“The galloping Ghost of the Java Coast


Leo C Bird


JUNE 2000

TO: Editor Val-Roberta Pass 584 Back Day Lane Austin, TX 78739-1697



Hi -‑

You asked about a biography of how we met and life after that. Well here goes!

My brother was LEO C BIRD (Little Bird), assigned to USS Houston in 1940. When the ship went down we all wondered and worried about our brother (he was one of 8 kids) About December of 1943 we had a post card from him saying he was well and in Moulmein, Burma. The Navy Dept. in 1944 informed us he was listed as "Missing in Action". So my Dad sent them a copy of the card and shortly there-after received a notice that Leo was now a Prisoner of War. My Dad said, "But of course, I told them."


Later I joined the Women’s Army Corps - thought would be the first one to see my brother when the war was over and he was released - never had a doubt that he would not survive. The Army was sending WAC's to the Pacific Islands and I figured I'd be the first.


Well the war ended and I was sent to the Pentagon in Washington D.C. But they flew my brother into New York. The Red Cross notified my mother (in Beattie) that Leo was as St. Albans Naval Hospital in N. Y. Then they notified me. My Commanding Officer gave me a 3-day pass to go see my brother. I called the hospital first and somehow got him on the line. We giggled and laughed a lot and I said I'd catch the next train to New York City. He said he'd meet me at Pennsylvania Station. So I caught the train about 2 P.M. and got to New York about 4 P.M. I was going up the escalator when I saw two sailors at the top poking each other and pointing at me. Sure enough - it was my brother Leo - and he had a date that night - so he brought along a friend for me - Jack U. Smith. They, had just been paid their back pay so we proceeded to see the Town. All the places we had heard of - Billy Rose's Diamond Horseshoe - the Latin Quarter - can't remember them all. Then Leo had to take his date to the train and Jack took me to the YWCA (only place I could find to stay). The next day I went out to the hospital to meet Leo again and I'm sure I met many of his fellow POW's at the hospital but I really don't recall any of them. Leo and I went out again to see the town that night and somewhere along the way we met another POW {think his name was Washburn). He was with his Dad and I believe an aunt- who was Mrs. Phillips Lord- wife of Phillips Lord - the producer of "Gangbusters” or something big at the time on radio. They were so happy to see us and proceeded to really show us New York. Waldorf Astoria- Uptown and Waldorf Astoria Downtown. Everywhere that was anywhere, at that time. Finally I had to leave to get back to the Y. I could only stay there two days so Mrs. Lord let me stay at her apartment my third nigh in New York.


The third day Just Jack and I went out to see more of the town but I think we went back to some of the same places. Finally New York was over I went back to Washington and Leo and Jack both got 120 days leave to go home. Leo went to Seattle to see my mother but his home was in Long Beach, so he eventually came back to Long Beach. Jack's home was in E. Monte (about 30 miles from Long Beach). I came home on Leave in November and Leo and I went to El Monte and brought Jack back to Long Beach for a few days. I was home for about 2 weeks and went out a few times and then I went back to Washington.


We corresponded now and then the next year, Jack got stationed in Los Angeles on Shore Patrol but Leo stayed in New York. He married a girl from New York and I went to his wedding but that is the last time lever went to New York. Later he got stationed in Long Beach and they moved there.


In June the following year, 1946, I again came home on leave and Jack and I went out again. We were at a dance one Saturday night when someone laughingly said "Hey Chief, I hear you are going to get married." He looked at me and I looked at him and we both said "Good Idea". So we got in the car and drove 300 miles that night to Las Vegas and got married at 7 AM the next morning. He had duty than night in Los Angeles so we turned around and drove home that day. I was home for nine days and had to go back to Washington D.C. so he had to find us a place to live while I was gone. I was gone exactly 30 days mud was out of the Army now Mrs. Jack L. Smith.


We lived in Navy Housing for a year then bought a house in East Long Beach. Later Leo and His wife bought a house a few blocks away and Leo and Jack spent much of their free time together. They used to sit in my kitchen and drink beer and laugh and cry about their time in POW camp. I never disturbed them - that was their time together.


They both did 20 years in the Navy and retired. Jack died in 1971 - heart Leo died in 1987 - cancer

So that's the story.

Doris A (Bird) Smith NOK Jack B, Smith NOK Len C. Bird



 P.S. I've attended some of the POW conventions.

I went to one in Colorado Springs and donated the Flag. That flew over the camp when the prisoners were released. Otto Schwarz was there and gave him some papers I found in Jack's things.


Then I went to the Bridge on the River Kwai in 1981and Bangkok and Australia to a Convention in Melbourne. There was quite e group of EX Houston sailors these.


Then I went to the Bridge again 1992 and to a convention in Perth Australia.


Now I am retired from all my traveling and I am a legal Guardian for my 5 year old grandson. He keeps-me busy and alive - I guess.



Sincerely Doris A Smith