The Battle of Sunda Strait and the sinking of HMAS Perth and USS Houston
Fragment from ‘The Java Gold’
…The Java Sea had now become a death-trap to Allied ships and the captains of the heavy cruisers USS ‘Houston’ and HMAS ‘Perth’ were eager to escape and to sail for the relative safety of Tjilatjap on Java’s south coast.
Admiral Helfrich’s naval intelligence staff warned them of a second Japanese invasion fleet approaching Western Java. They urged them to sail an evasive northerly course, first towards the Borneo coast, then due west, hugging the Sumatra shoreline. Thus they might be able to sneak unobserved through the dangerous Sunda strait choke point.
Unfortunately, they next visited Admiral Hugh Palliser, senior British commander present, who did not share the Dutch view. He and his staff advised the commanders to take their vulnerable and unprotected cruisers on a straight, high-speed dash for the Sunda strait and the freedom of the Indian Ocean…
It all ended in disaster. Perth and Houston ran into a superior Japanese fleet and both ships were sunk. Captain Hector Wallace and Captain Al Rooks went down with their ships…
And since that time,USS Houston (here seen on a visit to Hawaii) is nicknamed ‘The Galloping Ghost of the Java Coast’
I added a description of the ‘Battle of Sunda Strait’ under ‘Military Background’