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By Nicole Charky, Los Angeles Times

U.S. Navy divers concluded Monday that a wrecked vessel in southeast Asia is World War II cruiser USS Houston, a ship sunk by the Japanese that serves as the final resting place for about 700 sailors and Marines.

The Houston, nicknamed “The Galloping Ghost of the Java Coast,” sank in the Java Sea during the Battle of Sunda Strait on Feb. 28, 1942. It carried 1,068 crewmen, but only 291 sailors and Marines survived both the attack and becoming prisoners of war.

Navy archaeologists worked with Indonesian Navy divers to survey the wreck over the course of 19 underwater searches, said U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Harry Harris.

The Navy History and Heritage Command confirmed that the recorded data is consistent with the identification of the former USS Houston.

Documented evidence shows the gravesite was disturbed, noting that hull rivets and a metal plate were removed from the ship. Both U.S. and Indonesia officials are working to coordinate protection of the historic site, which is also a popular recreational dive location.

The report voices public safety and security concerns, citing “active seepage of oil from the hull.”

A final report will be completed in the fall as underwater archeologists continue to collect data from the dives.

The Navy estimates more than 17,000 sunken ships and aircraft rest on the ocean floor.

Photo via WikiCommons

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