In Memory of
U.S. Navy Fire Controlman, Second Class
Elra Franklin Barringer
Alpena, South Dakota
June 9, 1916 – December 15, 1945 (Presumptive Date)
Killed in Action aboard the USS Houston during the Battle of Sunda Strait
Elra Franklin Barringer was born June 9, 1916, in Alpena,
Beadle County, South Dakota. His mother’s name was Marjorie Jane Barringer.
Because Mrs. Barringer had moved to Los Angeles, California, Elra is considered
a California Naval casualty of WW II. On August 8, 1940, Elra Barringer enlisted
in the Navy at Omaha, Nebraska. After his boot training and advanced training,
Elra Barringer, Firecontrolman, Second Class, embarked for foreign service
aboard the USS Houston.
“On February 28 , The Houston
and the Perth proceeded to the port of Batavia in western Java, and
partially refueled before attempting that night to pass through Sunda Strait
in an effort to reach the safer waters of the Indian Ocean. As they approached
the entrance to the strait near midnight, they unexpectedly encountered a
Japanese covering force of nearly one dozen destroyers, three cruisers, and
numerous torpedo boats and minesweepers that were protecting the invasion
fleet. In the ensuing Battle of Sunda Strait, the Houston and Perth
both aggressively fired at the attacking Japanese ships at close range, but,
outnumbered and outgunned, they were no match for the enemy forces that
completely surrounded them.”
The site goes on explain the callousness with which the
Japanese machine-gunned men as they abandoned ship and tried to swim clear of
the sinking ship. Those who were not killed by the explosion and machine gun
fire, swam ashore to Java and were taken captive by the enemy. 368 out of 1068
successfully swam to shore only to endure 3 ½ years of brutality as prisoners of
war. Some did not survive. It is believed that Elra Barringer was killed in the
initial sinking of the USS Houston, but at this time his fate is unclear.
We are told by sources close to the USS Houston that Elra’s exact
death date is March1, 1942. Elra Barringer is named on the Tablets of the
Missing at Manila American Cemetery, Manila, Philippines. He was posthumously
awarded the Purple Heart.
This entry was
respectfully submitted by Sheila Hansen, Fallen Sons State Coordinator,
Spearfish, SD. Information for this entry was provided by
http://info.lib.uh.edu/speccoll/cruiser/atwar.htm, a casualty report from
the Navy, and a photo from a memorial booklet.