Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Annual Reunion and Memorial Service

The annual reunion of the USS Houston Survivors Association and Next Generations occurred last weekend (Feb. 21-23) and was a big success. Six of the 28 Houston survivors attended along with many of their families and friends. The highlight of the weekend was the memorial service which honored the survivors and remembered those crew members who have passed away while commemorating the 66th anniversary of the sinking of the ship. See the following links for pictures of the weekend: Shawn Flynn's Pictures and Tim Joseph's Pictures

The picture below was taken in front of the Cruiser Houston special collection at the University of Houston. The six survivors who attended the reunion are (from left to right):
Harry Kelley, David Flynn, Skip Schilperoort, Howard Brooks, Marvin Sizemore, and Bill Ingram.

In the picture below, from left to right, are Marvin Sizemore, Harry Kelley, Lin Drees, David Flynn, Val Poss, Howard Brooks, Skip Schilperoort, and Bill Ingram.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

CHRONICLE - Feb. 21, 2008

Spring Branch VFW member honors crew of USS Houston
Memorial service to be held Saturday
Chronicle Correspondent
Richard Jenke was 12 the first time he saw the USS Houston (CA-30).
The cruiser made a visit to Houston in 1939.
"My parents took me to see it," said Jenke, a member of VFW Post 576 in
Spring Branch, who will turn 81 Feb. 25. "I was so impressed when I saw it I
knew I would be a sailor. What I didn't know is three years later it would
be sunk by the Japanese.
"That's why I joined the Navy at age 15."
Jenke, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1942-1954, has made a point of
honoring those who served aboard the USS for more than 10 years. Surviving
crewmen and their loved ones have gathered each year for memorial services
and reunions at the USS Houston Memorial Monument in downtown Houston.
"I gave honor to the guys who made it and remembered the guys who didn't
make it," said Jenke..
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
service 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, along with Lin
Drees. The organization was 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 numerous 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
A sea cadet will salute each survivor and bring him "aboard" the service
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 at the USS Houston Memorial Monument,
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
"Before they die, they need to know how much they mean to us," Poss said.
"This entire reunion is in their honor."
The organization is determined to honor the USS survivors as much as
Its Web site, www.usshouston.net, features a collection of personal photos
and biographies.
"My primary goal is to keep these men's memories alive," said site creator
Shawn Flynn of Kelseyville, Calif. The site is dedicated to Flynn's father,
USS Houston survivor David Flynn.
There are bright memories, too, Matthews said. Not everyone knows the USS
Houston had its own baseball team. And while her father didn't discuss his
days as a POW, he loved to share tales of his days with the team.
While he was stationed in Manila, Philippines, Stefanek hit a home run in
the same spot Babe Ruth hit a run.
"He was very proud of that," Matthews said.
Today, Matthews is working on getting a Purple Heart awarded to her father
"It's unfortunate that when these men came home, after what they endured,
they didn't get recognition," she said.
For more information, visit www.usshouston.org or www.usshouston.net.