USS HOUSTON CA 30
“The galloping Ghost of the Java Coast”
VALDON STEPHEN ROBERTS
Valdon (Val/Robbie/Cream) Roberts, the youngest child of seven,
was born October 2, 1920 in Smiley, Texas. He left the family
ranch to enter Naval Training November 12, 1940 in Great
He served on the USS Augusta for a short time then
transferred to the USS Houston January 9, 1942 as a Fireman 2nd Class. He told of spending
hours below deck loading ammunition those last two weeks before the Houston was sunk on March 1, 1942. He vividly
recalled standing ankle deep in their own sweat before
hearing the abandon ship order.
After the Houston sank, he swam for several hours until a Jap ship slowly
came by. He missed the first rope
ladders but managed to grab the last one.
Exhausted, he wove himself in the ropes and slept. The Japanese finally brought him aboard where
he began his visit “as a guest of the Japanese Government”. The first day of captivity, he was beaten
unconscious with a rifle butt because he failed to bow to his captors. At one point, he was left in a tin box for
five days without food and water. His
buddies fed, washed and massaged his stiff body for 3 days after he was removed
from the box as he drifted in and out of consciousness.
Valdon survived 3 ½ years as in the POW camps. Upon his return home, the community honored
him with a dinner dance and presented him with a gold watch engraved with the
dates of his time as a POW. He asked
Evelyn Yates to dance the first dance & shortly after they eloped on March 9, 1945. They had one
In a matter of months after his return, he became a Chief.
He remained in the Navy until he retired in 1961. He also retired from the Civil Service. He
was involved with the Moose Lodge, VFW and Masons.
Valdon was married 27 years when
his wife died. He remarried two years later to a woman named Jo.
They were married 12 years when he died in his sleep May 21, 1989.
Fifty five years later, July 3, 1997, Valdon was
posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.