The heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA-30) traveled the world during peacetime, served as flagship of the Asiatic Fleet during World War II, and was tragically sunk by the Imperial Japanese Navy during the Battle of Sunda Strait. More than 350 black and white photographs from the 1920s to the 1940s tell the incredible story of the Houston and her crew.
Named for the city of Houston, the USS Houston (CA-30) was launched in 1929 in Newport News, Virginia, a celebratory occasion well-represented in the collection. Many photographs depict the new Northampton class cruiser in various ports or at sea during early cruises, including visits to the Houston Ship Channel. Other photographs capture individual officers and crew members and depict life aboard the ship.
The ship’s most famous passenger was President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who took four cruises on the Houston during his presidency to relax and enjoy deep sea fishing. Photographs in the collection show Roosevelt fishing from a smaller vessel, even catching a shark.
In 1942, following the United States’ entry into World War II, the Houston became part of the multi-national American-British-Dutch-Australian (ABDA) force in the Pacific. Led by the able Captain Albert H. Rooks, Houston participated in the Battle of Makassar Strait and the Battle of the Java Sea before being sunk. Due to the wartime need for secrecy, only a few photographs exist from this period.
Of the 1068 crew members on the Houston when it was sunk, 368 survived and became prisoners of the Japanese. Many were forced to work building the Burma-Thai Railway, 79 more dying in the process. Photographs document the POW camps, the deplorable conditions endured by the POWs, and the evacuation of POWs at the end of the war in August 1945.