This weekend members of the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association and Next Generations are gathered for their 2015 reunion in Houston, Texas. In addition to conducting the business of the organization the reunion featured a dinner last night in which Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox provided the keynote remarks updating reunion attendees on the NHHC study of the condition of Houston’s wreck as well as ongoing Navy and diplomatic efforts to prevent further unauthorized disturbance of the ship which is the final resting place of more than 700 Houston Sailors and Marines who went down with the ship.
One of the highlights of this weekend’s event is the 72nd Anniversary Memorial Service held Saturday at Sam Houston Park’s USS Houston Memorial, honoring those lost onboard the ship and the survivors who have since passed away.
In 2014, a Naval History and Heritage Command underwater archaeologist assisted in a survey of the wreck of USS Houston as part of the 2014 Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series. U.S. Navy divers, assisted by personnel from the Indonesian navy, surveyed the World War II wreck in June. Houston was sunk during the World War II Battle of Sunda Strait Feb. 28, 1942 with the loss of more than seven hundred souls. The ship remains sovereign property of the U.S. under customary international law, and is a popular dive site.
The purpose of the CARAT 2014 mission was to determine the vessel’s current condition and provide real-world training to rescue and salvage divers in maneuvering around a sunken ship. The team’s interim report confirmed the site’s identity and documented conclusive evidence of a pattern of unauthorized disturbance of the wreck site. While the findings from the interim report remain intact, the final report released last summer benefits from additional archival research and more exhaustively details the condition of the wreck.
Houston, nicknamed “The Galloping Ghost of the Java Coast,” was sunk in combat during the World War II Battle of Sunda Strait in 1942. Capt. Albert H. Rooks, the ship’s commanding officer who was killed in action, posthumously received the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism, while USS Houston was awarded two battle stars, as well as the Presidential Unit Citation.
The Department of the Navy’s sunken ship and aircraft wrecks represent a collection of more than 17,000 fragile, non-renewable cultural resources distributed worldwide. They often serve as war graves, safeguard state secrets, carry environmental and safety hazards such as oil and ordnance, and hold great historical value. While it is not feasible to conduct similar surveys of all sunken military craft, Navy leadership desires to ensure the final resting place of those who made the ultimate sacrifice when Houston went down remains in a respected and solemn condition.