•  Mr. Speaker, over 72 years ago, the 2nd Battalion of the 131st Field Artillery Regiment (36th Division--Texas National Guard) gathered and met for the first time. The 2nd Battalion was predominately made up of a scrappy group of Northwest Texas farmhands who hailed from towns like Abilene, Wichita Falls and Lubbock. About a year after their initial encounter, the group was detached from its division in Texas and sent out west to the San Francisco Bay where they were told that they would soon be on route to PLUM, a code-name for a destination unknown to the boys from the prairie lands of Texas.
  • The 2nd Battalion arrived in Pearl Harbor a few days later on November 28, but immediately departed after being warned of a possible Japanese attack. The tragic prediction came true, and on December 7, 1941, the 2nd Battalion was informed that Pearl Harbor was indeed attacked by the Japanese and that the United States was now at war. After leaving Hawaii, the Battalion headed over to Brisbane, Australia, where they spent Christmas until boarding a Dutch ship and setting sail for Java, an island in the Dutch East Indies, shortly before New Year's Day. They arrived at Java on January 11 and stayed for nearly two months, sharing the island with troops from the Netherlands and Australia, among other allied countries.
  • After weeks of uncertainty, the boys started to grow restless as they pondered what their next assignment would be. Then, on February 28, their lives would change forever as they heard a quick succession of loud explosions. At this point explosions were sounding off faster than they could count and it became evident that the war's Pacific Theater was quickly encompassing their temporary island home of Java. As the melting pot of troops watched the horizon, they noticed something that appeared to be men swimming ashore. The dozens they first saw quickly turned into hundreds and the onshore troops soon learned that the men were all sailors aboard the USS Houston (a ship that was anchored nearby). The USS Houston was made up almost entirely of volunteers from the city of Houston, many of whom were just teenagers. That evening, Japanese forces surrounded and attacked the USS Houston, killing all but 368 of the 1,011 men aboard. The surviving sailors swam ashore, joined the 534 men of the 2nd Battalion, and would soon become known as the ``Lost Battalion.''
  • Though the allied troops on the beaches of Java held off for as long as they could, they finally succumbed to Japanese forces on March 8 after days of relentless, back-and-forth artillery fire. Within a matter of weeks, all of the remaining soldiers of the 2nd Battalion and the USS Houston were together at one camp as Japanese prisoners of war. This group of 902 men, nearly all of whom hailed from Texas, soon disappeared, not to be seen again for three and a half years. They would go on to be known as the ``Lost Battalion.''
  • For 42 months, these captured American sailors toiled away in different parts of Pacific Asia. Forced together through a tragic turn of events, these men banded together to overcome a set of truly awful circumstances. Physical beatings were daily and torture came to be expected. Hard labor and starvation were now part of their daily routines. But, perhaps the hardest part of it all was being separated from their families without any chance at communicating with them. Their wives, children, parents and siblings all believed they were dead. Though the Japanese camps attempted to make them wish for that fate, they never gave up hope. It was the memory of their families back in Texas that kept them going each day. Moving from island to island in the darkest, dampest bowels of the Japanese ships' smallest compartments, the men were treated like cattle. Then, once reaching their destinations they would be immediately forced into hard slave labor. Some built roads, some worked in Burmese jungles chopping down trees and some mined coal. One of the worst physical punishments was working on a railway that became known as ``The Railroad of Death.'' Working on this railroad amounted to constant torture. Over 70,000 allied soldiers died after being subjected to these horrible 20-plus hour work days. They were constantly starved, and when they did have the opportunity to eat, their food was rotten and full of insects. These men overcame slavery, torture, malnutrition, beatings and diseases, and came out of the atrocity stronger than ever with a bond that would last a lifetime.
  • Liberation didn't come until the end of the war, and when it was all said and done, 163 of the 902 men had tragically lost their lives. Among these 163 were 89 from the 2nd Battalion of the 36th Division of the Texas National Guard and 74 sailors from the USS Houston. When the surviving men were finally liberated from their hell on earth, they headed back to Texas where a celebration in Wichita Falls was waiting for them. The boys from Texas had such a good time at the celebration that they decided to make it an annual get-together. They used this get-together to not only celebrate their families and lives, but to remember their 163 comrades who perished in Japanese war camps. Though they were now safe and back home with their families, many of them would go on to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. However, their mental fortitude helped them overcome many of the adversities they faced as POW's and then as victims of PTSD.
  • The lesson the ``Lost Battalion'' taught us, and continues to teach us each day, goes further than just patriotism. Their resiliency, friendship, and faith in each other and in God are all important values that would benefit every American individual who chooses to observe them.
  • The ``Lost Battalion'' is yet another group of that rare breed we call the Greatest Generation.
  • And that's just the way it is.