Even though the Second World War ended in May of 1945, its spectre still haunts our planet. Every year, thousands of pounds of unexploded bombs and munitions are discovered lurking beneath European and Pacific island soil, and archaeologists are still stumbling across mysterious lost relics of The Big One. While most of these are buried underground, the sea floor likewise entombs many artifacts left from the deadly world war. These include hundreds of shipwrecks, the most famous of which is the USS Arizona in Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor. The Arizona is visible just below the ocean surface and continues to leak oil to this day.

The wreck of the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor.

Most other WWII shipwrecks aren’t as commemorated as the USS Arizona due to the depths to which they sank after being destroyed or damaged. While near-universal respect for fallen service members of any nationality means these shipwrecks are generally left alone, a new study published by The Guardian is reporting that several British and Dutch WWII shipwrecks on the bottom of the Java Sea near Indonesia have mysteriously vanished from the ocean floor.

3D images show the ghostly outline of where HMS Electra once rested.

The disappearance of the wrecks was first noticed by the Dutch Defense Ministry while they were conducting 3D scans of the wrecks to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Java Sea in 2017. Upon discovering the disappearances, the Dutch Defense Ministry then issued the following statement:

The wrecks of HNLMS De Ruyter and HNLMS Java have seemingly gone completely missing. A large piece is also missing of HNLMS Kortenaer. An investigation has been launched to see what has happened to the wrecks, while the cabinet has been informed. The desecration of a war grave is a serious offence.

After that discovery, British and American defense officials likewise reported the disturbances and disappearances of several of their own WWII shipwrecks including the British ships HMS Exeter and HMS Encounter and the American cruiser USS Houston. Hundreds of sailors lost their lives when each of these ships sank, making the resulting shipwrecks their graves. The disturbances of these ships, then, essentially amounts to grave robbing.

The depression left by the wreck of HMS Exeter.

While no definitive explanation has been put forward, it has been speculated that illegal salvage and scrap operations are behind the disappearances. 

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.

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