to perpetuate the memory and history of our dead

9.16 abandon ship SOP

US Navy abandon ship policy

I’m sure it was a scene played out thousands of times across the world. As ships were sinking and the order was passed to Abandon Ship, sailors, marines and merchant seamen followed their instructions and training. They would remove their shoes and often their heavy cotton dungaree or wool pants in order to avoid them becoming water-logged and dragging the man down. 

This indeed may have saved some lives while they were in the water, but in war the likelihood of them being rescued by a friendly force was slight. As the survivors of the USS Houston and likely the HMAS Perth beside her could attest, this procedure did not serve them well upon finding land and in their case, being taken prisoner. Since many of these crewmen were working in cramped spaces in the bowels of those ships, many were shirtless to begin with. They arrived on shore in little more than skivvies. To compound their problems as POWs of the Japanese, they were provided nothing! This means that they had no blankets, no mess gear, no personal belongings of any kind.

For the HOUSTON crewmen this state of being lasted from 1 MAR until the TXNG arrived at the Bicycle Camp in Batavia at the end of MAY. Most of the gear and belongings of the soldiers had also been left in storage at Surabaja. But they had about one duffel bag of gear and belongings that they carried as they moved west to engage the enemy. Upon arrival, they immediately shared whatever extra items they had with the nearly naked HOUSTON survivors. It is also remarked how inventive and resourceful those men were in making ‘something out of nothing’. They had turned discarded cans into drinking cups and coconut shells into bowls.    One additional item that the soldiers brought with them was money! There were literally thousands of dollars of official funds. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to buy! Or as POWs that they were allowed to buy. But they were allowed to send an officer into Batavia once a week to buy foodstuffs which were helpful in supplementing the meager items provided by the Japanese.

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