Organization is composed of the men of the 2nd Battalion, 131st Field
Artillery and those men who swam ashore from the Cruiser USS Houston
(CA-30) when it was sunk, and who survived 42 months of "hell"
as prisoners of the Japanese during World War II.
2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery, 36th Division (Texas National
Guard), was mobilized in November 1940. One year later, this one
Battalion was detached from the Division and sent to Angel Island, in
San Francisco Bay, to become part of a contingent of troops, who were
all in route to a destination with the code name "PLUM." It
was generally conjectured that the Philippine Islands was where the
Battalion would finally be stationed.
Unit sailed from the United States on November 21, 1941 aboard the Army
Transport Ship, USS Republic, and arrived at Pearl Harbor on the 28th of
the same month. A day or two prior to reaching Hawaii, it was announced
that we were under a "black-out" and "radio silence"
and that an attack by the Japanese was expected at any time. After
refueling in Hawaii, the ship, accompanied by several other troopships,
including the Chaumont, Hallmark, Holbrook, Admiral Halstead,
Bloemfontein, Farmer and Gregg, a Corvette and the Cruiser USS Pensacola
sailed south, rather than west, as we had expected. Little did we
realize that within a week Pearl Harbor would be attacked by the
December 6, the convoy crossed the Equator, and the next morning the
Unit was informed of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The USS Republic had
been in dry-dock just prior to the Battalion"s boarding and had
four 3-inch guns and one 5-inch gun (on the "fan-tail")
mounted on her. The Battalion manned these guns from this time until
their arrival in Australia.
convoy made a short stop at Suva, Fiji Islands and then sailed on to
Brisbane, Australia, crossing the International Dateline (180th
Meridian) on December 13, 1941. This Unit was among the first American
Troops ever to land on Australian soil. The Battalion spent Christmas
1941 in Brisbane, but before New Year's Day, it was again on the high
seas, aboard the Dutch freighter Bloemfontein, bound for the Island of
Java in the Netherland East Indies, via Darwin, Australia.
Coincindentally, the escort vessel for part of the journey, was the
Cruiser USS Houston.
January 11, 1942, 35 days after the outbreak of War with Japan, the
Battalion was on Java, the only U. S. ground combat Unit to reach the
Netherland East Indies, before the Dutch capitulated to the Japanese.