USS Houston (CA-30)

USS Houston, hosting President Roosevelt aboard in October, 1935. Hard to see in this photo is the Presidential Flag flying from Houston's mainmast. Photo in the collections of the US Navy History & Heritage Command.

Ship Class
Ship Type
Laid Down

USS Houston (CA-30) was a Northampton-class cruiser, commissioned 17 June, 1930. Like the rest of her class, Houston was originally designated as a light cruiser, but re-rated as a heavy after the London Naval Conference. Houston spent most of the 30s in the Pacific, and served as the flagship of the Asiatic Fleet from 1931-33, landing Navy and Marine personnel ashore during the Manchurian Incident in 1931. Houston was also a favorite of President Roosevelt, and hosted him for three cruises in peacetime. Houston was deployed to the Philippines in November, 1940, and resumed duty as Asiatic Fleet Flagship. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Houston was sent to Australia, and from there joined the Allied ABDA fleet. Houston shot down four Japanese aircraft on 4 February, 1942, but her number three turret was disabled by a bomb hit in exchange. Houston scored another seven on the 16th while escorting a convoy, and narrowly missed the air raid on Darwin, Australia, three days later. On the 27th, Houston and the ABDA fleet engaged a Japanese surface force in the Battle of the Java Sea. Turret three was still out of action, but Houston took no further damage during the Battle. She retired from the area with HMAS Perth, and attempted to rearm and refuel on the 28th, but both were in short supply. That night, the two cruisers attempted to pass through the Sunda Strait, which was thought to be clear, and ran into a Japanese invasion force. Cut off, the Allied cruisers opened up with whatever they had left, and managed to damage several ships, sink a transport and a minesweeper, and force others to be beached. Houston followed Perth down shortly after midnight on 1 March, with the loss of two-thirds of her crew. Houston's wreck was thoroughly documented in 2014 and 2015, and has been the victim of illegal salvage operations.