The cruiser HMS Exeter, best known for its valiant role in the Battle of the River Plate when it hunted down the pride of the German navy, the Admiral Graf Spee, was located by divers searching the Java Sea.
The British vessel was sunk on March 1, 1942, when, with two escorts, the destroyer HMS Encounter and the American destroyer Pope, it was intercepted by nine Japanese warships.
All three Allied ships were lost in the action. The wreck of Encounter, which had passed up a chance to escape by turning back in a brave but futile attempt to protect Exeter, has also now been located.
The two warships were found in Indonesian waters, at a depth of about 200ft, 90 miles north of Bawean Island, and 60 miles from the sinking position given by Exeter’s captain, Oliver Gordon, in a book written after the war.
Americans tend to think of the war in the Pacific in terms of the US Navy and the US Marines. And while it eventually came to pass that the campaign in the Central Pacific was primarily a Navy/Marine show, in the Southwest Pacific, it was a more multipolar affair.
Don’t forget, the whole reason the Japanese went to war was to seize the resources of Indonesia and other nearby areas. Seizing the Philippines and and the islands of the Central Pacific was intended only to provide depth for their defense of their conquest of what they called the Southern Resource Area.
In the early days of the Pacific war, Allied forces were badly outnumbered, and for the most part, operating at vast distances from their home ports, with little or no logistical support.
Pooling their resources, the ABDA Command was formed- American, British, Dutch, and Australian ships in an ad hoc task force, charged with stopping the Japanese fleet from advancing into Indonesia.
Sadly, lacking every resource but courage, they did little to slow the onslaught. But their legacy of courage should inspire every fighting sailor.