USS HOUSTON CA 30
“The galloping Ghost of the Java Coast”
LAWRENCE FRANCIS KONDZELA
Francis Kondzela was born in Aniwa, WI
on January 11, 1922.
He was the 2nd of 6 children born to John & Jennie Kondzela.
grew up in Northern WI and enjoyed fishing,
hunting and playing baseball.
graduated from Antigo
High School on May 20, 1940. Not knowing
what he wanted to do with his life...he decided that he would join the Navy and
see the world. So soon after graduating, he went to Boot Camp at Great Lakes, IL. There he met a very good friend, Sulo Suomi...who also was
stationed on the USS HOUSTON.
graduation from boot camp he was sent straight to the USS HOUSTON on September 28, 1940.
He was a Seaman 1ST Class Boatswain mate.
enjoyed life aboard ship and the many ports he visited. He would often
write home and tell of his adventures and would tell his family of the photo
album he was putting together. He told them he planned on sending it home
as soon as he had it filled. So they could see all the wonderful places
he’s seen and the great friends he’s made. He never got the chance to
send that album home.
March 1, 1942, he
was aboard the USS HOUSTON when it was sunk in the Java Straits by the
Japanese. He swam to shore along with others of his shipmates. They
were taken prisoners by the Japanese and taken to Serang
was held in several POW camps...from Serang he was
sent to Singapore
(Changi Camp) on October 16, 1942...on to Moulmein (Burma) on January 17, 1943, then with the main
group at Alepauk (Burma) on January 17, 1943. He died at the
80 Kilo Camp (Burma)
on April 13, 1943
of Cerebral Malaria.
was one of the first HOUSTON
survivors to die while a POW. We can only imagine the brutality and
hardships he must of endured as a POW, working on the
family didn’t know if he was alive or dead. They knew that the HOUSTON had been sunk and
some of the crew had been reported as POW’s of the Japanese. But his name
wasn’t on any of the lists...so he was listed as missing in action.
A letter his parents
received on February 16,
1944, still gave them no information on Lawrence’s fate. But, on August 30, 1945 they
received a telegram saying their son, who was previously reported missing, was
now known to have lost his life while in a Japanese POW Camp. His friend Sulo Suomi (whom he met in Boot
camp) was with him at the end. This gave his family some solace, knowing
he didn’t die alone. That someone who really cared for him was with him
when he died.
family was devastated, as so many others were during this time. The only
thing that helped them get through was the return of Lawrence’s body in 1946. He was
buried in the Queen of Peace Catholic Cemetery, Antigo, WI
with full military honors.
S 1/c Lawrence Kondzela
was awarded the following medals:
Service Lapel Pin (Ruptured Duck)
Star Lapel Button
Pacific Area Campaign Service Ribbon(2 engagement stars)
Philippine Defense Ribbon with Bronze Star
American Defense Service Medal (1 star)
Presidential Unit Citation (1 star)
Prisoner of War Medal with Ribbon
American Campaign Medal
World War II Medal (1941-1945) “Victory Medal”
FRANCIS KONDZELA POW ‘FILE’
Senior picture (in suit)
Picture on the launch
aboard the HOUSTON
Graduation from Boot
Camp (hands behind his back) 1940
Lawrence on top of Wall City