2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery
The Lost Battalion

The 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery was mobilized on 25 November 1940, along with the 36th Infantry Division, Texas National Guard, and was sent to Camp Bowie at Brownwood. Originally intended to be part of a force to be sent to reinforce American troops in the Philippine Islands, the Battalion was detached from the 36th Infantry Battalion and sailed on the USS Republic on 21 November 1941. The ship was diverted from the Philippines when Pearl Harbor was bombed on 7 December 1941, and landed on the island of Java in the Dutch East Indies on 11 January 1942, to reinforce Dutch, British and Australian troops already there.

The Japanese landed on the island and the Dutch surrendered on 8 March 1942 after token resistance. The entire Battalion was taken prisoner. The Battalion (less Battery E) and the survivors of the cruiser USS Houston, which had been sunk off the Java coast, were sent to Burma, Thailand or Japan to work for the Japanese as slave laborers. They worked on the "Burma-Siam Death Railway" building a railroad through the jungle and in the coal mines, docks and ship yards in Japan and other southeast Asian countries. They spent 42 months in captivity suffering humiliation; torture, both mental and physical; starvation and disease (without medication).

Five hundred and thirty two soldiers of the Battalion, along with 371 survivors of the USS Houston were taken prisoner. Six hundred and sixty eight were sent to Burma and Thailand and 235 to other locations. Altogether, 163 soldiers died in captivity and of those 133 died working on the railroad. Many more died as a result of diseases contracted while in captivity after the war.

For almost three years, no one heard from any of the members of the battalion, hence the name, "Lost Battalion."

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