USS Houston Discovered in Java Sea

The wreckage of the USS Houston, a ship destroyed by the Japanese in 1942, has been found in the Java Sea. In many ways, the wreckage was hiding in plain sight. Many divers have visited the wreckage over the years without knowing the identity of the sunken vessel. Now, several decades after the ship’s destruction, the popular diving site has been confirmed to be the wreckage of the USS Houston.

The ship had been known as the “Galloping Ghost of the Java Coast.” Most of the divers who visited the wreckage were there solely for recreational purposes, so the ship was not identified as the USS Houston until the wreckage was examined by United States and Indonesian Navy divers. The ship met its doom in February of 1942, during the Battle of Sunda Strait. The fierce World War II battle not only saw the destruction of the cruiser, but also the deaths of about seven hundred Marines and other sailors.

There were only slightly over one thousand crewman aboard at the time of the ship’s destruction, and between three and four hundred survived the attack. Less than three hundred survived their subsequent stint as POWs. Captain Albert Rooks, the commanding officer of the USS Houston, was given a posthumous Medal of Honor after the ship’s destruction. The ship had been heavily outnumbered at Sunda Strait, with numerous Japanese destroyers pelting the vessel with torpedoes and machine gun fire. The vessel had only retreated to Sunda Strait to escape the Battle of Java Sea, which was the largest naval battle since WWI’s Battle of Jutland, the Mail Online reports.

Although the ship’s wreckage has been identified, it is not completely intact. Certain parts of the ship appear to have been removed by divers, such as a metal plate and multiple hull rivets. It also appears that the USS Houston is missing unexploded ordnance. Since the vessel is still classified as United States property, officials are trying to protect the site. Naval officials from both the United States and Indonesia feel it is important to keep the vessel intact as a measure of honor toward those who gave their lives at sea.

The USS Houston is only one of more than seventeen thousand ships and aircraft estimated to be lost at sea. While it may not be possible to preserve all of them, naval officials are doing what they can to preserve the USS Houston to the best of their abilities.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE