The USS Houston sank during World War II after being hit by the Japanese, killing 700 sailors and Marines. Now, more than 70 years later, U.S. and Indonesian divers have confirmed that a sunken vessel in the Java Sea was the wreck of the ship dubbed “The Galloping Ghost of the Java Coast.”
The Houston was carrying 1,068 crewman when it was hit on Feb. 28, 1942, during the Battle of Sunda Strait. Only 291 sailors and Marines survived the sinking and their later use as slave labor by the Japanese. The vessel’s commanding officer, Capt. Albert H. Rooks, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism.
“Surveying the site, of course, was only the first step in partnering to respect those Sailors who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the freedoms and security that we richly enjoy today, ” U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Harry Harris said in a statement Monday.
The site of the wreck is a popular recreational diving site, and the statement noted that U.S. and Indonesian divers documented evidence of a pattern of “unauthorized disturbance of the gravesite.” This includes the removal of hull rivets and a metal plate from the ship, Harris said. He added that U.S. and Indonesian authorities were coordinating to develop measures to prevent further disturbance of the site.
The team also noted the “unauthorized recovery of unexploded ordnance” and an “active seepage of oil from the hull.”
If you’d like to know more about the vessel, the Pentagon has a useful timeline here.