In Memory of
Navy Wat Tend 2C
John Roger Bell
Watertown, South Dakota
July 22, 1914 – February 28, 1942
Killed in Action
aboard the USS Houston in the Sunda Strait
John Roger Bell was born July 22,
1914, in Watertown, South Dakota, to Clement and Ora Bell. Raised and educated
in Watertown, John Roger joined the Navy in October of 1935 at Omaha, Nebraska.
John was a Navy Water Tender Second
Class. He was on the U.S. Houston, and we are told his job would have
placed him in the deepest part of the ship. This ship was around Indonesia at
the time where the Battle of the Java Sea took place. On February 28, 1942, late
at night, the USS Houston was “outnumbered and outgunned” by the enemy.
Although many sailors were able to abandon ship before it sunk, lots of them
were gunned down in the water by the Japanese. Those who managed to swim to
shore were taken captive. Many did not survive their harsh treatment as POWs.
However, since John Bell was in the deepest part of the ship, he probably had no
chance of survival during the sinking.
After the war, he was declared legally
dead, because he was never seen again by any of his surviving shipmates or in
Japanese prisoner of war camps. His death date is considered to be February 28,
1942, but his “official” presumption of death is December 15, 1945. John was
awarded the Purple Heart and is on the Tablets of the Missing at Manila American
Cemetery in the Philippines.
This entry was respectfully
submitted by Laiken Lensegrav, 8th Grade West, Spearfish Middle
School, Spearfish, South Dakota, February 11, 2000. Information for this entry
was provided by Richard W. Bell of Watertown, South Dakota, brother of Navy Wat
Tend 2-C Bell; Mrs. Jean Dorman and Margaret Tillma, Castlewood, South Dakota,
sisters of John Roger Bell, Gerald R. Cornelius, and