Navy Memorabilia

Colbert, Patrick L.

Rank: Motor Machinist Mate 2c
Serial Number: 3283329
Military Branch: USS Houston, CA-30
Origin: California
Date of Death: 1942-3-1
Manila American Cemetery
Featured: No

No real biographical data has been found about Patrick Leo Colbert. What is known is that his parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Jerome Colbert, were living in Page, North Dakota at the time of his death. He was recruited in Los Angeles and shows up at the San Diego Receiving Ship on July 30, 1940. He reported on board the Houston on September 3, 1940 as MM2C that would indicate that he had already been in the service for a few years. He is listed as missing in action on March 1, 1942.

MM2C  Patrick Colbert was killed in action on the USS Houston during the Battle of Sunda Strait as described below.

On 28 February 1942, the day after the Battle of the Java Sea, the ABDA cruisers Perth and Houston steamed into Banten Bay. It is believed that they had no knowledge of the Japanese battle fleet, their last intelligence report having stated that the only Japanese warships in the area were 50 miles away and headed away. It is however possible that they were hoping to damage the Japanese invasion forces there. The two ships were attacked as they approached the bay, but evaded the nine torpedoes launched by destroyer Fubuki.

The cruisers then reportedly sank one transport and forced three others to beach. It is more likely that the transports were damaged by some of the over 90 Long Lance torpedoes fired at the two cruisers by Japanese destroyers. A Japanese destroyer squadron blocked Sunda Strait their means of retreat, and the Japanese heavy cruisers Mogami and Mikuma stood dangerously near. The Houston and Perth could not withdraw. Perth came under fire at 23:36 and in an hour had been sunk from gunfire and torpedo hits. Houston then fought alone until soon after midnight, when she was struck by a torpedo and began to lose headway.

Houston's gunners had scored hits on three different destroyers and sank a minesweeper, but then suffered three more torpedo explosions in quick succession. Captain Albert Rooks was killed by a bursting shell at 00:30 and as the ship came to a stop Japanese destroyers moved in, machine gunning the decks. A few minutes later, Houston rolled over and sank, her ensign still flying. Of the original crew of 1,061 men, 368 survived, including 24 of the 74-man USMC detachment.

Houston's fate was not fully known by the world for almost nine months, and the full story of her last fight was not told until after the war was over and her survivors were liberated from prison camps. Before then, on 30 May 1942, 1,000 new recruits for the Navy, known as the Houston Volunteers, were sworn in at Houston, Texas to replace those believed lost on Houston. On 12 October 1942 the light cruiser Vicksburg (CL-81) then under construction was renamed Houston in honor of the old ship.

Here is a link to a first person account of the Houston sinking:

MM2c Colbert's officially engraved posthumous army style slot brooch Purple Heart is the centerpiece of this memorial. The Purple Heart is edge numbered 398176. The engraving is typical of late war awards. The fate of the crew was not known until after the war and survivors were released from prison camps. It is presumed that this Purple Heart was not awarded until late 1945 or early 1946.

SOLD to a collector 04-2021 

[ Back ]