Navy confirms sunken wreck is WWII-era cruiser USS Houston

Posted at 11:27 AM, Aug 20, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-20 11:27:27-04

The U.S. Navy has announced that the wreckage of a vessel that sits at the bottom of the Java Sea near Indonesia is “consistent with the identification” of the World War II wreck of the cruiser USS Houston (CA 30).

In June, U.S. Navy divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 1, Company 1-5, embarked on the Military Sealift Command Rescue and Salvage ship USNS Safeguard along with personnel from the Indonesian navy and surveyed the wreck as part of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) 2014 exercise.

The team took 19 dives and marked both ends of the wrecked vessel with buoys. Both the exposed port side and the deck were documented with video.

The Naval History and Heritage Command analyzed the data and concluded that the data is consistent with the identification of the wrecked USS Houston.

The USS Houston was sunk in combat during the World War II battle of Sunda Straight in 1942. The wreckage is the final resting place of approximately 700 Sailors and Marines.

During the June survey, the joint team conducted a wreath-laying ceremony on June 11 presided over by the Deputy Chief of Mission to Indonesia, Kristen Bauer, memorializing the loss.

The wreckage site has been a popular recreational dive site in the past and the Navy notes that several hull rivets and a metal plate have been removed from the ship. They say U.S. and Indonesian representatives are currently coordinating to develop measures to prevent continued disturbance of the site.

The Navy also says in their assessment that “evidence suggests the unauthorized recovery of unexploded ordnance (UXO) from the vessel raising public safety and security concerns” and that there is “active seepage of oil from the hull.” Underwater archeologists are still working through data collected from the visit, and expect the final report to be completed later this fall.

The USS Houston was launched by Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co in Newport News on September 7th, 1929.