Pacific News Minute: Wrecks of British, Dutch & US Vessels Stolen by Scavengers off Indonesia

Nov 22, 2016

Credit tata_aka_T / Flickr

The Dutch and British Governments have sent protests to Indonesia after they learned that scrap metal scavengers had stolen the wrecks of naval vessels sunk during the Second World War.  The wreck of an American submarine was also salvaged. We have more from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

Call it the second Battle of the Java Sea. A Dutch expedition to document the sunken vessels for a 75th anniversary commemoration of the battle found only holes in the sea bed where two cruisers used to rest, and just pieces of a destroyer...on a hunch, the expedition also looked for the wrecks of three British vessels, to find them missing as well.

The 3D map of the sea floor, first reported by the Guardian, also found that salvagers removed the remains of the submarine USS Perch.

All the ships were lost in February, 1942, when an improvised force of Dutch, British and American ships set out to attack Japanese convoys carrying troops for the invasion of Java. Instead, they found a well drilled squadron of Japanese cruisers.  In a stubborn, but one sided battle, Dutch Admiral Karel Doorman lost half his ships; the admiral was among more than a thousand killed, with hundreds more taken prisoner, including the entire crew of USS Perch.

The wrecks were discovered by divers in 2002 and apparently removed, bit by bit, by local operators. The Netherlands protested: "The desecration of a war grave is a serious offense." And the British Ministry of defense condemned the "unauthorized disturbance of any wreck containing human remains." "The Indonesian navy cannot monitor all areas all the time," a spokesman told Agence France Presse in Jakarta. "If they ask why the ships are missing, I'm going to ask them back, why didn't they guard the ships?"