October 10 2014 (Washington, DC)
The Dive Team is very grateful to Dr. Alexis Catsambis for organizing and hosting a visit to the Washington Naval Yard and Pentagon.
0800 Arrived at Washington Naval Yard, received by Alexis Catsambis, Ph.D., R.P.A., Archaeologist & Cultural Resource Manager; and Dr. Jay Thomas, Division Director, Underwater Archaeology Branch, Naval History & Heritage Command. Introductory meetings. Escorted to Pentagon.
0900 Meeting with Vice Admiral Scott H. Swift and staff. Wide-ranging discussions for ongoing protection of USS Houston CA-30.
1000 Return to Washington Navy Yard, meeting with Mr. Jim Kuhn, NHHC Director. Tour of Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory including USS Houston CA-30 trumpet, undergoing treatment. Meeting to discuss Dr. Catsambis' provisional findings. Copies of all 2014 Dive Team video given to Dr. Catsambis.
1115 Tour of the National Museum of the United States Navy, including the USS Houston model that was dedicated in 2011 (click for 2011 photos including survivor David C. Flynn).
October 9 2014 (Washington, DC)
Funeral of David C. Flynn, RM2C in Arlington National Cemetary. Obituary.
Luncheon hosted by wife Donna Mae Flynn and sons Shawn, Dennis, Fulton, and Cletus.
The Dive Team was deeply honored to be in attendence.
September 5 2014 (Jakarta)
Car picks us up at 03:30, off the the airport, heading for home. Jerry and Jay arrived in Japan, waiting for connecting flights.
Dive team out.
September 4 2014 (Jakarta)
3am the fire sprinkler head in Alex and Jay's room decided the room needed some moistening. Much like the dive boat we just left. Lunch with Leonard (Daniel's son) and family. Spoke with the mobile phone shop about our Internet access while in country. Dried and packed our gear.
Dinner with Capt. R. Mark Stacpoole (American Legation, US Naval Attaché, Jakarta, Indonesia), Col. Kirt Stallings, and MC1 Chris Perez. Discussed Jerry's dive history on the Houston, the Dive Team's findings on this trip, comparing notes with Chris' dives a month ago, and how we can protect what remains of the USS Houston CA-30 through cooperation with Indonesian law enforcement and the Indonesian Navy. Jerry gave the embassy copies of all the DVDs he has compiled over the years, and a commemorative tile from this year's dive. The embassy is excited about a return trip by the Dive Team (2016?), and mentioned several upcoming dates in Jakarta in 2015: a commemorative dinner on Feb 28 to honor the Houston, possible joint dive operations with the Indonesian Navy again, and the local ANZAC Day events. The Dive Team is honored to be so very welcome in Jakarta.
September 3 2014 (dive day 10)
Surface very calm! Oil leaking from the Houston bubbling up to the surface in nearly perfect circles. Safety buoys floating high in the water (low currents).
Dive 1: Jerry and Alex dropped straight down from the safety line, hit bottom at 101 feet. Moved aft noticing big sections of the deck opened with cross-members showing. Pipes and wiring. Unable to determine if we were at or past the starboard hangar. Came up before finding turret 3. Nice, long, deep dive for Jerry and Alex. Jerry says his goodbyes to the Houston, in case this is his last dive. On the ladder Jerry's knee gives out under the weight of his double tanks rig.
Daniel and Jay did more shallow exploration near the primary safety line. In the generally low visibility of the Houston Jay mostly enjoys the fish, but today the visibility was good enough to explore missing hull plate sections. Very good conditions. Jay lost his secondary weight belt on the way up, went back down to retrieve it. Got the belt, but one weight lost, will look for it on next dive. Jay retrieved the MBT dive sign off the Houston since our dives are coming to an end.
Dive 2: Jay recovers his lost weight, placing it for later retrieval near the primary safety line. Alex takes Jay on a tour of things he hadn't seen on his previous dives: Porthole glass, bearings, and the starboard propeller shaft. The propellers themselves were presumably salvaged just after the war, but the shaft is still intact and impressive, even 70 years later. Returned to safety line to find Daniel had already requisitioned Jay's weight for anchoring an enormous fish he caught with his speargun. Said our final goodbyes to the ship, and surfaced.
Dive Team packs up all our gear and personal effects. Light lunch while motoring close to harbor. Smaller boat arrives, all gear and dive team transferred onboard. Smaller boat heads back into dock, the same dock the local Water Police use. Their intercept boats and undercover boats are all here. Smaller boat unloaded into the truck and van while Alex exchanges dive team shirt for local police training shirt. Team drives back to local Water Police headquarters for more paperwork, and to exchange gear and information.
Daniel drives the team out to the headquarters of the district police general, the top man in charge of all police (including Water Police) in the district the Houston lies in. (Drs. M. Zulkarnain, M.M., M.H. Brigadir Jenderal Polisi.) With Daniel translating, we showed the general historical pictures of the ship and our footage of the salvage boat we found on the Houston 10 days ago. He seemed to understand our concerns, and Daniel assures us that with these connections his official report that he will be filing in 3 days when he returns from Bali will receive the utmost attention at all levels of law enforcement. He is confident that we can apply immediate pressure on the small boat salvage operations, which should also help protect the HMAS Perth, who lies nearby. And by offering a reward to any fishermen who report salvage operations to the police which leads to arrests, hopefully salvage operations will be kept off of the Houston and the Perth until we are able to return (hopefully in 2016, please donate).
Arrived back at Daniel's shop to exchange gear between vehicles, and then back to the Harris hotel. A&W root beer floats, burgers, fries in the attached shopping mall were a welcome break from 10 days of fried fish.
Rinsed off all our gear in fresh water showers, hung it all up to dry, all over our rooms.
September 2 2014 (dive day 9)
Back over the USS Houston CA-30. Some surface chop, but very low currents!
Undercover police boat arrived, waved, did not board due to surface chop. Their orange life vests can be seen from quite a distance.
Dive 1: Jay practices reel work on the safety line while Jerry and Alex dropped down across midships to 80 feet. Drifting along the hull aft, looking for torpedo 5 damage. Unable to locate due to poor visibility. Returned to hull, crossing over to previous flag locations. Looked into large hole at this location. Swam aft to where the major damage begins above turret 3. Dropped down to 76'. Swimming against currents, checking out major holes in deck of the Houston. Ascended to hull. Proceeded to safety line. Still had some air left, so headed forward, ran 20-25 feet along plate line observing numerous sections of hull plate missing. Looking into the ship saw several decks below. Turned around at porthole glass, drifted back to safety line. Ascended.
Dive 2: Jay, Jerry, Alex dropped down the deck from the safety line, examined several large holes. Swam to the bridge via the main mount leg. Bridge sitting at 90 feet. Back up to the hull. Alex led Jay forward so he could see the first fan. Headed back, surfaced. (Jay 7 minute safety stop since deeper than usual. No headache.)
Dive 3: Daniel and Jay do some shallow (60 foot) exploration. Lots of fish today! Crabs and lion fish protect their small territories aggressively. 9 days in, Jay is finally starting to feel oriented on the Houston. :)
Back to the shelter of the island for the night.
Dive team out.
September 1 2014 (dive day 8)
Poor conditions over the USS Houston CA-30. Strong currents. All bouyes submerged. Spent most of the morning attempting to place new safety lines, recovering them.
Dive 1: Daniel reset 2 more safety lines, recovered previous attempts.
Dive 2: Jerry and Alex swam to the bottom, found turret 2 upside down. Drifted back to the top of the bridge. Recovered flags, took photos of tiles, surfaced. Currents strong.
14:00 Surface honors for David C. Flynn, RM2C. Backdrop is Jerry's large American flag which has been on all Dive Team trips. Dive Team and crew in team shirts stand at attention as Jerry announces honors and TAPS is played.
Dive 3: Jerry and Alex swam to the area nearest the radio room. They render honors to Mr. Flynn and simultaneously released Mr. Flynn to rest with his shipmates at 15:00. His commemorative tile was then released, to also rest with the USS Houston CA-30.
Jerry and Alex also took photos with MBT plackard, tried to swim forward to one of the torpedo holes in the hull, but the currents were too strong, attempt aborted. Surfaced on safety line.
Currents strong all day. Further diving scratched. Returned to shelter near fishing village. Daniel and captain organized scooter rental on the island (Pulua Panjang). We toured the entire island. I (Jay) was wrong about my previous journal entry stating that most of the island is covered by houses. I reported what I was told, but now that I've been there I can report that most of the island is only lightly developed, and the housing covers 10 to 20% of the land mass. We rode to the easternmost edge of the island, where a modern boat dock and shelter building are, and the northern tip of the island via dirt scooter trails which is all "beach" consisting of a mound of coral and sea shells 2-3 foot tall. Rode back to our dock and spent more time with the children and villagers before the evening call to prayer signalled the disappearance of most of the adults.
Small boat back to the big boat, swimming, and bed. All is well. Hoping for calm seas for our last 2 days above the USS Houston.
Dive team out.
August 31 2014 (dive day 7)
Tech dive 1: Richard and Mike down the anchor line, but dive was abandoned after brief exploration with a reel, due to low visibility and high currents.
Dive boat repositioned, which took nearly 2 hours. Jay checked the anchor line position, reported that the line was rubbing an edge of a heavily salvage-damaged section off the Houston, and that the line would probably saw through. Good news: visibility good, not too much current down below.
Tech dive 2: Richard and Mike returned down the safety line, which was now nearly severed already, laid cabe line and reel and proceeded forward to the bow. Numerous artifacts found on the hull surface, located turret 2 on bottom dislodged from the main super structure. Significant damage was seen to main structural panels and numerous new openings were noted. Returned to the safety line to find it severed, floated an SMB and ascended safely on that. Returned to main vessel via tender boat.
Dive 1 (simultaneous to tech dive 2): Descended with new safety line to tie to the wreck in the original midship area near the tiles. Proceeded across the hull to the bottom of the ship, floating aft at 81 feet until we came to the screw shafts. Swam under one of them, back down to the curve to head forward. On the way saw the aft hatch, still intact, with multiple damage areas forward of it. Arrived at turret 3. From the top of the turret to the existing metal was only approximately 8 inches. Approximately 15 feet of the deck has been removed from here. Continued forward. Found where they cut the poles to the aft mast. Aft mast is missing. Continued 20 feet, then went up to the deck, arriving on the flags. Tried to unfurl the flags, which had become tangled overnight. Floated to tiles, crossed the hull to the other safety line, ascended with safety stop.
Relocated the dive boat since the anchor line was now cut. Noted safety buoyees from tech divers, sent small boat to retrieve them. Daniel arrives from shore. Tech divers surface, pack up, and depart.
Dive 2: Daniel and Alex took new line to anchor, which was then raised. Went to end of mast, saw gun directive (crow's nest). Looking into the bottom sand, saw several pieces of debris. Returned to side of ship, forward to bow. All the way back to the stern. Saw propeller shaft. Returned by the side of the ship, looking for tiles in the hole we suspect they dropped. Returned to the safety line, surfaced.
Dive boat sheltered for the night as usual, this time very close to the fishing village. After more swimming, Jerry, Alex, Jay, the captain and crew took some shore leave. Most of Pulau Panjang is covered by very small paving brick roads wide enough for one car. The minimal traffic is composed of walking and scooters. We walked past the island's power plant (solar, diesel), radio tower, school, and mosque. Many other buildings are beautifully painted small homes with very nice tile work and in very good repair. Captain told us that for $4,000 USD we could buy a nice one and live there. Grocery shopping included eggs, red sugar, water, and coconuts. Alex climbed one of the coconut trees, and was flooded with marriage proposals from the local women, single and married alike. :)
Back on the boat. All is well.
Dive team out.
August 30 2014 (dive day 6)
Back on the USS Houston.
Dive 1: Daniel and Alex plan to swim forward to the bow, down to the center line of the deck, drinfting towards the stern to get more familiar with the deck area. Checked out the forward gun mounts, 1 and 2. Continued drifting back to where the bridge should be, to locate more of that area. Went out one of the main masts to the crows nest, where you can still make out the forward looking windows, even though it's been crushed to the point where it is hard to tell what it is, only its location making it apparent. Followed the mast back to the bridge area, continued aft until losing the ship. Ascended on temporary safety line. Floated a diver marker to make it easier for the crew to locate divers during safety stop. Returned on safety line.
Tech divers from Jakarta arrive: Richard Rigby and Mike Hortin. Tech dive 1 report: 30 meters max depth for 55 minutes. Swam forward down the deck until arrived at salvage damage. Looked into some holes at various salvage points. Noted major structural damage with large suspended steel sheets being loosely held in place. Continued past the forward mast to the bow and returned to the hangar section. Proceeded along the port side, noticed numerous small items scattered along the port hull. Ascended safety line.
Dive 2: Jerry, Alex, Jay swam forward to the split in the ship. Then swam over to the hull stabilizer, proceeding aft. Midship we crossed back over the hull of the ship to the flags, then back to the safety line. Jay ascended while Jerry and Alex swam aft to one of the propeller shafts. They decided to turn around there as the amount of ship that has been removed makes it difficult to navigate in that area.
Current has come up earlier than usual today, we've snapped another anchor line. Motored back to shelter. Looking forward to an early start tomorrow.
Dive team out.
August 29 2014 (dive day 5)
Motored to the HMAS Perth, anchored nearby.
Dive 1: Daniel and Alex took the Australian flag down. Currents were high so set a reel for the currents. Quick scout of the ship. Hung the flag, took pictures and video, and surfaced.
Dive 2: Jerry, Daniel, Alex, Jay dive the Perth. Down the safety line, visibility is very good, slight current on the ship. Swam forward along the starboard stabilizer until we reached impressive battle damage. Amazed how large the holes left by torpedos are. Swam over the hull to the deck ending up in the hangar bay area, most of which appears to have been removed by salvage operations. Alex swam to the rear 6-inch guns, met back up with Jerry and Jay at the safety line. Jay headed up while Alex and Jerry swum back to the 6-inch guns, re-hung the Australian flag and took more video. Re-rolled the flag, swam over to the starboard side prop shafts (near the safety line) to take a look before resurfacing.
Dive 3: Back on the USS Houston, Daniel, Jerry, Alex, Jay were amazed how calm the surface was (the best surface conditions we've seen so far this trip. Dove down the anchor line to find poor visibility on the Houston. Trying to relocate 2 commemorative tiles that went missing overnight. No luck so far. Saw beautiful large angel fish, and some bat fish. Jay is pleased to report no headaches today. Apparently taking twice as much time resurfacing and the safety stop works wonders for his sinuses. :) After Jay broke a rung off the rusty ladder on the way up it, the surface was still so calm that Alex, Jay, and crew went swimming / snorkeling above the Houston.
Dive 4: Jerry, Daniel, Alex dove down the safety line to explore more of the rear of the ship. Jerry was experiencing mask problems, so the dive was fairly short. Average visibility, currents were picking up towards the end of the dive. Very little bottom time was left for the day since previous dives were fairly deep.
All is well. Sheltered for the night.
Dive team out.
August 28 2014 (dive day 4) by the Dive Team
Dive 1: 3m visability. Jerry, Alex think they found the bridge area, which is now piles of rubble, apparently from salvage operations. Returned to safety line. Jerry was having buoyency problems, so Alex quickly scouted the hangar bay area directly below, returned to the safety line and both ascended.
Dive 2: 3m visability. Jerry, Alex, Jay dropped down the deck, trying to confirm more information about the status of the hangar bay. At 70’ depth, the entire side of the ship is now a massive hole. The deck is missing. We could see piping, conduits, structural support beams. Jay experimented with a very slow ascent rate up the anchor line to avoid his headaches. Jerry and Alex went forward again, found the headsets again that were first seen on previous dives.
Dive 3: Brighter, but same (3m) visability. Jerry, Alex swam forward to the crack where the bow has been split off the ship since she sank in 1941. Headed down to the bottom of the ship, surveying the bottom. Found a water intake vent for the engines on the e bottom of the hull, approximately mid-ship. Proceeded towards the deck, found massive hull plates removed in sections. Looking into one hole found a huge grouper fish. Returned and relocated the commemorative tiles to a better area closer to our current dive line. Proceeded to the surface.
The wind picked up, strong currents ended our dive day earlier than we would have liked. Sheltering against the island again tonight. Tommorow we dive the HMAS Perth for the first time this trip.
Dive team out.
August 27 2014 (dive day 3) by the Dive Team
After spending the night in a semi-protected cove, we motored back to the Houston to re-anchor at dawn. Daniel and Alex took the flags: the American flag that Jerry has brought on every dive trip and the 60th anniversary, US Navy flag, POW/MIA flag, and US Marine Corps flag. The flags were hung near where we think is the hangar bay area. Set the anchor line.
Reset the flags in a different orientation so they fly better. Set out and photographed all the commemorative tiles. Placed the remains of David C. Flynn RM2C and commemorative tile on the Houston’s hull. All the plaques will remain until we depart the Houston. We were informed that the head of Water Police and possibly members of the press were going to meet with us. They arrived in two modern marked police boats with their blue lights running. The seas were too rough for them to board, so they circled a few times, waving and taking photographs. Many uniformed personell were aboard the larger of the two boats, presumably several high-ranking officers. We were standing the rails in our Dive Team t-shirts.
Jerry, Daniel, Alex, Jay dove to explore more of the Houston’s foreward sections. We took many more videos and photos that we look to sharing with all of you. We discovered massive sections of the hull removed and we were able to swim through a deck or two without anything overhead. The winds came up, cancelling further diving, we have retreated the safety near the island for the night.
Dive team out
August 26 2014 by the Dive Team
Dear USS Houston CA-30 family and friends,
Greetings from the dive team in Sunda Strait, Indonesia! We'd like to give you a short summary of the last two days on the dive boat.
Dive Day 1
Stopped at the local Water Police headquarters and spoke to Colonel Hendri about our ongoing concerns in protecting the Houston from salvage operations.
On our way to the dive boat, we came across a road block the local villagers had put in place as a protest to make the government improve road conditions. They were friendly, but were not going to let us by, so we had to backtrack back to Merak and wait for the dive boat to come all the way around to pick us up, which took most of the day. No diving. We motored past the Houston to shelter for the night nearby.
Dive Day 2
We arrived at the Houston at 7am to find salvagers on the Houston. Daniel immediately used the loudspeaker to warn their crew that they are in violation of local laws, that we are calling the Water Police, and that they will face steep fines and jail time up to 2 years for any damage or removal of items from the site. They hurried to bring their one submerged diver to the surface, and immediately left the area. We have photos and videos of their ship and their actions, which we have given to the Water Police. We also notified the US Embassy.
The salvagers gone, Daniel set our dive rope and safety lines, and Jerry and Alex dove to the aft area of the Houston. The destruction of the hull of the ship by salvagers is shocking and heartbreaking. Large sections of the hull have been cut and pried upward. Ammunition and metal are sitting on the hull, piled for later removal by salvage divers. Jerry knows the Houston extremely well, with 80+ dives on her since 2004. He knows how she's resting, and her historical, and natural damage. Today was different. She has changed so much, the navigation plan for the dive was unusable. Jerry was shocked that he barely recognized her, the damage was so severe. Worse than he had feared.
We have 4 underwater cameras with us, will share our video when we're back home with high speed Internet connections.
Jay joined Jerry and Alex for dive 2. We followed the anchor line down, but did not find the Houston at 60, 80, or even 103 feet, where Alex found our anchor resting on the bottom. Currents had shifted, and our dive boat was no longer over the Houston. We re-surfaced, Daniel set a new line, we repositioned the dive boat, and tried again.
Dive 3: Jerry, Alex, Jay drop down and now the Houston is right where we expect to find her. We made contact just in front of the hanger bay. Our dive plan shifted quickly, since the current was fairly strong. We swam into the current heading forward, all video cameras running. Lion fish love the Houston. We saw several, and quite a bit of other marine life. Unfortunately here too, damage to the hull is extensive. The hull is being pried toward the surface. We found commodes, some sort of square frame, more ammunition, a 50-cal shell, port hole glass, and a sound powered headset similar to the ones Jerry's dad was wearing on the bridge that fateful night.
After dive 3 the Water Police arrived and boarded us, carrying an impressive assault rifle, in an undercover boat that can not be identified as Police from a distance. Daniel spoke Indonesian with Officer Agus and the others. We gave them copies of our photos and video of the salvage crew, which they transferred to their mobile devices. They took photos of us, and with us, then disembarked. Jerry received an email from Captain Stacpoole of the US Embassy, asking him to call them. He called and discussed today's salvage crew incident. Captain Stacpoole informed Jerry that the US Embassy had earlier made contact with the highest Water Police officials based on the email Jerry had sent the US Embassy. That probably explains how the Water Police had arrived so quickly (within an hour) of notification from the dive team earlier today.
Dive 4: Alex and Daniel drop down to the Houston to hang and let fly the American flag that Jerry has flown on all of his dives as well as the US Navy, POW and Marine Corps flags. But the currents are now too strong. Dive aborted after reaching the hull, but without leaving the anchor line. Visibility, swimming conditions too poor. During the safety stop on the ascent the anchor line snaps below them, the dive boat is now floating free. Alex and Daniel are fine, but Alex says the snap was quite a shock, was glad the line snapped below them not above.
End of dive day. All are well, excited for dive day 3 tomorrow. We will rest well tonight.
All our best to all of you back in the States, or wherever you may find yourself this beautiful evening.
Dive team outAugust 18 2014 by Jerry Ranger:
It's about that time that the Dive Team leaves for Jakarta. We will all be in Jakarta by 23th Aug, just in time to have lunch with two members of the US Embassy on the 24th. Col. Kirt Stallings and an embassy member who dove with the Navy on the Houston. They are going to give the team a brief on their Dive. After the Lunch, the team will head out of Jakarta to Merek to stage and check gear before joining the dive boat on the morning of 25th.
The Dive team will be over the USS Houston from the 25th Aug to Sept 3th. We will be diving on the USS Houston and HMAS Perth.
The dive team is made up of USS Houston Survivor family member:
While diving on the Perth, the dive team will be placing a Australian flag on the HMAS Perth that will fly on the ship until we are ready to leave the area. The Flag will then be brought up and then given to Alex Weissinger to take back to Australia to present it to the HMAS Perth group.
While diving on the USS Houston, the dive team will be photographing and taking videos of the Ship and it's condition. We will also be taking pictures of Tile plaques that the team brought over from some of our sponsors and family members.
Most of all the Dive Team will have the Honor of doing a ceremony for the David C. Flynn RM2C 's Family which he wanted to be layed with his friends and crew members of the USS HOUSTON CA-30, who are still standing watch in Sunda Strait.
You can follow the USS Houston Dive Team updates from the Ship on WWW.USSHOUSTONDIVE.COM. We will also try to put some of the pictures and write ups from dive team members, on FaceBook "USS Houston CA-30 Historical Society" too.
More updates to come in the next couple weeks. The Dive Team would like to thank all who donated to the team to help make this trip over to the USS Houston in Sunda Strait. THANKS
Houston Dive Team out.August 13 2014 email sent to Jerry Ranger:
Back in Sept 2013, I received some news from divers in Jakarta that the HMAS Perth and USS HOUSTON CA-30 were being hit by salvagers. I placed this email on the USS HOUSTON CA-30 HISTORICAL SOCIETY where it started to grow to USS HOUSTON CA-30 face book page, were Dana send it to Pattie Wright in Australia. While Pattie started the movement in Australia to save the HMAS Perth, the Houston Dive Team decided to get a dive trip up and go back to Jakarta in the summer of 2014 to survey the USS HOUSTON CA-30 and HMAS Perth.
I started the process by requesting a permit from the Naval Historical Center/ Underwater Archaeology Branch in Washington D.C. in November. I followed up with a phone call to the Office. To my surprise, the U.S.Navy was working on the problem with the Australian government and the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta. I was requested by the Navy to send emails, photographs and videos from the divers in Jakarta and the Houston dive team.
Naval Historical Center/ Underwater Archaeology Branch in Washington D.C. stated the dive video you took may be very useful to determine if any damage has transpired since you last dive there. Will keep you posted. The images and communications you have sent have been very helpful.
The USS HOUSTON CA-30 Dive Team Mission is to promote and continue the incredible history of the crew and ship (once considered the Flagship of the Asiatic Fleet and FDR's favorite). The story of the USS HOUSTON has been overlooked over the years and it is our determination to honor both the ship and crew by our continued efforts to preserve that piece of history that has been forgotten. Videotaping the ship is to show how nature is taking the ship back to the sea. Not only will the team perpetuate this history, but preserve information about the ship for educational purposes for generations to come.
This team only wants to Video/document what is left of her for the survivors and families to view. Many of our members have loved ones that went down with the ship. The ROV that has been donated to use is the same company that entered the USS ARIZONA. They are not amateurs and fully understand the respect to be given this wreckage. The team leader is the son of a survivor and has been on dives of the HOUSTON in the past. He has shown great reverence for this ship and her wreckage.The Houston Dive Team is also redoing the dive team web page and should be up and running at the beginning of the Year. At that time, the dive team will be working on fund raiser/donations to finance the upcoming dive to the USS HOUSTON CA-30.
Facebook post on December 20, 2013.
From the Board of Managers, USS Houston (CA-30) Survivors Association and Next Generations.
The USS Houston (CA-30) Survivors Association & Next Generations’ Board of Managers has been gathering information regarding recent allegations of salvage operations on HMAS Perth and USS Houston (CA-30). Our “intelligence-gathering” efforts have included discussions with US Navy officials.
It is clear to us that the US Navy is very concerned about these allegations, is attempting to confirm the accuracy of salvage reporting, and is committed to working with other U.S. government agencies and international partners to do everything they can to preserve the site which is the final resting place of those who made the ultimate sacrifice when the ship went down. The Navy also committed to remaining in touch with us and keeping us informed of developments.
As a matter of law, USS Houston qualifies as a sunken military craft under the Sunken Military Craft Act (a US federal law) which prohibits activities directed at such craft that disturb, remove, or injure them. The Act, however, primarily applies to US citizens, nationals, or resident aliens. It is unclear if Indonesia recognizes U. S. sovereignty over sunken warships such as USS Houston (CA-30). Indonesian cultural heritage law protects certain resources over 50 years of age that are considered to possess value of importance to history, science and culture. Unauthorized disturbance of the Houston site could therefore be a violation of both countries’ laws.
There are circumstances, however, which would enable a person to recover artifacts from USS Houston (CA-30) for archaeological, historical, or educational purposes with the formal permission of the Naval History & Heritage Command. Recovery of artifacts from the Houston has not been sanctioned by the Navy at this time.
At this point, more detail on US Navy efforts cannot be provided other than to assure our USS Houston family that the reports of disturbance to the two sunken vessels are being taken seriously and that work to find a solution is in progress. We assured our Navy contacts of our full support for their efforts.
Meanwhile, our Board of Managers has put together the position statement (below) which we have provided to the US Navy and reprint here:
Approximately 1,000 brave American and Australian servicemen lost their lives when the USS Houston (CA-30) and HMAS Perth were sunk in action during the early morning hours of 1 March 1942. The USS Houston (CA-30) Survivors Association & Next Generations considers both these sunken vessels as war graves. Our Association is disturbed over and vehemently condemns any salvaging operations being conducted on USS Houston (CA-30) and HMAS Perth. We also object to any unlawful removal of artifacts or disturbance to USS Houston (CA-30). We call upon citizens of all nations to respect and to leave undisturbed the final resting place of those courageous American and Australian crewmen of USS Houston (CA-30) and HMAS Perth who are “still standing watch over Sunda Strait.”
By Pattie Wright, December 2013 Blue Bonnet
In early September 2013, NG Jerry Ranger posted on the USS Houston (CA-30) Facebook site a report by a diver friend, which described recent salvage activities on HMAS Perth. The diver (who does not want his name to be mentioned—editor.), wrote:
“We were out this weekend doing the 6 monthly Perth and Houston dives and are sad to confirm what Tech Asia told us the other week about the Perth. The mid-section above deck were the bridge was has been completely removed, the bow guns have been damaged by what appears to be explosives with the barrels missing and the tops peeled of, the bow has collapsed completely. Although it is hard to be certain, but as the metal that was the superstructure is all missing and is not lying around as debris it looks although we could be wrong like purposeful attempt to salvage the steel. Mike is already in contact with the Australian Embassy in Jakarta who are looking to see if the wreck is actually protected as a war grave and if anything can be done. I dived her in May… and she was all there so it must have happened in the last four months. [Two other divers] dared the Houston this morning, we had breakfast but it seems to be untouched. It appears to be trend with WW2 wrecks in SE Asia.”
The Royal Australian Navy was informed and the Chief of the Navy, VADM Ray Griggs asked for an immediate report for briefing of the relevant government minister. He is an outstanding man and has been reported to have moved very quickly on the news.
The HMAS Perth Association, family and friends were informed of the situation at the end of October. It was also discovered that Australia does not have the wherefores to claim her in the sense of protecting her as a war grave. She, of course, lies within Indonesian waters. In fact, the [Australian] Department of Environment and Heritage doesn’t even classify naval war graves as such; their designation is, rather, ‘maritime military grave’. Not quite the same kudos. And no matter what name Perth is given now, she is in peril.
The sticking point for our government agencies is that the UNESCO 2009 Convention for the protection of Historic wrecks was not signed by either Australia or Indonesia. This lack of ratification seems to allow HMAS Perth to slip between the gaps of Australian government protection. The curiosity here is that a Japanese mini submarine was discovered sometime back... near 2007 and we have protected her. She lies just off Sydney Harbour. One would think that this quid pro quo situation would apply to our ships in foreign waters.
Rather a lot of heaven and earth has been moved to garner support to have something done about preventing further salvaging. To have it stopped. Sadly, whatever is happening is being done diplomatically, behind doors, as Australia and Indonesia are, at present, in a contretemps with accusations of spying and issues of asylum seekers. Potentially, HMAS Perth could be lost in the wash.
There seems little doubt that salvagers are out and about in the waters off SE Asia. A Dutch submarine, HrMS 016, has been completely lost to a salvage barge (Photo on the right). This salvaging is put at 21st October 2013 off the Malaysian island of Tioman—just off the east coast near Mersing. She too was a war grave. The Dutch navy has been informed of this desecration. The HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse have also been got at.
There is no evidence about who is doing it. And I have no real evidence of who is managing our side of things, either.
The RAN has asked me not to go to the press as their recently placed initiatives could be foiled. I had to agree.
I have recently emailed Val Poss and she has told me how badly Houston has been pillaged, and how similarly the US government reacted to Val’s entities to have the salvaging stopped.
Mother Nature will surely have their way with these two heroic ships…..but should a barge load of money-hungry bastards have their way with them first??? Remember, I am Australian!!
A RAN dive party is being gathered together to dive on Perth in March 2014. This will be the first archaeological dive to have been made on her. I will try to get a film crew together to accompany this party to document the event. Who knows? Both ships may survive if we keep up the pressure, but in all honestly I doubt it.
The lethargy of men. The softly spoken comment of ‘I hope this doesn’t happen on my watch’ has already been heard. In truth, it is shameful.
Please sign this petition to block salvage operations.