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The Battle to Save the Houston: October 1944 to March 1945 (Bluejacket Books) Paperback – January 15, 2013
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
About the Author
John Miller, a retired Marine colonel, is the author of The Bridge at Dong Ha and The CoVans: U.S. Marine Advisors in Vietnam. Following his 1985 retirement from the Marine Corps, he became Managing Editor of Proceedings and Naval History, a post he held until 2000.
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The USS Houston (CL 81) was a light cruiser of the Cleveland class launched 19 June 1943 in Newport News, Virginia. By October of the following year she was in the thick of the Pacific campaign, part of Admiral Halsey's fleet. In October, during one of the thrusts toward Formosa and Okinawa, she was ordered to take the place of the Canberra that had been hit by torpedoes.
Moving in as point ship in the northwest sector of the screening formation for Task Group 38.1, her gunners -- who had performed well against previous air attacks -- were unable to shoot down three Japanese torpedo planes that bore through the sheets of fire. Then, just as the Houston was on a heavy roll to port which left her starboard side exposed below the waterline, she was hit by a torpedo near her bottom, midway between the centerline keel and the starboard bilge keel.
The full force of the blast went straight into the hull and, thus, was fully absorbed by the ship -- it lifted it up and twisted her sideways as vibrations whipped up and down the hull, the full length of the ship. The damage was severe; she was dead in the water and sinking. With many of her crew already trapped or already dead in flooded compartments below, the Captain ordered "Abandon Ship." Two-thirds of the men had gone over the side when her officers determined that maybe -- possibly -- she could be saved and towed to safety.
It was a gutsy call as previously such a situation would have called for destroyers to pull the crew off and then sink the ship. However, using their own lives as chips for the bet, the officers chose to try and save the ship. The rest of the book is then dedicated to telling exactly how they pulled it off as Col. Miller provides readers with a detailed, "behind the scenes" look of how -- through the determination, courage and ingenuity of its engineering officers and crew -- the ship was saved.
First, as the Houston was towed through the war zone, "Bull" Halsey (successfully) used her as bait to lure Japanese planes and ships out for ambush. Then, they headed east, tracked by enemy subs and a typhoon, limping from one dry dock to another across the Pacific. By gaining greater structural integrity with each stop, they eventually made it to Hawaii, then California and finally -- just as the war was coming to a close -- to New York.
Written with true craftsmanship, and illustrated with 35 or so photographs, this book should be on shelf of every ship's library in the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine. Highly recommended for inclusion in collections of colleges and universities with engineering programs and in public library collections in communities with significant numbers of retired naval personnel (e.g. San Diego, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Pensacola, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C., etc.). It's a real classic.
R. Neil Scott
Middle Tennessee State University
Like many of the "Greatest Generation", he never talked about the war, the things he saw and experienced. My father died in 1993. There is an association of Houston survivors. They usually meet annually somewhere in the USA. Their numbers are dwindling. To all who are still with us, we will never forget.
To all of the brave men and women of our Armed Forces, past and present, a big "Thank You".
Please take the time to read this book and learn.