Monday, February 28, 2005

On this day in military 1942

On this day in military history….in 1942. The cruisers USS Houston and HMAS Perth are sunk by Japanese forces at the Battle of Sunda Strait. After the destruction of the ABDA (American-British-Dutch-Australian) naval squadron the day before at the Battle of the Java Sea, the surviving two cruisers were ordered to escape to Australia. The Sunda Strait is located between the islands of Sumatra and Java and connects the Java Sea with the Indian Ocean. It is only 30 kms wide at its narrowest point and has a number of small islands in it, including the island of Krakatoa. The two cruisers were attempting to escape when they stumbled onto a Japanese amphibious force attempting to invade Batavia. They immediately attacked the Japanese transports, but were quickly sunk after being stuck by Japanese “Long Lance” torpedoes.

The fate of both ships was not known to the world for almost 9 months. It was not until a Japanese troopship carrying former crewmembers from the HMAS Perth was torpedoed and the POWs were saved that some details of the battle began to emerge. The story of the USS Houston was not fully told until after the war was over and her survivors were liberated from prison camps. The Houston’s captain, Captain Rooks, received the Medal of Honor posthumously for extraordinary heroism. The crews of both ships are honored at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, Australia.


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