Staff Sgt. Roy M. Offerle of the Thirty-Sixth Infantry Division, Texas National Guard

Bicycle Camp, Java:

The survivors of the USS Houston and the Perth all end up being captured and siphoned to different POW camps around Southeast Asia. One day in May 1942, the USS Houston POWs in Bicycle Camp were joined by four-hundred-odd American infantry, who marched into camp “in full dress . . . hauling duffles and all manner of diverse equipment.” So splendid was their appearance that the Houston survivors at first thought they were being rescued. The sad truth came out only later. It turned out that the battalion was ordered to surrender by the Dutch Governor General, who sent a message to the US commander, telling him “It is useless to attempt an escape. There is no way out.” (I tell ya, Hornfischer really makes the Dutch look like out-and-out cowards, at least the ones in Dutch colonial government in Java were)

This Infantry Division was made up entirely of Texans (The Army, unlike the Navy, fostered regionalism: “Each of its batteries was drawn from a single town — D Battery from Wichita Falls, E Battery from Abilene, F Battery from Jacksboro . . . and so on.”) They had a particular brand of Texan humor, too.

Staff Sgt. Roy M. Offerle, p. 202:

  • At a train station, the Americans were presented to a Japanese officer who made a welcoming speech. “I guess that was the first time I’d heard a Jap or heard them speaking . . . He would scream and holler and yell, and then the interpreter would say, ‘The commander says he is very happy to see you.’ Then he would scream and holler like he was threatening to kill us, and then they would say, ‘You will soon go to a camp.’

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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