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royal744
08-13-2013, 02:14 PM
Everyone in here knows about the Bataan Death March and the fall of the Philippines and Corregidor. Not so many know about the Americans trapped in Indonesia fighting alongside the Dutch, or the survivors of the USS Houston which was sunk by the Japanese in the Sunda Strait along with the remaining cruisers of the Dutch fleet. We have three survivors of this group still living in the San Antonio area. I want to honor them here. Below is an article that appeared in today's edition of the San Antonio Express-News.

One excellent book I read on the subject many years ago, is Prisoner of the Japanese. I forget the author's name. As the burials at Ft Sam Houston next door attest, the Greatest Generation is very nearly gone now.

San Antonio Express-News August 13, 2013

MILITARY CITY by Sharon Brimhall

It's time to honor members of the Lost Battalion

We are fortunate to have three surviving members of the WWII "Texas" Lost Battalion in our area. They are J. L. Summers, 92, Carl Clements, 92, and Alex Salinas, 93. They were members of the Army 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery, 36th Division, formerly of the Texas National Guard that was mobilized in November 1940. On Feb. 3,1942, they were on the island of Java, Netherlands East Indies, fighting valiantly to repel a Japanese invasion. They were joined by 368 sailors, out of a crew of 1,011, who managed to swim to shore after the Japanese sank their ship, the USS Houston, on Feb. 28. When the Dutch unconditionally surrendered the island on March 8,1942, 902 soldier and sailors became POWs of the Japanese.

They had no idea they would be "lost" by our military and by their families as they struggled to survive the horrific conditions of each day for the next 42 months, thus becoming known as the "Lost Battalion." We now know our men were packed, standing room only, into lower holds of ships, with no fresh air, no food, no water and no latrines. About 600 were transported to the jungles of Burma and Thailand, and 300 to the shipyards and coal mines near Nagasaki, Japan.

In Burma and Thailand, though tortured, beaten and starved, our men say they worked daily from "can't see to can't see," clearing the jungle, digging road beds, laying ties and rails with the most primitive of hand tools, building more than 200 miles of the "Burma-Thailand Death Railway," including the infamous Bridge on the River Kwai. They were among about 61,000 Allied prisoners of war and 180,000 natives who slaved on the "Death Railway," as the jungle heat and monsoons rotted away their clothes and malaria, dysentery, beriberi, and flesh-eating tropical ulcers battered their bodies. With no medical treatment available, approximately 106,000 died along the way, including 166 of the Lost Battalion. Guards were ordered to kill all POWs if the U.S. attacked the Japanese mainland. Some were being gathered for that purpose when our bombs fell on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, causing the Japanese to surrender.

The 738 Lost Battalion POWs who managed to survive 3-1/2 years of living hell were liberated on Aug. IS, 1945.
Every August since then, the Lost Battalion Association has held a reunion to commemorate the liberation of
those who, through suffering, had forged bonds stronger than blood. The 68th reunion was scheduled this past weekend in Dallas.

Each Lost Battalion member could relate amazing firsthand accounts of astonishing cruelty overcome by extraordinary courage, determination, faith, ingenuity and selfless sacrifice for their "buddy." Lost Battalion artifacts can be seen at the Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry in Austin and the Wise County Heritage Museum in Decatur. This is written in honor of current Lost Battalion members and in loving memory of those deceased, including my father, Onis L. Brimhall, and my uncle, Clifford O. Brimhall, who both worked on the "Death Railway."

Sharon Brimhall lives in San Antonio.

Wittmann
08-24-2013, 10:02 PM
Great Post royal.

I used to think of the Lost Battalion as WW1 US Army 77th Division, until I read your post, now I'll think of the WW2 US Army 141st also.

Hopefully they will honor all those men, a nice memorial would be fitting.

I'll try looking for the book, it sounds like its a interesting one.

royal744
08-25-2013, 01:06 PM
Great Post royal.

I used to think of the Lost Battalion as WW1 US Army 77th Division, until I read your post, now I'll think of the WW2 US Army 141st also.

Hopefully they will honor all those men, a nice memorial would be fitting.

I'll try looking for the book, it sounds like its a interesting one.

Thanks, Wittman. There were, of course, thousands of Dutch and Indo (mixed race Dutch-Indonesian) soldiers of the KNIL (Dutch Colonial Army) captured at the same time who suffered equally and worked on the same bridges and in the same mines as the Americans. Because of their tropical upbringing, the Dutch generally fared better in the jungle camps if only because they knew how to deal with the horrendous climate. Prisoner of the Japanese goes into this in some detail.I can't find my copy at the moment.

forager
08-25-2013, 01:59 PM
Interesting. Presently reading some survivor accounts of Bataan.
Bad times indeed.

Wittmann
10-20-2013, 12:50 AM
These men made incredible sacrifices that our Government should always acknowledge, even during the most recent budget constraints.

Kilroy
04-10-2014, 02:29 PM
Just wow a very interesting story.I know its a bit late with the response and all but just wow. Never knew that. well that makes me that much brighter then before!