Ship of Ghosts, Chapter 20

As late as February this year, James D. Hornfischer was still tweeting as if he hadn’t a care in the world. Self can’t find a cause of death listed anywhere. Whatever. Self salutes you, sir. Two of your books provided capital reading to close out her 2021.

An hour after battle was joined on the Sunda Strait at 11:15 p.m. on Feb. 27, 1942, it was over. The Perth went under, bringing Captain Waller with her. The USS Houston was completely encircled. No word about Captain Rooks, who had written his wife so lovingly about the time remaining on his two-year assignment.

A man who’d been standing next to Rooks on the bridge recalled how the Captain summoned the ship’s bugler and told him, “in a strong, resolute voice: Bugler, sound abandon ship.” The tones went out over the ship’s PA system. Again, the writing:

  • Surrounded by enemy ships on all offshore bearings, the Houston was about five miles northwest of Panjang Island and about the same distance east-northeast from St. Nicholas Point, on an eastward course at twenty knots. It was a little after midnight. The ship was taking on water and listing hard . . .

Survivors later told of seeing Rooks being cradled in the arms of a mess attendant named Ah Fong, probably dying. Ah Fong refused to leave him.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


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