In July 1945, two USS Houston survivors, James Huffman and Lanson Harris, managed to escape from their prison camp. Aided by Thai villagers, they were led to a secret camp, hidden deep in the Thai jungle, run by a Major Eben Bartlett. Bartlett, it turned out, was part of OSS, a covert US operation that had established camps all over Southeast Asia. He was amazed when Huffman and Harris told him they were survivors of the USS Houston, and that approximately 300 survivors had been taken prisoner. They also had the names of all the men they knew who had died in captivity, about sixty-odd names.
On July 25, 1945, the world heard for the first time about the fate of the survivors from the sinking, over three years before. By then, Harold Rooks, the eldest son of the USS Houston’s captain, who had been a junior at Harvard when his father’s ship was sunk, had enlisted and was headed for the Pacific War as the plotting officer for the USS San Jacinto.
On July 29, Bartlett used a portable transmitter to begin transmitting the roster of names to his U.S. superiors. The roster of “lost names” filled his “outgoing Morse bandwidth for nearly a week. It was not until August 5 that Major Bartlett’s radioman hand-keyed the last of the dots and dashes representing the 301 names on the list. Two days later, he started sending a shorter list: the name of sixty three of the sixty-seven Houston men who had met their end as prisoners of war.”
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.