"Our Loose Ends" Genealogy Column
by Lynna Kay Shuffield
Houston, Texas

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Printed in the Taylor Daily Press - 24 Feb 2000

"USS Houston (CA-30) Reunion and Memorial Service"

On the anniversary of the sinking of the USS Houston (CA-30) the survivors and family members of the crew hold a Reunion and Memorial Service. The reunion will take place Friday, March 3 through Sunday, March 5, 2000 at the Allen Park Inn, 2121 Allen Parkway, Houston. The Memorial Service will take place on Saturday, March 4, 2000 at 11:00 a.m. at the USS Houston Memorial Site in Sam Houston Park near Downtown Houston.

Almost 700 men were killed-in-action or died when the Houston sank during the early morning hours of March 1, 1942. Only 368 men survived the battle and sinking. These men were taken captive of the Japanese and 77 of these men died while prisoners-of-war (POWs).

One of the men who died while aboard the Houston was Seaman First Class (S1C) Guthrie F. Layne of Milam County, Texas. S1C Layne, age 20, was the son of Guthrie F. Layne, Sr. and Allie Thomas Layne and was survived by his brothers Thomas P. Layne, James B. Layne and sisters Virginia Layne Yoakum, Dorothy Layne Colemon and Margorie Layne Golan.

On February 28, 1942, less than 90-days after the entry of the United States into World War II, the cruiser USS Houston (CA-30) and the HMAS Perth steamed boldly into the Java Sea, near the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java. This was to be the Houston's valiant last fight and she would remain as a part of history as the Battle of Sunda Strait (known as the Sea Battle off Batavia by the Japanese).

The Perth came under fire at 11:36 p.m. and in an hour had been sunk from gunfire and torpedo hits. The Houston then fought alone, her guns blazing at the enemy all around her, a champion at bay. During this time, the Houston's gunners scored hits on three different enemy destroyers and sank a minesweeper.

At 12:30 a.m., a bursting shell killed Captain Albert H. Rooks, the commanding officer, and as the ship came to a stop, Japanese destroyers machine-gunned the decks. A few minutes later the gallant Houston, rolled over and sank, her ensign still flying.

The Houston's fate was not known by the world for almost nine 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 heroism. In addition to two battle stars, Houston was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

Named for a city in Texas, the USS Houston (CA-30) was launched by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co., Newport News, VA on Sept. 7, 1929. Miss Elizabeth Holcombe, daughter of Oscar Holcombe, Mayor of Houston, Texas, sponsored her.

A special feature for this year's event is that the sons of the commanding officers of the Houston and Perth will attend the reunion.

For Information on the Reunion and Memorial Service, contact Val Roberts Poss, President, "Houston Next Generation" Association, 5848 Back Bay Lane, Austin, TX 78738 or e-mail CA30NG@aol.com or telephone (512) 288-5505 or visit the USS Houston website at: http://www.grade-a.com/houston/.

Internet Tip - Naval Historical Center

The Naval Historical Center at http://www.history.navy.mil/index.html is the official history program of the Dept. of the Navy. Its lineage dates back to 1800 with the founding of the Navy Dept. Library by President John Adams. The Center now includes a museum, art gallery, research library, archives, and curator as well as research and writing programs.

The Naval Historical Center is organized into 11 areas:

(1) Navy Museum, which has, exhibits relating to U.S. naval history from 1775 to the present. (2) Navy Dept. Library, which holds a collection relating to naval and maritime history. (3) Operational Archives, which holds U.S. Navy records on operations, policy and strategy, ca. 1939-present, as well as personal papers. (4) Curator Branch and Photographic Section, which includes naval artifacts, including uniforms, armament, photographs, and artworks. (5) Navy Art Collection, which include displays and traveling exhibitions on naval combat artists. (6) Ships History Branch, includes histories of individual navy ships from 1775 to the present. (7) Naval Aviation History includes documents and collections relating to naval aviation from 1911 to the present. (8) Naval Aviation News magazine is a professional magazine for active duty naval aviation personnel. (9) Early History, which includes research and writing on U.S. naval history from 1775 to 1918. (10) Contemporary History, which includes research and writing on U.S. naval history from 1945 to the present. (11) Underwater Archaeology Branch, which advises on underwater archeology issues.

Write the Naval Historical Center, Washington Navy Yard, 805 Kidder Breese SE, Washington, D.C. 20374-5060.

In this column, I will be glad to highlight and review any family history, genealogy, county history, or similar book, free of charge, if you donate a copy of the book or item. After it has been highlighted and reviewed, on a space available basis, it will be donated to the genealogy section of a library. You will receive an acknowledgment of the donation from the library. Mail item or book to me at the below address.

Lynna Kay Shuffield has written several books related to Texas genealogy and military history. She has spoken before numerous genealogy and veterans groups. Also, is a County Coordinator for the Texas GenWeb Project. Regretfully, she cannot help with individual genealogical research. Please visit the website for this column at: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Academy/2670/ COLUMN-001.htm or if you have any questions, comments, suggestions for column topics, genealogy or historical society announcements, please contact her at: P. O. Box 16604, Houston, Texas 77222-6604 or e-mail: lksfriday@sbcglobal.net

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This webpage was last created on 21 Feb 2000 and was last revised on __________ 2000

Copyright 1999, 2000 Lynna Kay Shuffield - All rights reserved.
P. O. Box 16604
Houston, Texas 77222-6604