HMAS Perth, USS Houston Reforge Old Ties
On the evening of 28 February/1 March 1942, two proud ships fought together against overwhelming odds by facing the Japanese Western Java Invasion Convoy in the midst of the Sunda Strait.
HMAS Perth (I) and USS Houston were both torpedoed and sank within 30 minutes of the other, consigning almost a thousand US and Australian sailors to the sea and resulting in the capture and imprisonment of the remainder. Thus was forged the bond between the crews of these ships as they survived the perils of the Japanese internment in Thailand, Burma and Singapore.
70 years later, and in the closing days of RIMPAC 2012, the Commanding Officers of the modern day ships of the same names came together onboard HMAS Perth for a brief opportunity to remember a common heritage and re-strengthen allied bonds. Commanding Officer Perth, CAPT Mal Wise presented CMDR Paul Davis, Commanding Officer of the Los Angeles Class submarine USS Houston (SSN 713) with a copy of the Mike Carlton book ‘Cruiser’ which tells the complete story of the cruiser Perth. The book had been personally signed by one of the surviving crew members of the sinking, (then) Able Seaman Fred Skeels, OAM, prior to HMAS Perth leaving Western Australia in April this year.
Both Commanding Officers observed how the modern day crews of both ships continue to seek out and understand the challenges faced by the crews of their namesake ships, a factor that helps to put the stresses of life at sea into perspective.
Perth will participate in Exercise Kakadu in Darwin before returning home to Western Australia towards the end of September.
Naval Today Staff, August 16, 2012; Image: Royal Australian Navy