“The galloping Ghost of the Java Coast”






Bio of John E. Hood

John was born November 13, 1921 in Goodell, Iowa to Bert and Agnes Hood. He moved to Des Moines, Iowa, when he was 5 years old. John went to Stowe elementary, Woodrow Wilson Jr. High, and then on to East High School and graduated in June 1940.


A few days after graduation, John joined the navy and was stationed at Great Lakes, I1. for his basic training. After his training was completed he was assigned to the U.S.S. Houston (CA 30), September 1940. The U.S.S Houston stopped in Pearl Harbor, Guam, and the Philippines until March 1, 1942. On that day his ship was sunk by the Japanese near Java in the Java Sea. The ship was on fire after being hit by torpedo's and shell fire. The U.S.S. Houston had run out of ammunition. After abandoning ship they were still fired upon. John had a life jacket on and was in the water 12 hours before a Japanese boat picked him up.


There were 368 survivors, out of about a 1000 men that were on board the ship. They in turn were taken as slave laborers, prisoners of war. At first they were put to work unloading weapons, supplies, and other cargo on Java. Later, John was taken with other prisoners to Burma India to work on a railroad that the Japanese were building from Burma to Thailand. The work consisted of clearing the jungle, making embankments, and laying railroad track. The railroad construction was made famous, in 1957 Academy Award Winning Motion Picture, "Bridge over River Kwai".


While the men were prisoners of war they lived in long bamboo huts, and they slept on bamboo for a bed. Most of the time it was very hot, and they had many monsoons. They marched too and from the work sight each day. At first they got 1 day off every 10 days, but, when the deadline drew near. They had to work harder and longer hours. John lost 50 pounds while being a prisoner of war. When the bridge was complete, some of the men were moved to Indochina, which is now called Vietnam.


The men were liberated, at daylight, September 6, 1945 by 6-C47's. John (pictured at right, 1945, with his two uncles, after retuning from 3 ½ years as a POW) had to finish 10 more months of his 6 year enlistment after having his medical check-up. He was stationed in San Diego, California. He was discharged from the Navy June 23, 1946.


After John's discharge, he returned to his home in Des Moines, Iowa. He worked as an inspector for Meredith Publishing Company. He retired from Meredith Publishing Company after 35 years. During those 35 years, John was a quiet person and mostly a loner. On April 10, 1987 John had to have a major surgery. The procedure to be done was a colostomy and was done at the Des Moines Veteran Hospital. After his surgery they found the nerves in his hands, and arms, had been damaged. So for 7 more months, he was in 3 different hospitals, for a lot of physical therapy. Even now, after 18 years, his left had is stiff and he cannot make a fist.





During his recovery he came out of his shell. His 3 sisters, Alberta Hull 78, Shirley Dalton 69, and Carol Wessel 61, and all other family members were so happy to have him back in our Lives.


This year at 83 1/2 years old, John didn't feel up to driving from Iowa to Texas for this year's annual U.S.S. Houston Reunion. He now has Diabetes, a Pace Maker, and takes High Blood Pressure medication. He lives alone, in a cozy home near the Iowa State Fairgrounds. And he just bought a new 2005 Ford Taurus.



We all Love Him, and we are "OH" so Proud of Him. "HE IS OUR HERO"

(Written and Produced by Alberta Hull and Carol Wessel 5-1-2005)