USS Houston (CA-30)
), nicknamed the "Galloping Ghost
of the Java Coast", was a Northampton-class
of the United States Navy
. She was the second
Navy ship to bear the name "Houston".
launched by Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company, Newport News,
Virginia on 7 September 1929, sponsored by Elizabeth
Holcombe (daughter of Oscar Holcombe,
then-mayor of Houston,
Texas), and commissioned as CL-30 on 17
June 1930, Captain Jesse Bishop
Her designation was changed to
on 1 July 1931.
conducting a shakedown cruise in the Atlantic,
Houston returned to the United States in October
1930. She then visited her namesake city Houston, Texas, and joined the fleet at Hampton Roads. Steaming to New York, the cruiser
departed on 10 January 1931 for the Pacific, and after
stopping at the Panama
Canal and the Hawaiian Islands
arrived Manila on 22
of the Asiatic
upon arrival, and for the next year participated in
training operations in the troubled Far East.
With the outbreak of war
between China and Japan
in 1931, Houston
on 31 January for Shanghai
American lives and property. She landed Marine and Navy gun platoons to
help stabilize the situation and remained in the area, with the
exception of a good will cruise to the Philippines in March and one to Japan in May 1933, until being
relieved by on 17 November 1933. The cruiser sailed to
Francisco to join the
Scouting Force, and for the years
preceding World War II participated in
Fleet Problems and maneuvers in the
During this period, Houston
made several special cruises.
President Franklin Roosevelt came onboard on
1 July 1934 at Annapolis, Maryland, for a cruise of almost through the Caribbean and to Portland, Oregon, by way of Hawaii. Houston
Secretary of the Navy Henry
on a tour of the Hawaiian Islands, returning to San Diego on 15 May 1935.
short cruise in Alaskan waters, the
cruiser returned to Seattle and embarked
the President again on 3 October for a vacation cruise to the
Cerros Islands, Magdalena Bay, Cocos
Islands, and Charleston, South Carolina. Houston also celebrated the opening
of the Golden Gate
Bridge at San Francisco on 28 May 1937, and carried
President Roosevelt for a Fleet Review
at the same city on 14 July 1938.
became flagship of the U.S. Fleet on 19 September,
when Rear Admiral
Claude C. Bloch
brought his flag aboard, and
maintained that status until 28 December, when she returned to the
Scouting Force. Continuing the now-familiar routine of
training exercises, she got underway for Fleet Problem XX, on 4 January 1939 from
San Francisco, sailed to Norfolk and Key West, and there embarked the President and the Chief of Naval Operations,
Admiral William D. Leahy
, for the duration of the problem. She
arrived Houston, Texas on 7 April for a brief visit before
returning to Seattle, where she arrived on 30 May.
as flagship Hawaiian Detachment,
the cruiser arrived Pearl
Harbor after her post-overhaul shakedown on 7 December
1939, and continued in that capacity until returning to Mare Island on 17 February 1940.
Sailing to Hawaii, she
departed for the Philippine Islands on 3 November as the world
situation grew darker. Arriving Manila on 19 November, she became
flagship of Admiral Thomas C.
, Commander Asiatic Fleet.
World War II
As the war crisis deepened, Admiral Hart deposed his fleet in
readiness. On the night of the Pearl Harbor
attack, Houston got underway from Panay Island with fleet units bound for Darwin,
Australia, where she arrived on 28 December 1941 by way of
Balikpapan and Surabaya.
After patrol duty, she joined the American-British-Dutch-Australian
(ABDA) naval force at Surabaya.
Air raids were frequent in the area, and Houston
shot down four planes in the Battle
of Bali Sea
on 4 February 1942 as Admiral Karel Doorman
of the Royal Netherlands Navy
took his force
to engage a Japanese invasion convoy reported to be at Balikpapan.
took one hit, disabling her No. 3 turret
. Doorman was forced to abandon his advance
following the damage to Houston
, as well as damage that
forced the cruiser out of the battle area.
to Australia, Houston departed on 15 February with a small
convoy to reinforce the garrison on Timor.
Before the day was out, the group was forced to beat off numerous
air attacks, and next morning the Japanese attacked in full force.
During this defensive action, Houston
herself by driving off nearly the entire raid without damage to her
Battle of the Java Sea
word that the major Japanese invasion force was approaching
Java protected by
a formidable surface unit, Admiral Doorman resolutely determined to
meet and seek to destroy the main convoy.
Sailing on 26
February 1942 with Houston
, , , , HNLMS Java
and 10 destroyers
, he met the Japanese support force
under Admiral Takeo Takagi
of four cruisers and 13 destroyers.
In the battle
Doorman's forces fought valiantly but were doomed by lack of air
cover and communication difficulties. The ships met for the first
time in the late afternoon, and as Japanese destroyers laid smoke,
the cruisers of both fleets opened fire. After one ineffective
attack, the Japanese light cruisers
and destroyers launched a second at 17:00, this attack sinking .
and were hit by gunfire, Electra
sustaining several hits and sinking shortly after, and at 17:30
Admiral Doorman turned south toward the Java coast, not wishing to
be diverted from his main purpose: the destruction of the convoy
With dogged fighting spirit, he dodged another torpedo attack and
followed the coastline, during which time was sunk, either by mine
or internal explosion. was detached to pick up survivors from
, and the American destroyers, their torpedoes
expended, were ordered back to Surabaya. With no destroyer
protection, Doorman's four remaining ships turned north again in a
last gallant attempt to stop the invasion of Java.
At 23:00 the same night, the cruisers again encountered the
Japanese surface group. On parallel courses the opposing units
opened fire, and the Japanese launched a devastating torpedo attack
30 minutes later. De Ruyter
, caught in a
spread of 12 torpedoes, exploded and sank, carrying their captains
and Admiral Doorman down with them.
Battle of Sunda Strait
Before losing contact with Perth
Doorman had ordered them to retire. This was accomplished, but the next day
the two ships steamed into Banten Bay, hoping to damage the Japanese invasion forces
The cruisers were almost torpedoed as they approached
the bay, but evaded the nine torpedoes launched by destroyer
The cruisers then sank one transport and forced three others to
destroyer squadron blocked Sunda Strait, their means of retreat, and the heavy cruisers and stood dangerously
The resulting battle
was foreordained, but
could not withdraw.
came under fire at 23:36 and in an hour had been
sunk from gunfire and torpedo hits. Houston
alone until soon after midnight, when she took a torpedo and began
to lose headway.
During this time, Houston
s gunners scored hits on three
different destroyers and sank a minesweeper, but suffered three
more torpedo explosions in quick succession. Captain Albert Rooks
was killed by a bursting shell at
00:30 and as the ship came to a stop Japanese destroyers moved in,
machine gunning the decks. A few minutes later, Houston
rolled over and sank, her ensign
flying. Of the original crew of 1,061, only 368 survived —
including 24 of the 74-man USMC detachment.
s fate was not fully known by the world for almost
nine months, and the full story of her last fight was not told
until after the war was over and her survivors were liberated from
prison camps. Captain Rooks received posthumously the Medal of Honor
for his extraordinary heroism.
Chaplain George S.
was posthumously awarded the
, the only Navy Chaplain to be
so honored during World War II.
of Houston is honored alongside that of Perth at
the Shrine of
Remembrance in Melbourne, Australia.
In addition to two battle stars
was awarded the Presidential Unit
- The Houston Volunteers, 1,000
volunteers for U.S. Navy duty from Houston, Texas, intended to
replace the sailors lost on Houston (CA-30).