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"Death Railway" American "Lost Battalion" Survivors

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A Thailand 20-Baht note attributed to the "Death Railway" and the American POWs of the "Lost Battalion." It is signed by several of the crew of the USS HOUSTON, men of the 2nd Battalion of 131st Field Artillery Regiment, and two others held in the Thai and Burma camps.


W.J. Weissinger Jr. Sea 1/c--S1/c William J. Weissinger Jr. (USS Houston)

P.W. Skillern--Pvt Paul W. Skillern (D Battery, 131st FA)

J.M. Hamill--Lt (jg) John M. Hamill (USS Houston)

H.S. Hamlin Jr.--Ens Harold S. Hamlin Jr. (USS Houston)

C.D. Smith--Ens Charles D. Smith II (USS Houston)

A.F. Smoke--Pvt Albert F Smoke (F Battery, 131st FA)

Walter A. Bowers--PFC Walter A. Bowers (D Battery, 131st FA)

B.H. Spann--PFC Buster H. Spann (D Battery, 131st FA)

H.T. Wright--Pvt Houston T. Wright (F Battery, 131st FA)

J.B. Nelson--Ens John B. Nelson (USS Houston)

Warren A. Williams, Killeen, Texas--PFC Warren A. Williams (HQ Battery, 131st FA)

Cpl John H. Kinyon FTC--Cpl John H. Kinyon (FTC-Air Transport Command)


* Kinyon was one of the ATC crew that flew the survivors back to the US.



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Matty Marinos--S1/c Matthew M. Marinos (USS Houston)

Jack Yarbro--GM1/c Robert Lee Yarbro (USS Houston)

John Templeman--S1/c Edward John Templeman (USS Houston)

C.A. Back Jr.--SF3/c Col A. Back Jr. (USS Houston)

Gordon V. Stoddard--SSgt Gordon V. Stoddard (Army Air Corps)

C.L. Thomas--S2/c Charley L. Thomas (USS Stewart)

V.S. Roberts--F1/c Valdon S. Roberts (USS Houston)

Paul W. Skillern--duplicate signature



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According to records, these men were in the second flight of survivors to arrive in the US. They departed Calcutta on September 8, 1945, and arrived in Washington, DC on September 11. Here is a great photo of the USS Houston survivors posed as they debarked the plane. Note that Thomas is pictured with them, but he was actually a crewman of the USS Stewart and captured while in Java to receive medical treatment. Too bad there is not a similar photo of the other men on this flight, the other signers of the note.



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Hamill, Hamlin, and Smith were among the few officers to survive the sinking of the USS Houston and captivity. They, along with others of the other crew that signed this note, gave testimony on the sinking and their time held by the Japanese. They are also referenced in such works as the "Ship of Ghosts." Weissinger went on to write a book titled "Attention, Fool!--A Crewman of the USS Houston Survives Its Sinking and Japanese Death Camps in Burma."


Gordon Stoddard appears to have been captured in the Philippines while with the Army Air Corps. He may have been on a flight crew. I can find little on him. One on-line reference says he was a survivor of the Bataan "Death March." His obit indicates he received the Purple Heart and Silver Star. In 1945, he also was "posthumously" awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for action in 1942. Presentation must have been made before he was found alive in a Japanese camp. Not sure how he ended up with the HOUSTON and 131st FA guys.

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Very cool item! I am actually reading Ship of Ghosts right now, Scott.


I have ordered a copy of Weissinger's book. I am anxious to read what he says about his liberation and return to the States. He may make mention of the flight home and those aboard the plane with him. I have also discovered oral interviews of a couple of the other men. I need to try to get copies.


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