Friday, March 07, 2008

Fullbore Friday

Like we saw last FbF, the heroes are all around us if we want to look. Sid pointed my way to this event that I wish I could have made it to.
The services, presented by the USS Houston Survivors Association and the USS Houston Next Generation, honors all those who served aboard the USS Houston, living and deceased.

This year's service will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday behind the Houston Heritage Society offices at Sam Houston Park, 1100 Bagby.

"To me, it just makes me realize what these men have gone through," said Venice, Fla., resident Jane Matthews, an association member who attends the services in memory of her father, John B. Stefanek.

The Japanese sunk the USS Houston on March 1, 1942, while it was trying to run the Sunda Strait into the India Ocean between Java and Sumatra.

Seven hundred of the 1,068 men onboard died.

The remaining 369 men were captured by the Japanese and used as slave laborers. Many were forced to help build the Burma Railway, known as the railroad to death.

Approximately 100 of the USS Houston survivors died before the prisoners were liberated in fall 1945.

"Dad didn't like to talk about it," Matthews said. "He didn't really talk about the beatings he must have received. It's a miracle any of these men made it through."

Today, only 28 USS Houston survivors are alive, said Pflugerville resident Val Poss, who heads up the USS Houston Survivors Association, an organization founded by survivor Otto Schwartz of New Jersey in 1948.

Six survivors are expected to attend the memorial service, along with five surviving spouses and family members.

Association members will announce the arrival of each survivor with a boatswain's whistle, the traditional signaling device used aboard U.S. Navy ships.

A sea cadet will salute each survivor and bring him "aboard" the service site.

Organizers then will sound four bells, another Navy tradition to announce that someone of importance is coming aboard.

Poss will announce each survivor by name and rank.

Service participants will lay wreaths and musicians will perform the Navy Hymn.

After a moment of silence, volunteers will sound "All Hands: Attention" on the boatswain's whistle and eight bells, the signal for end of watch.

The ceremony will end with a three-volley salute, and performances of Taps, God Bless America and Before You Go.

Poss said Before You Go, a song of thanks for older veterans, always moves her.

"Before they die, they need to know how much they mean to us," Poss said. "This entire reunion is in their honor."
Well said, and well done. There are two USS Houston (CA-30) sites here and here that are worth a visit. There is also and interview with Otto Schwarz here, and Harry Kelly here. Back when real SWO didn't need a stinking Aviator Wanna-be "Warfare Pin" to remind them they were Surface Warriors - after all - shouldn't it be assumed that all Navy Officers are - or should be? Like getting a pin for breathing? Sigh. Other mentions on this blog of the USS HOUSTON, click here.


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