Thursday, December 21, 2006

Reviews of "Ship of Ghosts"

THIS is FROM LIN DREES: Friends who now live in Hallettsville sent me a book review, / Victoria ADVOCATE, Wed., Dec. 13, 06 - p.B5. (and once while in Houston they attended one of our Memorial Services)
Cindy Bonner, the reviewer who is also an author, wrote: "James D. Hornfischer understands naval warfare and puts that knowledge to compelling use in his brilliant description of the chaos of that final battle." Later she discusses the Cruiser HOUSTON collection @ UH and lists both our USS HOUSTON website and Jim's website. This is probably just one of a large number of reviews. Also, one of the librarians @ the Houston Public Library put together an exhibit on the city of Houston during the war years. He has some photos of the USS HOUSTON, the 1000 Volunteers - and Ron asked him if he would like our copy of Jim's book to add to the display (he already had Winslow's book on display). The HPL has ordered Jim's book, but has not yet processed and sent the copies out for check out. Again, Jim thanks for putting "our story" out there for all to read.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Leslie Hurrell - KIA Sunda Strait

Attached are two photographs taken at Mountain View Cemetery in Danville, Virginia. This cemetery is around the corner from Obie's childhood home. We were walking in the cemetery one day and decided to stop and read all of the markers in the WWII Memorial section. Much to our surprise, we found a marker for a USS Houston sailor who is still standing watch in Sunda Strait. Obie played there often as a child never suspecting, of course, that some 50 years later he would learn the history of one of those markers and that it would have so much meaning to us (and the USS Houston family). Here is a link to the location on a map . We have not yet had any success locating any of Leslie Hurrell's family members. Leslie Hurrell, you are remembered. Submitted by: Judy Bunch and Obie Roach.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Last Man Out - Updated Paperback

In addition to "Ship of Ghosts," there is another recently printed USS HOUSTON-related book available in bookstores these days, with which Jim Hornfischer has been (quietly) involved, called "Last Man Out," written by my father, Howard Robert (Bob) Charles. This is a new, updated paperback version, which features a new (and excellent) Forward by Mr. Hornfischer, as well as several photographs that did not appear in the original 1988 hardcover edition.
"Last Man Out" describes Dr. Hekking's heroic efforts to save allied prisoners of war during the miserable months of POW captivity on the Burma-Thailand Railway construction project. A Dutch army medical officer, Hekking was captured on Java by Japanese forces in 1942 and eventually found himself in POW labor camps along the Burma-Thailand Railway, caring for USS HOUSTON and Lost Battalion survivors. The Americans who were in the camps with Dr. Hekking, including my father, always considered themselves to be extremely lucky. This book explains why that was so true. -- Dana

Thursday, November 30, 2006

David Flynn in the News

This article from the Sun Sentinel
is an excellent interview ith David Flynn. You can even leave a comment at the end of it! I think Jim Horfischer's new book is going to do wonders getting more recognition for these deserving veterans .. and for their lost shipmates and allies.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

This is the last of the recorded remembrances from the evening of September 10 at Arlington - Celbrating Otto's life. After this one - the tape ran out.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Recorded remembrances from the night of Sept 10, 2006. There are two more segments to follow, each about 25 minutes. Not all of the evening was taped. The tape eventually ran out.

A celibration of Otto's life. Trudy talks, and then John.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Words of celebration of the Life of Otto Schwarz - the evening before his Arlington Funeral. This segment is son, Edward, talking.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Funeral of Otto Schwarz

The Arlington Funeral of Otto Schwarz, age 82. Survivor of the sinking of USS Houston CA-30 (and her ally, HMAS Perth) on March 1 1942 in one of the fateful sea battles that ended the life of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet. Schwarz founded the USS Houston Survivor's Association and helped many of his shipmates re-connect after the war and to keep the memory of lost crew alive. The surviving crew of the Houston and the HMAS Perth were captured by the Japanese. Many of them became part of the slave force used to build the Burma Railway (Bridge on The River Kwai). His story and the Houston's story is told at Only a few of the crew remain. Four sailors and a marine survivor attended the funeral. Photos follow the (hand held) video at the end, after about a minute. The photo section includes the song "Good to Be Home". This and "Standing on The Houston" are included by permission .. copyright 1997 by Dave Peters and Terry Keith.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Marine's Marine

Young Marine honors World War II Marine Prisoner of War
A chance encounter between a young, proud Marine currently serving his country as a member of ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom' and an honored Marine World War II Prisoner of War has led to a unique friendship that exemplifies the old saying: ‘Once a Marine, Always a Marine.'
Corporal Scott D. LaMothe first met Lloyd Willey while visiting his grandparents in San Marcos a few years ago. LaMothe was enroute to Camp Pendleton to report for duty when he found himself in a dilemma, he couldn't seem to get the perfect knot in his tie. THIS CONTINUES IN THE COMMENTS SECTION. Story is FROM THE NORTH COUNTY TIMES.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

John Stefanek Memorial Display

Here is the second shadow box we created for my father, John B. Stefanek.
The flag with the one star was displayed in the window of my grandparents. This flag signified that they had someone missing in action. Otto and Trudy Schwarz traveled back to the prison camps and brought the two railroad spikes back for my father. They are displayed on either side of the flag. Then there is also a picture of my father, a picture of the bridge, Houston lapel pins and Australian lapel pins. There is also a brass plate with his name, Japanese POW, 1942 - 1945. (Hope this is what you were looking for.) We also have his first shadow box with his medals, picture, and flag that was on his coffin at Arlington. Best Regards, Jane Matthews (Jane and Matt).

Friday, September 15, 2006

POWs Not Yet Repatriated

I think this is in Saigon. My father (John Stefanek) is to the left of the nurse. Otto Schwarz (with no shirt) is standing to the right of the nurse. Phil (Joe) Gans is standing to the right of Otto (with a cigarette or cigar in hand.) I don't know anyone else in the picture. The photograph was taken in September of 1945. Photos courtesey of Henry (Matt) and Jane Matthews ( USS HOUSTON -Next Generation). -- Comment from Vic: Note there is some meat on their bones at this point. Otto explained that once they were out of Burma (the Death Railway) and in Vietnam - the food, climate and most conditions improved greatly. The Japanese could ship little rice or other foodstuffs from any port in the last year of the war, so food within Vietnam was plentiful. Of course, after Japan capitulated, and the time this photo was made (probably a few weeks), there was excellent treatment and even better food. In most cases, the former POW's were gaining weight very rapidly.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Otto Schwarz in Good Company

Arlington Cemetery, September 11, 2006: The funeral of Otto Schwarz. As other events focused the nation on remembrance of this date, 5 years ago, The USS Houston Family focused on the life of Otto Schwarz, founder of the USS Houston Survivor's Association. Many attended. The evening prior was enjoyed with a dinner and remembrance of Otto. An audio recording of most of the remembrances will be posted on the website later, along with a short video of the Arlington ceremony. The photo here and many more are available for comment and download on the me3tv account at Others with photos from this celebratory gathering to honor Otto, are encouraged to upload their photos to share if they wish.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Ship of Ghosts Due out October 31

A notice of the new book by Jim Hornfishcer is shown here. (Ship of Ghosts) Read the review in Publisher's Weekly. Otto Schwarz was able to have much of the proofed book read to him in his last days. He was very complimentary of the writing and the detail presented. Another book about the Asiatic Fleet was also recently published. It is titled "Playing for Time" and is written Capt. Wicke Alford who served in the 4 Piper - the Stewart. His narrative encompasses every ship in the Asiatic Fleet as best I can tell. I can heartily recommend both of these books to those who wish to understand the history of those challenging times.

The Arlington Funeral for Otto

The Funeral for Otto will be at Arlington Cemetary at 12:30PM on September 11, 2006. For more about the arrangements contact Val Poss.

HMAS PERTH III is Commissioned

The weather was perfect and the commissioning of HMAS Perth III was an event to remember. The Navy band complete with vocalist who sang Advance Australia Fair, We Are Australian and the navy prayer Eternal Father Strong to Save so beautifully. All the traditions of a commissioning were observed and attended by dignitaries of the highest order. The chief of the defence forces was present amongst others. (From Julie - via Lin Drees)
HMAS Perth was commissioned at Fremantle this morning and will be deployed within Australian waters and overseas.
She is the third RAN ship to bear that name. (The FIRST HMAS Perth Died fighting alongside USS Houston in Sunda Strait on March 1, 1942.) "We are extremely proud to join the ranks of Australia's fighting elite and will fulfil our duties in the tradition of those who served on Perth I and II before us", Commander Simon Gregg said. Anzacs are 3600 tonne long-range escorts capable of countering simultaneous threats from the air, surface and underwater.They are fitted with radars, omni-directional hull mounted sonar and torpedoes.The ships can travel at speeds faster than 27 knots and have an operational range of more than 6000 nautical miles. Several other Anzac Frigates have been deployed in the Persian Gulf as part of Australia's defence activities in the region.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

In China in the 1930's

The USS Houston in her coloruful days with the Asiatic Fleet. In August, Jerry Ranger, son of John Ranger (survivor-deceased) headed up a dive team with National Geographic and Historical Archivists to photograph and map out some of the interior with a robot camera. Alas, an obscure Navy department with obviously no prior understanding of the survivor's association or the ship's history, blocked the attempt to record photos. We think this may have been the last best chance to gather information from the wreck - especially the interior. Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 07, 2006

Jerry Ranger Diving on USS Houston

Jerry Ranger, son of USS Houston crew member John Ranger, has arrived in Jakarta where he and several other dive team members are preparing to dive on the USS Houston. The dive team will be anchored in a boat over the Houston for 8 days. They expect to remotely photograph some of the inside of the ship using a special piece of equipment called a "VideoRay" as well as film the outside of the ship using an underwater video camera.

"These pictures will be shown at the next (USS Houston) reunion in Houston, Texas," Ranger said. "This trip is for the remaining 39 survivors and to save some World War II history of the USS Houston."

See the following website for more on this story.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Otto Schwarz

Otto Schwarz passed away on August 3, 2006. Otto started the USS Houston Survivors Association and was a devoted and tireless worker. We owe him a debt of gratitude for all he did to make it "happen". Our love and condolences to his family and especially his wonderful wife, Trudy.
Otto's son, John, writes:
"The good Lord has finally led him to peace.

The Schwarz family is more thankful than sorrowful. Our father was afforded a good, long life. It was longer(at age 82) than would be expected for a man who not only survived the sinking of his ship, but three and a half years as a prisoner of war during WWII....

Otto Carl Schwarz was a good man and the best father a son could ever ask for.

His final resting place will be Arlington National Cemetery, following an approximate 4-6 week waiting period. I intend to inform everyone of the particulars as that time gets closer. My family and I offer welcome to those who would like to attend the services at Arlington.

I thank you all again from the bottom of my heart for your support and concern."

Max Wilker

Max Wilker passed away on July 3, 2006, of heart disease. Our love and sincere condolences to his family.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Ragged Old Flag

Ragged Old Flag

(click on title to hear .wav file)

by Johnny Cash
(brother-in-law of USS Houston survivor Joe Garrett)

I walked through a county courthouse square,
On a park bench an old man was sitting there.
I said, Your old courthouse is kinda run down.
He said, Naw, it'll do for our little town.

I said, Your flagpole has leaned a little bit,
And that's a Ragged Old Flag you got hanging on it.
He said, Have a seat, and I sat down.
Is this the first time you've been to our little town?

I said, I think it is. He said, I don't like to brag,
But we're kinda proud of that Ragged Old Flag.
You see, we got a little hole in that flag there
When Washington took it across the

And it got a bad rip in
New Orleans
With Packingham and Jackson tuggin' at its seams.
And it almost fell at the
Beside the Texas flag, but she waved on though.

She got cut with a sword at
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill.
There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg,
And the south wind blew hard on that Ragged Old Flag.

On Flanders Field in World War I
She got a big hole from a Bertha gun.
She turned blood red in World War II
She hung limp and low a time or two.

She was in
Korea and Vietnam.
She went where she was sent by her Uncle Sam.
She waved from our ships upon the briny foam,
And now they've about quit waving her back here at home.

In her own good land she's been abused --
She's been burned, dishonored, denied and refused.
And the government for which she stands
Is scandalized throughout the land.

And she's getting threadbare and wearing thin,
But she's in good shape for the shape she's in.
'Cause she's been through the fire before
And I believe she can take a whole lot more.

So we raise her up every morning, Take her down every night.
We don't let her touch the ground And we fold her up right.
On second thought I DO like to brag,
'Cause I'm mighty proud of that Ragged Old Flag.

By John R. Cash, © 1974 House of Cash, Inc.

Happy 4th of July!

To: all our USS Houston survivors
From: a grateful nation of Americans

Thank you for your service to our country and may you and your families have a ...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Speech at Asiatic Fleet Reunion

Vic Campbell provided the dinner speech for the Asiatic Fleet Reunion. You can read it at the China Gunboat Blog. WHY ARE YOU FORGOTTEN?

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Worldwide Interest in USS Houston

The USS Houston Website receives visitors from all over the world. As you can imagine, having been involved in sea battles that comprised fleets of 5 nations, and much of the South China, Java Seas and Western Pacific, there are interested parties in many countries. Recently, an Italian Language military history website has joined in promoting the USS Houston site. If you know of people whose first language is Italian, we can suggest Tuttostoria as an excellent point of reference. ( Look under the title "Marina" (Navy in Italian language). Some recent visits with Otto Schwarz is chronicled at ME3TV channel 1000.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

DVD - Last Stand of USS Houston

The DVD label encourages viewers to take a copy of the DVD (or buy one extra) to your local PUBLIC ACCESS TV STATION. Public Access is NOT the same as PUBLIC TELEVISION. Public Access or "Community Access" TV stations are usually small channels dedicated to serve a town or county with local productions and features and features that are requested by their viewers. You can find a list of COMMUNITY ACCESS and Educational TV Stations at THIS LINK. The DVD is in two parts and includes extras of footage from reunions as well as the two songs by Dave Peters and Terry Keith ("Standing on The Houston" and "It's Good To Be Home"). Please get a copy to your local Community Access or ETV station soon. There is no charge to air it. Buzz Creek does request a courtesy email to let us know it is being shown. Some Community Access TV stations have excellent digital networks to other stations and can share the video with other stations without you having to track them down and put a copy in their hands! Here are more Links to Public Access Stations or how to find them: New Jersey JAG. You might also 'google' for "public access tv stations - (your state)".

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Scholarship Recipient Katy Fort - doing well!

Katy Fort was the USS Houston scholarship recipient last year. Her Mom, Mary, writes that Katy has had a very successful first semester at Florida State University earning a 3.9 grade point average while taking honors chemistry, honors chemistry lab, an honors colloquium, pre-calculus algebra, and Spanish. In addition to her studies this semester, she coaches an 8-and-under soccer team, participates in Wesley foundation activities, and teaches a preschool Sunday School class.

Mary says, "Thank you for helping give her the opportunity for a quality education at a good school. We were so proud for her to be selected to receive the USS Houston scholarship last year. I know her grandpa would be so proud too."

Congratulations, Katy! Keep up the good work.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Reunion Coming Up!

The annual reunion of survivors from the USS Houston and friends and family will soon be here. The dates are February 24-26 and the location is the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Houston. It should be a great time for all.

On Friday, February 24, the University of Houston will host a reception. They have recently completed the new display cases for the USS Houston archives which will be interesting for everyone to see. Friday night we will enjoy a good dinner together and an auction.

The memorial service to honor fallen shipmates will be held on Saturday, February 25, at 3:00 p.m. in Sam Houston Park around the monument. In the evening we will again enjoy a delicious meal and a great program. In addition to the planned events, there is ample opportunity for interaction with friends and family in the hospitality room. If you have not yet signed up, do so right away. It will be a good time for fellowship for all.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Sick Call: Ray Goodson has heart attack

Ray Goodson recently had a heart attack and is currently in a rehab center in Jacksonville, Florida. Please keep him in your prayers.