“The galloping Ghost of the Java Coast




By Marge (Lattin) Maggiora, Sister



            My brother, Claude W. “Bill” Lattin was born June 20, 1916 in Healdsburg, California, sixty miles north of San Francisco. He was the second son for his parents, Ray and Clara Lattin, and was followed by twin sisters six years later.

Bill played football for and graduated from Healdsburg High School in 1936. He wanted to play more

football and go on to college, so he enrolled at nearby Santa Rosa Junior College and worked whenever he could with a well driller to support his Chevy, pay for school, and for dating.

Times were hard in 1936, though, and he soon found there was not enough jingle in his pocket or enough gas in the Chevy’s tank. Life on the ranch in Alexander Valley, working the sheep with his dad, was not rewarding.

            Bill joined the Navy on March 14, 1938 just prior to his 22nd birthday. The family saw him off at the Greyhound Bus Depot in Santa Rosa, the Sonoma County seat. Bill trained at the San Diego Naval Training Center as a radioman and was assigned to the USS Houston his navy home-away-from-home for his entire, but short, naval career. The ship was stationed in Honolulu for some two years, during which Bill sent snapshots from exotic locations. The Houston, designated for the second time as the Flagship of the Asiatic Fleet, was sent to Mare Island, California, for repairs prior to proceeding in late 1940 to the Orient.

            Bill had a three-week furlough in 1940 while the Houston was at nearby Mare Island before it sailed to its Asiatic assignment. While on that furlough, he visited with family and friends and went deer hunting in Modoc County where he bagged the buck shown with him in this snapshot. From China he sent a snapshot of himself on the Great Wall of China, proving he did see some of the world, courtesy of the Navy. 

             The Navy Department’s telegram dated March 14, 1942 established Bill’s MIA status, changed in 1945 to KIA. We had little Houston WW II history until 1995 when we heard about and attended the dedication of the USS Houston Me-  morial Monument in Houston on Veter- ans Day. Now Claude W. Lattin is memorialized for his sacrifice, not only in Houston and Manila, but also on a monument in his hometown, Healdsburg, and soon will be on a Sonoma County

Monument in Santa Rosa, California.