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Navy Divers to Investigate Wreck of USS Houston
By Harold Hutchison

During the Battle of Sunda Strait, almost seven hundred American sailors were killed when the cruiser USS Houston (CA 30) was sunk by Japanese forces. Now, 72 years after the battle, the United States Navy is sending divers to check out the wreck of the vessel.

According to a report by FoxNews.com, the wreck, which is located in 125 feet of water, has become a popular dive site. The Navy divers will be diving on the wreck of the Northampton-class heavy cruiser with their Indonesian counterparts during the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training exercises. These dives not only will help fulfill training purposes for navigating around sunken wrecks, but will also be used to determine if the Houston’s wreckage, which is considered a war grave, may have been looted.

“Working with our Indonesian navy partners, CARAT 2014 offers an excellent opportunity to conduct this diving exchange as part of our shared training goals, while also allowing us to determine the condition of a ship that is an important part of the U.S. Navy's heritage in this region,” Rear Adm. Cindy Thebaud said in a Navy press release.

A Navy diver at work.
(U.S. Navy photo)

Over 17,000 wrecks of naval vessels and aircraft are under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Navy. The Navy has, at times, taken legal action to recover artifacts or aircraft. In one notable case from 2004, the Navy filed suit to retrieve a Brewster F3A fighter that a man had salvaged from a swamp. The Navy eventually agreed to gift the plane over to the man.

The wrecks of ships and aircraft “often serve as war graves, safeguard state secrets, carry environmental and safety hazards such as oil and ordnance, and hold great historical value,” the Navy noted in a statement. “While it is not feasible to conduct similar surveys of all sunken military craft, Navy leadership desires to ensure the final resting place of those who made the ultimate sacrifice when the ship went down remains in a respected and solemn condition.”