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Reports: Underwater scavengers dismantling Allied ships lost near Indonesia during WWII

Reports are emerging that allied ships that were sunk by the Japanese near Indonesia during World War II and became the graves of hundreds of sailors have disappeared from the seabed, apparently dismantled by underwater scavengers.

Among the vessels is the USS Perch, an American submarine whose crew was captured by the Japanese, according to the Guardian.

The vessels, including Dutch and British warships, were among the many that were lost in the disastrous February 1942 Battle of Java Sea and subsequent related action in the area.

Among the ships that were lost were the USS Edsall and USS Pillsbury, two destroyers built after World War I by William Cramp and Sons in Philadelphia. There is nothing to indicate that  the wrecks of either ship has been scavenged.

The Dutch Defense Ministry reported on Tuesday that two of its lost ships – HNLMS De Ruyter and HNLMS Java – had disappeared and that a large part of a third, HNLMS Kortenaer, was missing.

The Guardian  then reported that a preliminary report of an underwater survey said the wrecks two British warships, HMS Exeter and HMS Encounter, and a third, HMS Electra a had been partially dismantled.

The USS Perch had disappeared, the Guardian said.

Both the British and Ducth governments have expressed their concern to the government of Indonesia.

"Many lives were lost during this battle and we would expect that these sites are respected and left undisturbed without the express consent of the United Kingdom," the British government said "It is British Government policy that our military wrecks are offered appropriate protection and management."

In 2014, a U.S. Navy team found signs that the USS Houston, a cruiser that sank March 1, 1942, in the Battle of Sunda Strait after taking part in the Battle of Java Sea, was being targeted by salvagers. There is no word on its current condition.