Speech by Ambassador Blake at the Commemoration of USS Houston, Sunda Strait

Admiral Williams,
Commander Foley and the men and women of the USS Sampson,
Australian Ambassador Grigson,
First Admiral Choky Hutabarat,
First Admiral Rasyid Kacong,
Mr. Dana Charles, representing the relatives of the USS Houston sailors,

I am delighted to be here for this important commemoration.

Let me first recognize and thank the Indonesian Navy for their support in bringing us to the Sampson today and for honoring us with their presence.

Let me also welcome to Indonesia Commander Foley and the crew of the USS SAMPSON.  Following the tragic loss of AirAsia flight QZ 8501, they answered our call to help and had the honor of participating in the Basarnas-led search and rescue operations.

And let me recognize and welcome Australian Ambassador Grigson and all of our Australian partners.  America has no closer friend than Australia.

Today we mark the loss of the USS HOUSTON and HMAS PERTH  “73 years ago today” and we remember the sacrifice of more than 1,000 naval personnel who lost their lives, many of them in heroic circumstances.

The Houston and Perth were greatly outnumbered but fought with valor during the Battle of Sunda Strait on 28 February 1942.

The Houston’s commanding officer, Capt Albert Rooks, who went down with his ship, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest US military honor, for his extraordinary heroism during the battle.

I have had the privilege of meeting several relatives of Houston personnel who continue to visit Indonesia to remember and honor their lost relatives.

They remind us of our duty to protect war graves such as these, here and all over the world.  We thank our Indonesian partners for their commitment to do so.

Standing on board the USS Sampson and above the final resting place of the USS HOUSTON, we span the long history of the United States as a Pacific nation.

Together with our allies and partners throughout the region, we have shared the burden and the sacrifices required to safeguard peace, security, and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific for well over a century.

President Obama has reaffirmed on many occasions our commitment to the Pacific not only through enhanced security partnerships but through increased cooperation on trade, the environment, and building people-to-people ties.

The Comprehensive Partnership between the U.S. and Indonesia is now driving cooperation between the US and Indonesia to new heights.

One important pillar of that partnership is our security cooperation.  With a strong foundation of common democratic values and common interests, the US is proud to be Indonesia’s largest and most frequent exercise partner.

As we cooperate to enhance maritime security, respond to natural and human disasters, we are laying the foundation for even closer ties as we work to lay the groundwork to support President Jokowi’s maritime axis vision and embark on new areas of collaboration such as cyber-security.

So the future is bright.  But we must never forget the past and the heroism and sacrifice of those who have come before us.
As prepared.