The galloping Ghost of the Java Coast


Loren Smith


Written and submitted by

Loren's niece

LeAnn Burchfield


Loren Robert Smith was born on June 21, 1922 and raised in Goodland, Kansas.  According to his high school yearbook, he was on the school newspaper staff and lettered in football. He was one of at least two Goodland boys that were on the Houston, the other that I know of being Ted Daniels.


Loren went into the Navy in Kansas City, MO on July 2, 1940 having just turned 18.  He was sent to basic training in Great Lakes, IL and his first assignment after training was to the USS Houston, where he reported on September 28, 1940.  In ship records I found on, it shows his progress to Seaman 2c (11/2/1940) to Fireman 3c (12/5/1940) to F2c (date?) to F1c on 2/1/1941).  Apparently the paperwork for this last promotion did not make it through the military bureaucracy channels before the sinking, as he is listed on the final paperwork as F2c.


My mother was only 5 when he left for basic training and does not remember much about him.  However, she remembers clearly and terribly the day that the telegram came telling them that he was missing.  Christmases were especially hard after that for her because of the grief of their parents.  The hardest part was not knowing whether he was dead or alive, not knowing what had really happened to him.


The family story is that he was in the engine room and that it was hit by a torpedo, so his chances of surviving the sinking were not good. 


The grief it brought my grandmother was such that he was rarely mentioned.  I did not know I had an uncle Loren until I was about 10 and found a drawer full of pictures and memorabilia from him at my grandparents' house. 


I was listening to the radio when home from school for lunch as a child in the 70's when I heard a brief news story about the Houston having been found by divers.  I told my mother, who called the radio station.  They sent her the teletype story they had received about it, a copy of which I have also attached. 


I know there are more pictures and letters from Loren that he sent while on the Houston that were divided among his siblings at the death of my grandparents. I am working this summer to get them found and digitalized.  We received his military memorial marker this year to put in the Goodland cemetery with my grandparents' graves, and when the family gets together this summer in Goodland I am hoping that they will have found and brought the letters and pictures for me to scan.  If there is anything of interest to a public historical website such as this, I will forward them. 


Thanks again for your interest and for your work to preserve this history!


LeAnn Burchfield