Likely the victim of illegal salvage operations.

By Suyin Haynes / and
November 16, 2016
Royal Netherlands Navy/Koninklijke Marine

This story originally appeared on

Three shipwrecks dating from World War II have disappeared from the bottom of the sea bed off Indonesia, likely the work of illegal divers salvaging metal from the remains.

The remains of the Dutch vessels are from the Battle of the Java Sea, which was fought in 1942 between Allied and Japanese forces. Discovered in 2002 on an amateur diving expedition, the site is recognized as a sacred war grave as over 2,000 people died in the battle. Parts of the wreckage site were discovered to have vanished by divers undertaking preparations for the 75th anniversary of the Battle, which will be commemorated next year.

Dutch News reported that Defence Minister Jeanine Hennis told fellow MPs of the disappearance of the ships from the sea bed in a briefing on Tuesday. “The Battle for Java Sea is part of our collective memory,” the minister said. “The wrecks bear silent witness to the the tragic events and form a backdrop to the many stories about the terrors of war and the comradeship between crew.”

According to the Guardian, Hennis confirmed that an international investigation will be launched into the disappearance, noting that the majority of two of the ships were missing, while parts of the third had also disappeared. It is not the first time that a mystery involving vanishing shipwrecks has occurred in the region, as illegal divers have previously stripped other shipwrecks in search for metal to salvage.