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Standing Watch

Standing Watch

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Standing Watch

203 pagine
2 ore
Sep 19, 2019


The road of life brings events along the way that may offer changes to a person's destiny. This story is about the life of William Wright Stevens Jr. and the family he descended from. He was one of the heroes on board the USS Houston (Heavy Cruiser C-A-30), which also served the flagship of the US Navy. The life events helped make the heroes they were as they met their destiny still standing watch.

Sep 19, 2019

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Standing Watch - Carol Stevens Henley-Hess

Standing Watch

Carol Stevens Henley-Hess

Copyright © 2019 Carol Stevens Henley-Hess

All rights reserved

First Edition


New York, NY

First originally published by Page Publishing, Inc. 2019

ISBN 978-1-64544-944-7 (Paperback)

ISBN 978-1-64544-945-4 (Digital)

Printed in the United States of America

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25


This book is dedicated to all the men who lost their lives or became prisoners that day, for no one will ever wonder, nor doubt, the brave and noble deeds they did to deserve the honor of becoming a hero posthumously, or for those who did survive, bearing the scars that have been forever etched in their memory and on their bodies. The tragedy that has lingered since that time is that they gave the ultimate gift to America, and yet many Americans do not know their names, nor do they know anything about the men, the short lives they lived or the stories that the fortunate ones lived to tell. Many do not even know about the heroic deeds of the men on the Houston as she died in the sea still firing at the enemy with her decks awash and sinking. America and, most importantly, their families will not forget them.


During the writing of this book, the author had the pleasure of communicating with Basil Bunyard, POW, and Howard Brooks, POW, who were electrician’s Mates on the USS Houston . Mr. Brooks, via phone interview on September 17, 2005, remembered William Wright Stevens Jr. in the mess hall and felt certain that he went down with the ship on March 1, 1942. It is his belief that Bill was not one of the forty-eight sailors buried on Japatajap, nor did he believe that Bill was a POW. The family deeply appreciates his help. Mr. Bunyard, via letter, offered assistance but could not remember Bill. The family appreciates his letter. Most of all, it was quite a pleasure to be fortunate enough to have any contact at all with these two brave men who were on the USS Houston .

A new friend, Carolyn Raz, popped into my life via internet and connections to the USS Houston Survivor’s Association and the Next Generation. Carolyn contacted me after reading something I posted asking for information about Bill. Her father was an Army Air Force B-17 pilot (1st lieutenant) with the Bomb Group in Java at the same time as the USS Houston was in the area. The plane that was to pick him up developed mechanical problems. Her father and a friend named Hess had to fend for themselves. They were hidden in the city of Bandung, Java, and joined the Dutch underground.

He was captured by the Japanese in September of 1942, joining the sailors and marines that had been captured following the sinking of the USS Houston and the capture of the Lost Battalion, a Texas National Guard unit that had become the first POWs of World War II.


We hear the word hero often in our lives. To some, a hero may be a person to look up to such as an athlete who has achieved a goal that is admired. To others, a hero can be defined as a person who has done something brave or noble, such as a soldier, sailor, or marine might do in order to protect our country. We do know that heroes can be found in all shapes, sizes, colors, ages and genders, and in all parts of the world. In some timeless way, heroes have been around since time began, and if we are lucky, they will be among us until the end of time.

The road of life brings events along the way that may offer changes to a person’s destiny. This story is about the life of William Wright Bill Stevens Jr. and the family he descended from. William Wright Bill Stevens Jr. was one of the heroes on board the USS Houston (heavy cruiser CA-30), which also served as the flagship for the US Navy during the Asiatic Fleet battles of World War II. The families and life events helped to make the men on the Houston the heroes they were as they met their destiny that fateful day of March 1, 1942. Many of these heroes still stand watch in the Java Sea and the Sunda Strait.

Chapter 1

When the Records Began

Years before World War II, a lot of immigrants from other countries all over the world were making their way to various parts of the United States, the land of opportunity. These young, adventuresome men and women were leaving their homelands to come to the United States for a fresh start and a chance at some of those opportunities. Some of the immigrants from England included Spencer and Elizabeth Stevens. Seeking a bit of adventure and a better homelife, they somehow endured many hardships while making their way to the United States and entering the path of citizenship in the United States. The first actual records of this family began with the birth of their son, William H. Stevens, who was born in Rowen County, North Carolina, on February 26, 1796. Later, Spencer, Elizabeth, and William traveled to Liberty, Indiana, in Union County to make their home.

At the age of twenty-three, William met a young woman and married her. Her name is not known, but they had a child and named him Wright Franklin. When Wright Franklin was twenty-three years of age, he met Celia Snyder, who was a lovely German immigrant. Wright was determined to win her heart. All went well, it seems, for after a short courtship, Wright and Celia married. The young couple decided to remain in Liberty, Indiana, where several children were born to them. Known children of the couple were Robert Stevens who was born in 1861, Charles who was born in 1864, and Isaac William, birth year unknown. At the age of seventeen, Charles and his older brother, Robert, left their home in Liberty, Indiana, on horseback to head west for a little adventure and a new life of their own, just like their ancestors before them had done.

The boys suspected that they might encounter some outlaws or Indians along the way, but that did not stop them. Keep in touch and stay safe, my dear sons, their mother said as she hugged them. We will meet again, Wright Franklin said to his sons as he shook their hands and then gave each one a quick embrace before they mounted their horses. Wright slipped his arm around Celia and held her closely while the couple watched with sadness as their two oldest children rode away and left the only life they had ever known. Wright told his wife, Honey, as my father and my grandfather always said, they are Stevenses, and they can take care of themselves.

Upon reaching Oklahoma Territory, Charles and Robert were very impressed with the beauty of the mountains and the natural shelters they found in the big boulders. They decided to stay and camp for a while in order to enjoy the picturesque scenery and majestic beauty of the mountains. A couple of days later, while doing a little exploring around the mountains, Charles heard something that sounded like they had some visitors close by and asked his brother, Do you hear voices?

His brother replied, Yes, get down and lie low until we find out who it is. You never can tell in these wild parts.

They scooted and crawled around until they found where the sounds were coming from. After listening for quite a long time, the young men discovered who they believed the voices belonged to. It’s Sam Bass and his gang, whispered Charles. I heard back home they have been crisscrossing this country and robbing and killing for more than ten years.

Well, I know this much, muttered his brother. I don’t want to tangle with them. Luckily for the young men, they were not trapped in that hiding position too long before the notorious Sam Bass and his gang packed up and quietly rode away down the mountain, never discovering the Indiana boys.

When Charles and Robert felt confident that Sam and his gang were probably long gone and that it was safe to venture back to their camp, the young men decided they had seen enough scenery and packed up their gear. Heading the horses down the mountain, they crossed the Red River and continued south to Texas. Hey, little brother, the Red River rightfully earned its name, don’t you think? asked Robert.

Yes, it’s a beauty all right. Once we cross it, we have made it to Texas, added Charles.

The year was 1881 when Charles and Robert crossed the Red River and rode into Gainesville, Texas, the county seat for the county of Cooke. Trotting their horses into town, they looked around and liked what they saw. Hey, this courthouse and the town square and businesses remind me of Liberty. I think we might just want to stay here awhile, Robert said excitedly.

Sounds good to me, added Charles. That was quite a long ride from Oklahoma and across the Red River. I could use a good shower and some rest.

The little town had just become of age a few years before when another man named Frederick Stevens, New York capitalist (no relation to Charles and Robert) had become interested in the construction of the Denison and Pacific Railway from Denison to Gainesville. While Gainesville had been the port of call for cattle drivers for some years, the railroad gave strength to the cattle shipping industry. Great herds were being driven to Gainesville instead of being taken overland to Abilene, Kansas. This transformed Gainesville from a frontier village where stage coaches changed horses, to the hub of the great Texas cattle industry. A dozen or more millionaires emerged from all these transactions in Gainesville. Banks, hotels, the Gainesville Public School System, and the Gainesville Water Company were all in place when Charles and Robert made their entrance.

These are pictures of downtown Gainesville, Texas, during the early 1880s when Charles and Robert Stevens rode in to town. (Photos –

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