Monthly Archives: January 1942

4 February 1942 – extra page

Only in English

Comm. Walker – “Galloping Ghost”

U.S.N. “Houston”
“On Febr. 4 in the Flores Sea a bomb crashed through 2 platforms o/t mainmast before it exploded on the deck just forward of No. 3 turret.  Once again I heard the banging of hammers that pounded thruout the long night as tired men worked steadily building coffins for 48 shipmates flying in groups o/t fantail.  We were in Tjilatjap that stinking fever ridden little port and carried our comrades through the heat of those sunburned dusty streets.  I saw again the brown poker faced natives dressed in sarongs, quietly watching us as we buried our dea i/t little Dutch cemetery that looked out over the sea.”
Supplementary Information (not in the diary)
Available online –

The ‘Nightmare’ Night USS Houston Went Down

“Twenty-four days had elapsed since that terrifying day in the Flores Sea, yet here it was haunting me again as it would for the rest of my life. My mind pictured the squadrons of Japs bombers as they attacked time and again from every conceivable direction. After the first run they remained at altitudes far beyond range of our anti-aircraft guns, for they had learned respect on that first run when one of their planes was blasted from the sky and several others were obviously hit and badly shaken. But that first salvo almost finished the Houston. It was a perfect straddle, and the force of those big bombs seemed as though a giant hand had taken the ship, lifted her bodily from the water, and tossed her yards away form her original course. There had been no personnel casualties that time but our main anti-aircraft director had been wrenched from its track, rendering it useless, and we were taking water aboard from sprung plates in the hull.

That day the crew had only the steady barrage from the anti-aircraft guns and Captain Rook’s clever handling of the ship to thank for keeping them from the realms of Davy Jones. But there was one horrible period during that afternoon when the Nips almost got us for keeps. A five-hundred pound bomb, and a stray at that, hit us squarely amidships aft. Some utterly stupid Jap bombardier failed to release with the rest of his squadron and Captain Rooks could make no allowances for such as him. The salvo fell harmlessly off the port quarter but the stray crashed through two platforms of the main mast before it exploded on the deck just forward of number three turret. Hunks of shrapnel tore through the turrets thin armor as though it were paper, igniting powder bags in the hoists. In one blazing instant all hands in the turret and in the handling rooms below were dead. Where the bomb spent its force, a gaping hole was blown in the deck below which waited the after repair party. They were wiped out almost to a man. It was a hellish battle which ended with forty-eight of our shipmates killed and another fifty seriously burned or wounded.

I strove desperately to rid myself of the picture of that blazing turret—the bodies of the dead sprawled grotesquely in pools of blood and the bewildered wounded staggering forward for medical aid—but I was forced to see it through. Once again I heard the banging of hammers, hammers that pounded throughout the long night as tired men worked steadily building coffins for forty-eight shipmates lying in little groups on the fantail. We put into Chilatjap the following day, that stinking fever ridden little port on the South Coast of Java. Here we sadly unloaded our wounded and prepared to bury our dead. It seemed that in the hum of the blowers I detected strains of the Death March—the same mournful tune that the band played as we carried our comrades through the heat of those sunburned, dusty streets of Chilatjap. I saw again the brown poker-faced natives dressed in sarongs, quietly watching us as we buried our dead in the little Dutch cemetery that looked out over the sea. I wondered what those slim brown men thought of all this.”


31 January 1942 [Saturday]

English Translation

Arrived outside Tjilatjap.  Both escorts could sail in immediately, but we must anchor outside. The Peisander signalled:  ‘Submarine close’ and could immediately go inside, but it doesn’t seem to apply to us. I think they understood the Englishman was tired and so had invented the submarine.

We didn’t get to the buoy until 11.30,  even though we had arrived at 4.45.  Even more ships here than last time.  Also, the small dock from Priok has been brought here; and the Barentsz has the best workbenches from KPM on board to serve as a floating workshop.

I had sent word to Kaki from Merak to message Kitty to come to Tjilatjap and she had indeed arrived!  De Leeuw (ex K v/d Z and SMN) has provided a lot of help and after a lot of trouble we got a room in the outbuildings from the Ambonese, seaman 1st class KNM.

Kitty looks young, attractive and well groomed. Whole day on board and in the evening slept on shore. I am feeling extremely happy and blissful.

Dutch Original

Arriveren buiten Tjilatjap. De beide escorts loopen meteen naar binnen, doch wij moeten buiten ankeren.  De “Peisander” seint: “O/z nabij”, en mag meteen naar binnen, maar schijnt dat niet voor ons te gelden.  Ik denk dat ze wel begrepen dat die Engelschman ‘t zat was en zoodoende een o/z [onderzeeer] verzon.

Wij komen pas ten 11.30 a/d [aan de] boeien, terwijl we reeds om 4.45 aangekomen zijn. Liggen nog meer schepen dan de vorige keer. Ook het kleine dok uit Priok is hier naar toe gebracht; en de “Barentsz” heeft de beste [werk]banken v/d [van de] KPM a/b om als drijvende werkplaats te dienen.

Ik had Kaki vanuit Merak Kitty laten waarschuwen om naar Tjilatjap te komen en was ze inderdaad gearriveerd! De Leeuw (ex K v/d Z en SMN) heeft erg veel hulp gegeven en kregen wij na heel veel soesah een kamertje i/d [in de] bijgebouwen v/d [van de] Ambonnees, matroos 1e klas KNM.

Kitty zag er jong, knap en goed verzorgd uit. De heelen dag a/b [aan boord] en ‘s avonds a/d [aan de] wal gepit. Voel me buitengewoon senang en gelukkig.

Supplementary Information

SMN – Stoomvart Maatschappij Nederland or the Netherlands Steamship Co. founded in 1870.  World War II caused disruption and heavy losses to the fleet, but in 1941 the company diversified into the tramping trade.

K v/d Z  – Kweekschool voor de Zeevaart – naval training college / cadet school for sailors in Amsterdam

KNM – Possibly an acronym for the Royal Norwegian Navy (Kongelige Norske Marine)

30 January 1942 [Friday]

English Translation

Despite overcast weather and rain, we hold formation quite well.  I am even able to leave the watch to the helmsman and it seems to be working.   At 11, the HM vd Zaan comes to help us, which is reassuring, because Tulsa is only an old gunboat from the Chinese coast.

The Japanese are 29 miles from Singapore.

Dutch Original

Ondanks donker weer en regen wordt toch goed formatie gehouden. Laat ‘t zelfs nu al door de stuurman v/d [van de] wacht doen, en ook het slagen regelen. Om 11 u komt HM “v/d Zaan” ons helpen, wat een rustig gevoel geeft, want die “Tulsa” is slechts een oud kannoneer bootje v/d [van de] China-coast.  Japs zijn 29’ van Singapore.

Supplementary Information

HM van der Laan –  from Wikipedia

HNLMS Willem van der Zaan (ML-2/N82/F824/A880) was a minelayer of the Royal Netherlands Navy that was commissioned only days before the start of World War II in September 1939. She served in England, in the Netherlands East Indies, and as a convoy escort in the Indian Ocean before returning to The Netherlands in 1945. She then served again in the  Netherlands East Indies and Dutch West Indies until 1950 when she was rebuilt and reclassified as a frigate. From 1961 she was used as an accommodation and repair ship until struck in 1970 and sold for scrap.  She was named in honour of the 17th century Schout-bij-nacht Willem Van Der Zaan.