USS Houston (CA-30) off San Diego, California, in
October 1935, with President Franklin D. Roosevelt on board.
flying an admiral's four-star flag at her foremast peak, and the Presidential
flag at her mainmast peak.
(CA-30: dp. 9,050; l. 600'3"; b. 66'1";
dr. 16'4"; s. 33 k.; cpl. 621; a.
9 8", 6 21" tt.; cl. Northampton)
The second Houston(CA-30)
was launched by Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co., Newport
News, Va., 7 September 1929; sponsored by Miss Elizabeth Holcombe, daughter of the mayor of Houston, Tex.; and commissioned as CL-30 17 June 1930, Captain J. B. Gay commanding. Her designation was changed to CA-30,1 July 1931.
shakedown cruise in the AtlanticHoustonreturned
to the United
States in October 1930. She then
visited Houston, Tex.,
and joined the fleet at Hampton
Roads. Steaming to New York, the cruiser departed 10 January
1931 for the Pacific, and
after stopping at the Oanal Zone and
the Hawaiian Islands arrived Manila22 February 1931. Houstonbecame flagship of the Asiatic Station
upon arrival, and for the next year participated in training operations in the troubled Far East.
With the outbreak of war
between China and Japan in1932,
underway 31 January for Shanghai to protect American lives and
property. She landed Marine and Navy
gun platoons to help stabilize the situation and remained in the area, with the exception of a good will cruise to the Philippines in March and one to Japan
in May 1933, until being relieved by Augusta
17 November 1933. The cruiser sailed to San Francisco to join the Scouting Force, and for the
years preceding World War II participated in
Fleet Problems and maneuvers in the Pacific. During this period Houstonmade several special cruises. President
Roosevelt came on board 1 July 1934at Annapolis, Md.,
for a cruise of almost 12,000 miles through
the Caribbean and to Portland, Oreg., by way of Hawaii. Houstonalso
carried Assistant Secretary of the Navy
Henry L. Roosevelt on a tour of the Hawaiian Islands, returning to San Diego15 May 1935. After a short
cruise in Alaskan waters, the cruiser returned to Seattle and embarked the President again 3 October
1935 for a vacation cruise to the
Cerros Islands, Magdalena Bay, Cocos
Islands, and Charleston, S.C. Houston also celebrated the opening of the Golden Gate bridge
at San Francisco 28 May 1937, and
carried President Roosevelt for a
Fleet Review at the same city 14 July 1938.
flagship of the U.S. Fleet 19 September 1938, when Rear Admiral Bloch broke his flag on boardher, and maintained that status until 28 December,
when she returned to the Scouting Force. Continuing the now-familiar routine of training exercises, she got
underway for Fleet Problem 20, 4 January
1939 from San Francisco, sailed to Norfolk and Key West, and there embarked the President and the Chief of Naval Operations,
Admiral Leahy, for the duration of
the problem. She arrived Houston, Tex., 7 April for a brief visit before returning to Seattle, where she arrived 30 May.
Assigned as flagship Hawaiian Detachment, the cruiser arrived Pearl Harbor
after her post-overhaul shakedown 7 December 1939, and continued in that capacity until returning to MareIsland17 February 1940.
Sailing to Hawaii, she departed 3 November for the Philippine Islands as the world situation grew darker.
Arriving Manila19 November 1940, she became flagship of Admiral Hart,
Commander Asiatic Fleet.
As the war crisis
deepened, Admiral Hart deposed his fleet
in readiness. On the night of the Pearl Harbor attack,
with fleet units bound for Darwin, Australia, where she arrived 28 December 1941 by way of Balikpapan and Surabaya. After
patrol duty she joined the ABDA (American-British-Dutch-Australian) naval force at Surabaya. Air raids were frequent in the area, and Houston's
gunners splashed four planes 4 February
as Admiral Doorman, RNN, took his
force to engage Japanese reported to be at Balikpapan. Houstontook
one hit, disabling her No. 3 turret, and cruiser Marbleheadwas
so damaged that she had to be sent
out of the battle area. Doorman was forced to abandon his advance.
Returning to Australia, Houstondeparted
15 February with a small convoy to reinforce the garrison on Timor.
Before the day was out, the group was
forced to beat off numerous air
attacks, and next morning the Japanese attacked
in full force. During this defensive action, Houstondistinguished
herself by driving off nearly the entire
raid without damage to her transports.
Receiving word that the
major Japanese invasion force was approaching Java protected by a formidable
surface unit, Admiral Doorman
resolutely determined to meet and seek
to destroy the main convoy. Sailing 26 February with Houston, HMAS Perth, HNMS
De Ruyter, HMS Exeter, HNMS Java and 10 destroyers, he met
the Japanese support force under
Admiral Takagi consisting of 4 cruisers
and 13 destroyers. In the Battle
of the JavaSeawhich followed, Doorman's forces
fought valiantly, but were doomed by
lack of air cover and communication difficulties. The ships met for the
first time in the late afternoon, and as
Japanese destroyers laid smoke the cruisers
of both fleets opened fire. After one ineffective torpedo attack the Japanese light cruisers and
destroyers launched a second at 1700, this attack sinking Kortenaer. Exeterand destroyer Electro were hit by gunfire, Electra fatally, and at 1730 Admiral Doorman turned south
toward the Java coast, not wishing to
be diverted from his main purpose,
the destruction of the convoy itself. With
dogged fighting spirit he dodged another torpedo attack and followed the coastline, during which time Jupiter was sunk, either by mine or internal explosion. Then Encounter was detached to pick up
survivors from Kortenaer, and the American destroyers, their
torpedoes expended, were ordered back to Surabaya. Now with no destroyer protection, Doorman's four remaining ships turned north again
in a last gallant attempt to stop the invasion of Java.
At 2300 the same night, the cruisers again encountered the Japanese surface group. On parallel courses
the opposing units opened fire, and the Japanese launched a devastating torpedo attack 30 minutes later. De
Ruyter and Java, caught in
a spread of 12 torpedoes, exploded and sank,
carrying their captains and Admiral Doorman down with them.
Before losing contact
had ordered them to retire. This was
accomplished, but the next day the two ships steamed boldly into BantenBay, hoping to damage the Japanese invasion forces there. The cruisers were almost torpedoed as they
approachedthe bay, but evaded the
nine torpedoes launched by destroyed Fubuki. The cruisers then sank one
transport and forced three others to beach. A destroyer squadron blocked SundaStrait, their means of retreat, and on the other hand large cruisers Mogami and Mikutna stood dangerously
near. The result was foreordained, but Houstonand Perthfought
under fire at 2336 and in an hour had
been sunk from gunfire and torpedo
fought alone, her guns blazing at the enemy all around her, a champion at
bay. Soon after she took a torpedo and began to lose headway.
During this time Houston's
gunners scored hits on three different destroyers and sank a minesweeper,
but suffered three more torpedo explosions
in quick succession. Captain Rooks was killed by a bursting shell at
0030 and as the ship came to a stop Japanese
destroyers swarmed over her machine
gunning the decks. A few minutes later the
gallant Houston, her name written imperlshably in the records of heroism, rolled over and sank, her
ensign still flying.
was not known by the world for almost 9
months, and the full story of her courageous fight was not fully told until after the war was over and her
survivors were liberated from prison
camps. Captain Rooks received posthumously
the Medal of Honor for this extraordinary
In addition to two battle
awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
Thanks to the Department of the Navy for all the information
DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060