Hysterical Journey to Historic Places


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North America » United States » Texas » Wichita Falls
March 17th 2020
Published: March 17th 2020
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THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAITHE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAITHE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI

The building in the background is the hospital. When General Sherman made his inspection of Fort Richardson in 1871 he commented that the hospital was a waste of money.
THE LOST BATTALION

William Holden has never been one of my favorite actors, but has been cast in two of my favorite movies: The Horse Soldiers, and Bridge on the River Kwai. Both movies, of course, were crapped up by Hollywood. They were both based on true stories that needed no embellishment of facts. The Horse Soldiers was a Civil War story about a daring cavalry raid commanded by Colonel Benjamin Grierson deep into Mississippi to disrupt the supply line to the Confederate bastion at Vicksburg. Rebel soldiers trapped in Vicksburg were reduced to dining on rats because of it. Bridge on the River Kwai was a story about some poor devils captured during WWII in Java by the Japs and forced to build a railroad across Burma and Thailand. A great many of them died of starvation, disease, exhaustion and mistreatment by the Japs. Where the story fell apart was with Holden’s role. In it he was the only survivor to swim ashore from the sinking off Java of the American cruiser USS Houston. In fact, there were hundreds of them. Not just one who had assumed the identity of an officer.

There was also an outfit known as the Lost Battalion in WWI. Those poor devils made a raid across No Man’s Land in which they were cut off from retreat, surrounded by the Bosch, and forced to hold out from attack in every direction. It was a very heroic story, but not one that should be confused with those tough bastards from West Texas who worked on the railroad for the Japs.

The 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery Regiment of the 36th Division (Texas National Guard) was mustered in during November of 1940. They completed their training and were activated into the federal service in November of 1941 with orders for the Philippines. They were still enroute to Subic Bay when the Japs attacked Pearl Harbor and Manila on December 7. The convoy was diverted to Australia and then in January of 1942 they were ordered to Java in the Dutch East Indies. On March 1, 1942 the USS Houston was sunk in the Sunda Strait off the coast of Java and 368 survivors swam ashore. On March 8 Java fell to the Japs. The sailors and the 2nd Battalion were taken prisoners along with 32500 Dutchmen, Brits, and Australians. The 2nd became the “Lost Battalion” when they stopped collecting their pay. The Japs put them to work on the railway up in Moulmein, Burma. By the time the railway was finished in 1943 about 6500 of those prisoners died. Out of 548 prisoners from the Lost Battalion only 40 of them were capable of continuing to do a day’s work on the railway by the time it was completed. What was left of them were returned to Texas in September of 1945 after we nuked the damn Japs.

It is kind of a curious thing that both of those movie favorites: The Horse Soldiers and Bridge on the River Kwai happened to intersect at Fort Richardson, Texas. Benjamin Grierson had a connection to Fort Richardson because the Kiowa chiefs who attacked General Sherman on his porch at Fort Sill in 1871were convicted of murder there, and Company F of the Lost Battalion mustered in there.

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