Seventy years ago this year, the heavy cruiser “U.S.S. Houston (CA-30)”—flagship of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet during World War II—was sunk by the Japanese in the Battle of Sunda Strait. Of the 1,068 crew members on the “Houston,” 368 survived the sinking of the ship on March 1, 1942. They swam many hours to the shores of Java in Indonesia, where nearly four years of imprisonment at the hands of their Japanese captors awaited.
Survivors and family members of the crew of the “U.S.S. Houston” will view the permanent U.S.S. Houston Exhibition during a 70th Reunion and Reception in the Rockwell Pavilion at the M.D. Anderson Library. They will also tour the stacks of Special Collections, where the main Cruiser Houston Collection is kept for the use of researchers. The visitors are from the U.S.S. Houston Survivors Association and Next Generations.
Participants will hear about using the collection from Julie Grob, special collections coordinator of digital projects and instruction before touring the stacks.
On view in the UH permanent exhibition are a ship’s bell, two crew member uniforms, letters, photographs, artifacts made in the POW camps and other materials related to the crew’s experiences.
This excerpt is from the diary of Communications Officer H.A. Levitt:
“…In a little while we were joined by Lieut-Cmdr. S. Smith and one enlisted man. After a brief period, we saw in the distance, two men supported by a 5” ammunition can. The seaman, who had been with Rogers and I went off to get them. They were stark naked and had only the 5” ammo can for support. We rejoined the group with the two newcomers who identified themselves as Marines. Lt. Cmdr. Smith and I contrived to keep the two along with us by having one hold to each of our jackets and keeping the ammunition can between them for additional flotation. In this manner we continued swimming toward the mainland.”
In 2011, a group of members of the U.S.S. Houston Survivors Association/The Next Generations together purchased a rare Captain’s Night Orders Book (April 18, 1939 – October 16, 1940) from eBay and donated it to the collection.
For more information and to preview materials in the Cruiser Houston Collection, visit http://info.lib.uh.edu/sca/digital/cruiser/cruiserh.htm