USS HOUSTON CA 30
“The galloping Ghost of the Java Coast
Jordan Joseph (Joe) Garrett
Biography of Jordan Joseph (Joe) Garrett
Joe Garrett was born on September 19, 1920, in Graysonia,
Clark County, Arkansas,
at home on his parents’ farm. He was the youngest of seven children – 5 boys
and 2 girls.
His family subsequently moved a number of times within the
states of Texas, Missouri,
and Arkansas, but always to
another farm. In 1938, they moved to Dyess,
Arkansas, across the road from the Cash
family where Louise Cash, who would later become his wife, lived.
In 1939, at the age of 18, Joe had saved enough money to buy
his own 40-acre farm, but soon thereafter, on June 24, 1940, he decided to join
the Navy and “see the world”, leaving his farm in the safe-keeping of his Dad.
Each month, he faithfully sent money home to pay for it. After basic training,
was assigned to the U.S.S. Houston at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard near San
Francisco. In November, Houston
was sent to the Philippine Islands where it became the flagship of Admiral
Hart, commander of the Asiatic Fleet and, following the attack on Pearl
Harbor and the Philippines, joined the ABDA (American-British-Dutch-Australian) naval
When Houston was
sunk on March 1, 1941, which
happened to be Louise’s birthday, Joe was taken prisoner by the Japanese. He remained
a POW until liberated in August, 1945. (See his “Brief Memoir” for additional
information about his POW experience. See * below for a humorous memory.)
married Louise Cash on March 14, 1946.
He remained on active duty in the Navy until 1960 and then Fleet Reserves until
1970. Following active duty service, Joe
worked until 1979 as a civilian barber at the Memphis Naval Air Station. Then
he and Louise moved to Nashville, TN,
where for three years he served as a security guard for Johnny Cash, singer and
brother of Louise. Then for fifteen years, he was the beloved manager of
building and grounds for College Heights
finally retiring in 2000 at age 80.
On March 25, 2003, Joe was awarded the Purple Heart and POW
medals in a moving ceremony attended by about 400 including all four of his
children and their spouses, numerous other family members and friends, and many
school children. However, Louise, his wife of 57 years, was too sick with
pancreatic cancer to attend. (She died 10 days later on April 4th.)
He was presented the medals by Captain Roy Cash, USN, retired, who noted that
Joe had been his inspiration for joining the Navy. The Navy Band from Memphis,
TN, and a junior Navy ROTC unit added
greatly to the ceremony.
* Humorous Memory
“We had some fun in Singapore
and just about drove the Japanese crazy. Since we didn't have clothes, just G
strings, a friend of mine, Frank Campbell, and I decided we wanted some pants.
He and I swiped one of their tents and some needle and thread while they were
sleeping and made us some pants! The Japs tried to find where their tent went,
but never thought to look to see what kind of pants we were wearing.”
Read a Brief Memoir of My Experiences in WWII by Jordan
Joseph (Joe) Garrett
Additional notes from daughter, Margaret Jo
Joe Garrett was awarded both the Prisoner of War Medal and
the Purple Heart medal in February, 2003 - 61 years after his ship was sunk and
he was wounded and captured by the Japanese. The medals were presented to Joe
by retired U.S. Navy Captain Roy Cash in a formal ceremony on March 25, 2003.