A face on Memorial Day

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This is a story of just one of many in America’s history of men and women who served and died while defending this country. This one happened during WWII on a ship in the Indian Ocean. {{more:READ MORE …}}
Roy Austin was a crewman aboard the USS Houston which was in the Sunda Strait in the Indian Ocean at the end of February, 1942, less than three months after America entered the war.
On the night of February 28 through March 1, the Australian light crusier, HMAS Perth, and the American heavy cruiser USS Houston faced a major Imperial Japanese Navy task force. After a fierce battle of several hours duration, both the Perth and the Houston were sunk along with five Japanese ships.
This was the story passed on to his parents about the battle and the aftermath …

Just after 11 p.m. on February 28, the HMAS Perth and USS Houston encountered a fleet of nearly 80 Japanese ships, two carriers, five cruisers, twelve destroyers, etc.

The HMAS Perth was sunk early on and USS Houston sank around midnight. The enemy lost five ships during the battle. Witnesses have claimed Houston’s guns were still firing as she slipped beneath the waves.
Roy Austin was one of 800 men lost out of a crew of 1,168 aboard the Houston. Of the 368 crew members who made it to shore and were captured by the Japanese, 77 died as POW’s, with only 291 surviving the war.
Austin’s fate was unknown for over three years …
It would be almost 4 years before his parent would learn the fate of their son. At the war’s end in 1945, they were actually notified that he was in a hospital in Manila and would be home soon.

When he never came home. A neighbor contacted their congressman to see what was going on.
Then just before Christmas, in one of those many cruel twist of war, his parents got his official declaration of death in the mail. It turned out that the service man in the Manila hospital was a marine named R.E. Aust and not their son.
Austin returned to the sinking ship …
A survivor from the Houston and who was from Mansfield, Texas, said they [he and Roy] dove overboard together as the ship was sinking but the Executive Officer, who in command after the Captain was killed, decided to go down fighting and had a recall sounded. Roy, hearing the recall, went back to the ship while the boy from Mansfield made for the island of Java.
In the appendix of a book on the USS Houston there was a letter written by a survivor saying they were on a raft floating out to sea. Concerned they would be lost on the ocean, he and another guy decided to try and swim to Java. He wrote that “Tex” Austin followed but was never seen again.
This was his parents only hint as to their son’s fate. They did received their son’s Purple Heart medal.
He was 20 years old.
This is why we have Memorial Day.

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