The Lost Battalion
Battalion, 131st Field Artillery Regiment
36th Division, Texas National Guard
On 22 November
1941, with the United States observing an uneasy peace, the 2nd
Battalion, 131st Field Artillery Regiment, under the command of Lt.
Col. Blutcher S. Tharp of Amarillo, Texas boarded the troop transport
USS Republic (AP-33) in San Francisco. The soldiers knew their destination
only by the code name, “Plum”.
USS Republic was built in 1907 in Belfast, Ireland for a German
Steamship Company. The U.S. confiscated the ship during World War I and
In 1920 the President Grant was transferred to the U.S. Army and
renamed USAT Republic, then in July of 1941 the
transferred to the Navy and commissioned USS Republic
(AP–33). Her armament consisted of one 5” and four 3” mounts.
Complete History of the Republic
USS Republic Offloading Troops at Pearl Harbor
This Photo taken on a Later Trip
15 August 1942
|The 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery on board the USS
Republic reached Pearl Harbor on 29 November 1491. In Pearl, the
Republic joined with three other transport and cargo ships and the
cruiser USS Pensacola to form a convoy for the remainder of the trip
to “Plum”. The convoy sailed west on 30 November leaving behind a peaceful
Pearl Harbor. Once at sea, destination “Plum” was revealed to be the Manila
Bay in the Philippine Islands.
USS Pensacola (CA-24)
On 7 December
the peace was shattered at Pearl Harbor by the surprise Japanese attack.
That same day, the USS Republic, en route to “Plum” (the Philippines)
had recently crossed the equator, and the men of the 2nd
Battalion, 131st Field Artillery along with the sailors of the
Republic were beginning the traditional ritual of initiating those men
crossing the equator for the first time, into the “Mysterious Realm of
Neptune Rex.” Officers and enlisted men alike were initiated. During the
ceremony, normally quite joyous, the Republic’s captain announced
that Pearl Harbor had been attacked, and that the U.S. and Japan were at
war. The ships of the convoy increased their spacing and began wartime
In mid-December the convoy carrying the Texans arrived in the Fiji Islands
for fuel and supplies. After replenishment, the the convoy sailed for the
Philippines. En route, news was received that the Japanese had invaded the
Philippines; the convoy was ordered to sail instead to Brisbane, Australia.
The Texans of the 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery
arrived in Brisbane on 23 December 1941. The battalion spent Christmas
in Brisbane, but before 1941 ended, was aboard another ship, this time the
Dutch icebreaker SS Bloemfontein.
Political Map of Southeast Asia in 1940
Battalion, 131st Field Artillery, aboard the
Bloemfontein made a brief stop at Port Darwin before sailing for the
Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) island of Java and arrived in the Javanese
port of Surabaya on 11 January 1942.
The reality of war became all too real to the Texans as the harbor was
strewn with partially sunk ships and the docks heavily damaged by
The 538 Texans
of the 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery Regiment disembarked in Surabaya,
Java and were placed under direct command of the Dutch government. It
was an unceremonious welcome to World War II.
From Surabaya, the Texans moved inland to a Dutch
military post (Camp Singasari) near the town of Malang. Meanwhile the
Japanese were landing troops on the Island of Borneo (now Kalimantan)
located just North of Java and later in January on the nearby island of
Celebes (now Sulawesi) and by early February, both islands were securely in
Japan’s possession. During February of 1942, the Japanese also invaded and
captured the Islands of Sumatra, Bali and Timor, and were poised to take the
main island of Java, the Texans’ new home.
|Meanwhile... Battle of Sundra S
USS Houston (CA-30)
Thank you for
your patience. I am continuing to compile information and will post it
to Photo Album