home after the War. This shared history speaks to the American spirit and grit as well as to our enduring alliance with Australia. Back in Houston, Texas, news of the destruction of the warship hit the city hard. The result was a mass recruiting drive for volunteers to replace the lost crew. On Memorial Day 1942, a crowd of nearly 200,000 witnessed 1,000 ``Houston Volunteers'' inducted into the Navy. An accompanying bond drive raised over $85 million, enough to pay for a new cruiser and an aircraft carrier, the USS San Jacinto. According to a 1949 Houston Chronicle article commemorating the event, word of the ship's fate ``aroused a fever pitch of patriotism'' in the city. ``Her loss made the war something more of a personal conflict to more than half a million people,'' the article reads. "Official news of her destruction . . . slapped the city squarely between the eyes, and set off a series of events that stands unequaled in the nation." So this week, we pause to remember the brave men of the USS Houston (CA-30) who inspired their country and who gave so much to fight tyranny in the Pacific. They who "Still Stand Watch Over Sunda Strait" represent our enduring commitment to liberty. And I thank the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society and the USS Houston CA-30 Survivors' Association and Next Generations for ensuring that the sacrifice and lessons of this greatest generation is remembered and honored.

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