War graves destroyed - battle of Java Sea wrecks disappear

Arjen

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Wrecks of ships sunk during the 1942 battle of the Java Sea have disappeared.
Ships involved:
- HNLMS De Ruyter
- HNLMS Java
- HNLMS Kortenaer
- HMS Exeter
- HMS Encounter
- HMS Electra
- USS Perch
Scavenged for scrap iron. Disgusting.

http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2016/11/dutch-wwii-ship-wrecks-disappear-from-java-sea-illegal-salvage-rife-in-region/
Three Dutch warships sunk in the Battle of the Java Sea in 1942 have largely disappeared from the sea bed, defence minister Jeanine Hennis has told MPs in a written briefing. The wrecks of cruisers HNLMS De Ruyter and HMLMS Java and destroyer HMLMS Kortenaer were found by divers in the waters off Indonesia in 2002 and declared a war grave. However, the two cruisers have vanished, as has part of the destroyer, the minister told MPs on Tuesday. The discovery of the illegal salvage was made by divers during preparations for next year’s 75 year anniversary commemorations, Hennis said. The battle, involving Dutch, British, American and Australian ships, took place on February 27, 1942 and proved disastrous for the allies. Some 2,200 people died, including 900 Dutch nationals and 250 people of Indonesian Dutch origin. The divers found traces of where the ships had been using underwater photography and sonar. The minister said it is extremely important to find out what has happened to the ships, which are of great historical value to the Netherlands. ‘The Battle for Java Sea is part of our collective memory,’ the minister said. ‘The wrecks bear silent witness to the the tragic events and form a backdrop to the many stories about the terrors of war and the comradeship between crew.’ Illegal salvage The New Straits Times reported last year that illegal divers, often disguised as fishermen, were stripping sunken ships of valuable metals in the region. The South China Sea area is a graveyard for more than 100 ships and submarines from WWII, the paper said. The wrecks of the historically important HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, both sunk by the Japanese navy in 1941, are thought to be among the ships plundered in the illegal salvage. Two years ago, US military officials said there were signs that the wreck of the USS Houston, also sunk in the Battle for Java Sea, was being ‘disturbed’ and that unexploded ordnance was being taken.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/16/british-second-world-war-ships-illegal-scavenging-java-sea
Three British ships and a US submarine that sank in the Java Sea during the second world war have been destroyed by illegal scrap metal scavengers, the Guardian can reveal.

The UK’s Ministry of Defence said it condemned the “unauthorised disturbance of any wreck containing human remains” and requested Indonesian authorities investigate and take “appropriate action”.

The commercial salvaging of war wrecks has caused significant upset among veterans, historians and governments who want to preserve the final resting place of sailors who went down with their ships.

A preliminary report from an expedition to document sunken ships, seen by the Guardian, shows that the wrecks of HMS Exeter, a 175m heavy cruiser, and destroyer HMS Encounter have been almost totally removed.

Using equipment that creates a 3D map of the sea floor, the report showed that where the wreck “was once located there is a large ‘hole’ in the seabed”.
A 100m destroyer, HMS Electra, had also been scavenged, the report found, although a “sizeable section” of the wreck remained. The 91m US submarine Perch, whose entire crew were captured by the Japanese, had been totally removed, the report said.

All four sank during operations in the Java Sea in 1942, when Japanese forces overpowered Dutch, British, American and Australian sailors. The battle was one of the costliest sea skirmishes for the allies during the war and led to the Japanese occupation of the entire Dutch East Indies.

The Ministry of Defence said in a statement that the British government had contacted Indonesian authorities to express “serious concern” and request they investigate and take “appropriate action to protect the sites from any further disturbance.
“Many lives were lost during this battle and we would expect that these sites are respected and left undisturbed without the express consent of the United Kingdom.

“It is British Government policy that our military wrecks are offered appropriate protection and management,” it said.

The news comes after the Netherlands defence ministry said this week that it had launched an investigation into the disappearance of three of its own shipwrecks, also in the Java Sea. “The desecration of a war grave is a serious offence,” it said in a statement.

That announcement appears to be based on the same preliminary report, which also mapped empty space where HNLMS De Ruyter, HNLMS Java, and HNLMS Kortenaer used to be.

The expedition had been sent to the Java Sea this month to take video footage of the underwater Dutch ships in advance of next year’s 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Java Sea.

Some 900 Dutch sailors died in the battle, including Rear Admiral Karel Doorman, a war hero in the Netherlands. Divers were planning to put a plaque on the vessels, which were located in 2002 – only to discover that they had vanished.
More at the links.
 

fightingirish

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Honour those ships and crew from WW2 by naming new ships and vessels with those names.
 

Hobbes

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I'm in favor of salvaging them. It's a better use of sunk ships than having them slowly dissolve.
 

Arjen

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I might agree with you if salvaging was done with due care for the remains of the fallen. WWII aircraft wrecks are regularly salvaged in the Netherlands, but human remains are always treated very carefully. I doubt any such care was taken with the Java Sea wrecks. Just smash and grab.
 

Hood

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Its a terrible thing to happen but how can anyone realistically police this?

Nothing is sacred to the criminals hell bent on making a profit on anything, whether they're taking the lead off church roofs, stealing cabling from railway signals or sunken war graves.
Also, it highlights that what some cultures consider to be important are less so to others. The fate of several ships belonging to the European colonial powers are probably of lesser interest to the South East Asians given their attempts to liberate themselves from their rule.
 

MaxLegroom

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This rankles...even more than the looting of structures such as the Lee Plaza Hotel in Detroit. I could guess how some of the human remains were treated during this, but would really rather not go there.
 

Foo Fighter

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Guarding these sites is impossible, where there is opportunity, you will find a thief and these thieves are very well organised or it would not make financial sense. Large companies/corporations are responsible.
 

Adventurer104

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Heathens.....
I do wonder, I seem to remember something about metal forged before the first atomic detonation being more valuable than after?

My memory cells are decaying!!!


A Retired (forgetful) Texas Cop
 

Hobbes

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Adventurer104 said:
Heathens.....
I do wonder, I seem to remember something about metal forged before the first atomic detonation being more valuable than after?

That's correct, sort of. For certain applications (anything to do with measuring low doses of radiation), low-background steel was valuable.

But demand has dropped:

the market for old steel is now pretty much sunk. Reduced radioactive dust plus sophisticated instrumentation that corrects for background radiation means new steel can now be used in most cases. There's some lingering demand for really old maritime metal, though. When researchers at one national lab wanted shielding that emitted no radiation whatsoever, they used lead ballast retrieved from the Spanish galleon San Ignacio, which had been lying on the bottom of the Caribbean for 450 years.
 

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