to perpetuate the memory and history of our dead

9.22 26th FA

The LOST BATTALION were not the only US Army unit on Java. There was also the 26th Field Artillery Brigade commanded by COL Albert Searle. The 26th was a regular Army unit; not Nation Guard. They boarded the SS REPUBLIC in SFCA along with the 2/131 but remained a separate and independent unit. Since COL Searle was senior to LTC Tharp, he would have been in overall command of the Army forces.

Both units landed in Brisbane but it is unclear as to exactly where the 26th was housed [see below]. TXNG survivor accounts simply make no mention of them. In fact, the 26th FA Brigade has an almost nonexistent internet history. One version of their brief history can be found at

https://www.ozatwar.com/usarmy/pfab.htm but it does not exactly jive with other versions.  

COL Searle and his 26th FA Bde accompanied the 2/131 to Java, but here too, their history gets a bit muddled. Interviews conducted by Dr. Marcello of the University of North Texas Oral History Program included 2 members of this unit who were taken as POWs on Java in March 1942. Interviews with Martin Chambers and Benjamin Dunn (OH 575 & 1329 respectively) tell the tale of these two 26th members who were taken as POW along with the majority of the 2/131. They relate that 17-18 members of that unit were incorporated into the TXNG 2/131 FA Bn at Malang DEI just as the invasion of Java was beginning. It is apparent that some of the members of the 26th disembarked at Sarabaja and traveled with the 2/131 to Malang on the eastern portion of the island. Exactly where the remainder of the 26th went is undocumented. We do know that COL Searle operated out of the Allied (ABDA) HQ near Batavia and it is likely that he was the one who ordered LTC Tharp to support what became known as Black Force under the command of AUS Brigadier Arthur S. Blackburn.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Blackburn

The senior US military officer in the ABDA HQ was Major-General Julian Francis Barnes. He commanded what was known as US Forces-Java. That would have included the 26th and 2/131 (TXNG) as the only combat forces.

In the final week of February, all but the TXNG unit were evacuated to Australia via the southern port of Tjilatap. But the precise nature of that evacuation and why it did not include the TXNG artillerymen is unknown. It is also worth noting that about 2 dozen of the TXNG were transferred to the AAF and departed Java with the B-17 and B-24 bombers. It was at this same time that the 18 members of the 26th were added to the 2/131. They may have been done so as replacements for the AAF transfers. But why those men were at Malang and not Batavia is unclear. It is also of note that 10 members of the 2/131 had been attached to the ABDA HQ as liaison and were evacuated rather than being returned to their unit in Feb ’42. Their story is related by Glenn Pace in the UNT Oral History interview # 34.

COL Searle, himself, did not in fact evacuate. He is said to have stayed on the island with approximately 50 men and attempted to evade captivity and possible to try to foment a guerilla war. But all were soon captured and sent to the POW camp known as the Bicycle Camp in Batavia. COL Searle was soon separated and sent to the senior military officers POW camp in Mukden Manchuria. He is documented as having been liberated from there in 1945.

He passed away in DEC 1965 and is interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

DSC Citation Synopsis
Colonel (Field Artillery) Albert C. Searle, United States Army, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy, in action against enemy forces on 27 February 1942. Colonel Searle’s intrepid actions, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

Also see Section 9.12

https://www.sonsoflibertymuseum.org/pows/searle-albert-s69595141.cfm

In his book, BAMBOO EXPRESS, Benjamin Dunn a mbr of the 26th explains the reason 18 and not 17 men ended up in the 2/131:

{pg18} About February 20 ,1942 , seventeen men of the 26th Brigade were notified that we were being transferred to the 131st Field Artillery. The remaining men—100 or so— were scheduled to return to Australia. Most of those men were anxious t o return to Australia and one private actually broke down and cried for a chance to go ,while another reportedly was so scared of the risks involved on a return trip that he went A.W .O. L. and was left in Java with the rest of us. We found ou.t after the war that the 26th did leave in time to make it to Australia–so they had to be luckier than we Naturally, all of us would’ve liked to have been with those leaving.

This also clarifies that the 2/131 & 26th stayed together in Malang / Singosari. Apparently only COL Searle and perhaps a few staff went on to Batavia. The reason for the re-call of the 26th to Australia is not clear.