Battle of Sunda Strait: Tale of Two Ships

The Battle of Sunda Strait 28 Feb – 1 March 1942.

75 years ago on 28 February 1942, two ships and their crews from opposite sides of the world together faced an overwhelming Japanese naval force in the narrow Sunda Strait that separates the islands of Sumatra and Java.

In just over an hour of ferocious sea battle the cruisers HMAS Perth and USS Houston sank with the loss of 696 Americans and 375 Australians including both ships’ captains. The victorious Japanese lost 10 men.

675 Perth and Houston crew were taken prisoners of war, most forced to labour in Japanese mines or on the Thai-Burma railway. Even then the ordeal had not finished for some of them. In September 1944 Perth survivors were among the 1350 POWs being transported in the Japanese cargo ship Rakuyo Maru when it was torpedoed by the American submarine USS Pampanito. Only 191 survived this disaster.

To commemorate the Battle and remember the sacrifices of those involved, the museum’s USA Programs has commissioned the ‘Guardians of Sunda Strait’ exhibition (opens Houston on 1 March then travels to Sydney and Perth) and this short documentary movie about HMAS Perth and USS Houston and the men who sailed in them.