On 3rd November 1940 she left America for the last time and proceeded
to Manila where she arrived on 19th November. She was now once
again the flagship of the Asiatic Fleet.
was at Iloilo on the S.E. coast of Panay in the Philippines on
7th December 1941. She immediately sailed south through the
Sibutu Passage into the Celebes Sea. She called at Balikpapan Borneo,
and Makassar in the Celebes, before diverting to Surabaya Java where
she arrived on 18th December. On 22nd she rendezvoused
with a convoy in the East Java Sea and escorted them to Darwin, Australia.
HOUSTON spent January 1942 escorting convoys from Thursday
Island to Darwin, patrolling the Flores Sea and, on 23rd, left for
Surabaya arriving there 29th January. On 1st February she sailed from
Surabaya to Bounder Roads just south of Madura Island.
Near midnight on the 3rd February HOUSTON left with the ABDA strike force to search the Makassar Strait for a Japanese Invasion force. They sailed for Meinderts Reef off the north tip of Java and at 0500 on the 4th headed for the Makassar Strait.
At about 0930, when about 30 miles south of Kavieng Is. in the Java Sea, the allied ships came under very intense air attack by about 54 Japanese Mitsubishi "Betty" and "Nell" bombers and HOUSTON received a direct hit to her after 8" turret,
killing 48 men and putting the turret out of action. Aircraftsman John Ranger was awarded a Silver Star for heroism in helping to
put out the fire in the turret.
The light cruiser USS MARBLEHEAD was also hit and was so badly damaged
that she had to withdraw from the area and struggle back to Tjilitjap. From there sailed back
to America via Ceylon and South Africa for repairs. HOUSTON
returned via Alas Strait* to Tjilitjap on Java to bury her dead and then sailed
* Log of USS Houston for Feb 1942 as reconstructed by surviving officers in Batavia, 1 June 1942.
Track of the bomb that hit USS HOUSTON on 4th Feb 1942 south of Kavieng Is. Java Sea
HOUSTON left Darwin on the 14th February with a convoy bound for Timor but
Japanese air attacks on the 15th and 16th forced a return to Darwin.
On the 18th ,at 2200, she left Darwin to sail 300 miles southwest
of Broome to try and rendezvous with one of her ship's planes that
had been stranded in Broome. Her arrival off Broome on the 19th
was to prove lucky for, had she stayed in Darwin Harbour, she would
have been caught by the Japanese air attack that sank the destroyer