Houston file photo [1408]


CountryUnited States
Ship ClassNorthampton-class Heavy Cruiser
Hull NumberCA-30
BuilderNewport News Shipbuilding
Launched7 Sep 1929
Commissioned17 Jun 1930
Sunk28 Feb 1942
Displacement9,050 tons standard
Length600 feet
Beam66 feet
Draft16 feet
Speed33 knots
Armament9x8-inch guns, 6x21-inch torpedo tubes


ww2dbaseLaunched in 1930, USS Houston sailed acrossed the Pacific to become the flagship of the US Navy Asiatic Fleet bearing the nickname "Galloping Ghost of the Java Coast", though not after her test trials in the Atlantic and a visit to her namesake city, Houston, Texas. She was originally commissioned as the light cruiser CL-30, though a reclassification on 1 Jul 1931 changed her designation to the heavy cruiser CA-30. After arrival in Manila on 22 Feb 1931, she spent a significant amount of time in Chinese waters to observe the Japanese during the Second Sino-Japanese War, to protect US interests in Shanghai, and to conduct training operations. She remained in Shanghai until 17 Nov 1933 when USS Augusta relieved her duties there, though Houston did visit Philippines on a goodwill cruiser in March 1933 and another to Japan in May of the same year during her assignment in China. After which she joined the US Navy Scout Force and then became "the President's Yacht", carrying President Roosevelt on many occasions, including a 12,000-mile long trip from Annapolis, Maryland to Portland, Oregon (with a stop at Hawaii) and many vacation cruises. On 19 Sep 1938, Houston became the flagship of Rear Admiral Claude C. Bloch, and will remain so until 28 Dec of the same year, when she returned to the Scouting Force for training exercises and missions carrying important dignataries. By this time, famous political and military figures whom the Houston had carried include President Franklin Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Henry Roosevelt, and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral William Leahy.

ww2dbaseWhen war broke out in Europe, USS Houston was nearing the completion of a refitting. She returned to the Asiatic Fleet on 19 Nov 1940 and once again chosen as the flagship, deployed to disrupt Japanese advances across southern Pacific. She was the flagship of Admiral Thomas C. Hart. When the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor, Hart sailed her toward Darwin, Australia, where she would join the ABDA naval force (under the command of Dutch admiral Karel Doorman) to curb Japanese advances. Houston's rear gun turret was disabled by a bomb on 4 Feb 1942, though during the action she was credited with downing four Japanese planes. On 15 Feb she departed from Australia with a small convoy to reinforce the garrison at Timor, and was met with numerous air attacks, but she fought off the attacks valiantly without damage to the transports she was guarding.

ww2dbaseAdmiral Doorman received reports of a Japanese invasion force approaching Java, and was determined to stop the invasion. On 26 Feb 1942, Houston set sail along with HMAS Perth, HNLMS De Ruyter, HMS Exeter, HNLMS Java, and 10 destroyers. This force confronted the Japanese support force under the command of Admiral Takeo Takagi, on 28 Feb 1942; during the battle Houston was sunk by overwhelming Japanese forces, but not before hitting three enemy destroyers and sinking one minesweeper while fighting alone (Perth had already been sunk). The full story of the sinking of USS Houston was actually not known by the world for almost 9 months as her survivors were picked up by Japanese ships and sent to a prison camp. Captain Albert Rooks, the skipper of the Houston who was killed by a shell at 0030 on 28 Feb 1942, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor after the war as tales of his bravery were learned. The Houston was also awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

ww2dbaseLieutenant (JG) H. S. Hamlin of the US Navy remembered the sad day when his ship disappeared below the waves:

"I got a couple of hundred feet away and I turned back to take a look at her, and she was full of holes all throught the side.... Her guns were askew, one turret pointing one way and another the other, the five-inch guns pointing in all directions. There was a big, bright flame coming up just about the mainmast and she was listing way over. I couldn't help thinking what she looked like when I first joined her, when she was the President's yacht. She shone from end to end. I think I will always remember that last look, though. And as I watched her she just lay down to die, she just rolled over on her side and the fire went out with a big hiss."

ww2dbaseThe crew of the cruiser Houston is honored at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, Australia. The crew of HMAS Perth, which also perished at the same battle, is also honored there.

ww2dbaseSources: Naval Historical Center, The Pacific Campaign, Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Mar 2005

Heavy Cruiser Houston (CA-30) Interactive Map


Houston, circa 1930, photo 1 of 1Houston, circa 1930, photo 2 of 2HoustonHouston
See all 17 photographs of Heavy Cruiser Houston (CA-30)

Houston Operational Timeline

17 Jun 1930 Houston was commissioned into service.
24 Jan 1942 During the night, American warships screened the withdrawal of US and Dutch warships after those ships had successfully attacked a Japanese convoy off Balikpapan, Borneo, Dutch East Indies. Japanese aircraft responded, damaging USS Houston and USS Marblehead, wounding 70 servicemen; the Japanese lost four aircraft. The Japanese pilots inaccurately reported 3 cruisers sunk.
1 Mar 1942 HMS Encounter, HMS Exeter, and USS Pope were sunk at the Second Battle of the Java Sea; the ships suffered 7, 54, and 1 killed, respectively. Meanwhile, at the Battle of Sunda Strait, Allied cruisers USS Houston and HMAS Perth intercepted a Japanese invasion force but were both sunk as they attacked; four Japanese transports and a minesweepers were sunk, but two of the transports were later refloated. Also on this date, Japanese troops landed on Java and immediately began marching for Batavia, with the Japanese 2nd Division capturing Serang and the 230th Infantry Regiment capturing Kalidjati airfield at Soebang en route. Finally, Japanese air raids at Surabaya damaged destroyer USS Stewart and Dutch destroyer Witte de With.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Henry L Leitz says:
27 Jun 2015 07:26:19 AM

A lot of great information and presented well.
Enjoyed the links to other sites.
2. Sherry Seabourn says:
1 Oct 2015 04:30:10 PM

While working as the historian for the Pampa ISD Heritage
Room, I was told that a man from Pampa, Texas was on the USS Houston when it went down on the night of February 28, 1942 and is believed to be the first person from our town to die in World War II. The person who told me the story had received this information from is late father and did not know the name of the man who perished. Is there a place you can point me to that would list casualties by hometown? Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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Event(s) Participated:
» Dutch East Indies Campaign, Java

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» Proud Echo
» Ship of Ghosts

Heavy Cruiser Houston (CA-30) Photo Gallery
Houston, circa 1930, photo 1 of 1
See all 17 photographs of Heavy Cruiser Houston (CA-30)

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