The Lost Battalion of Texas
This site is dedicated to the memory of the “Lost Battalion,” the American soldiers captured on Java in 1942 by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II; specifically, the Second Battalion, 131st Field Artillery Regiment (36th Division of the Texas National Guard). As prisoners of war, they, and survivors of the heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA-30), suffered 42 months of slave labor, much of the time building the 258-mile Burma-Thailand “Death” Railway connecting Burma and Thailand. They were worked and starved to death, cruelly beaten, denied medical care and contact with their kin, all while living in the most abject conditions of disease-ridden manual labor camps.
Nearly a year passed after their capture before the U.S. government learned the fate of the soldiers of the 131st Field Artillery/2nd Battalion. In the interim, it was assumed the unit was entirely lost (most of the men designated as MIA – Missing in Action) when Japanese military forces invaded the island of Java – hence the moniker, “the Texas Lost Battalion.”
The surreal and astonishing story of the men of the 131st and USS Houston (CA-30) must not be allowed to fade. As brothers in captivity, their camaraderie in chains created a unique and life-long bond. The grueling conditions of their imprisonment forever seared them as eyewitnesses to some of the most unimaginable atrocities committed in twentieth-century warfare. Of the 902 soldiers of the 131st and the survivors of USS Houston (CA-30) captured on Java, 668 of them were transported via “hellships” to Burma to build the infamous Thai-Burma Railway. 77 crewmen of USS Houston (CA-30) and 86 soldiers of the 131st perished as POWS. Most of the men of both units who died in captivity perished while working on the “death railway.”
After the war, the survivors of both units formed the “Lost Battalion Association,” which exists to this day.
As of December 2020, there remained one living survivor of the 131st FA/2nd BN, Rufus Choate of E Battery, plus Marvin Sizemore and Robert Hanley of USS Houston (CA-30) (all members of the Lost Battalion Association).
This site, WE PLAY THE GAME, the motto of the 131st Field Artillery/2nd Battalion, is presented to encourage others to join us as we seek to memorialize the individuals of this special association.
November 25, 1940
Unit assigned to Camp Bowie, Brownwood, TX
August – September 1941
‘Louisiana Maneuvers’ war games
November 21, 1941
Sail on the USAT Republic en route to PLUM assignment
December 5, 1941
USAT Republic refuels at Pearl Harbor
December 7, 1941
Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, US declares war. USAT Republic diverted to Australia.
January 11, 1942
Unit arrives at Soerabaja Java onboard the Dutch freighter MS Bloemfontein
March 8, 1942
Dutch capitulate Javanese colony, U.S. Army unit taken prisoner; move to several camps before collection at Bicycle Camp in Batavia (May 1942).
October – November 1942
Men transported by hellships to Changi prison in Singapore, then Burma (Thanbyuzyat via Moulmein) and Thailand (via Malaysia) to begin work on the Thai-Burma Railway
March – October 1943
Japanese “Speedo” period when the majority of railway building was conducted coincides with the relentless monsoon season.
October – April 1943
Railway completed. American POWS were transported to POW labor camps in Thailand, or Singapore, or Japan.
Lost Battalion and USS Houston survivors liberated after US drops nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki