PERTH lies in about 35 metres of water on her port side. There is a large gash forward of A turret running across the focs'le probably as a result of the torpedo hit forward of the turret. The bow has almost detached from the hull.

The barrels of B turret are pointing into the sand and the AA tub has fallen off. The after funnel and the aircraft crane-jib have fallen off and lie beside the ship. X turret faces out to starboard with the barrels pointing towards the surface. Major shell hits are visible on the starboard front corner of the bridge, on the superstructure underneath X Turret, and on the face of X Turret.

All 4" Gun Turrets are missing. It is known that S2 4" received a direct hit and was blown over the side. It is not known what happened to the other three turrets. Many items have apparently been removed from the wreck by salvagers.

Taken in November 2002 by Indonesian Diver

Taken in February 2002 by

Taken by


Taken 2010


The ship is lying on her starboard side with the bow on a heading of 080 degrees, almost directly toward the east. We had come up over the ship directly forward of the hangar bay and as we moved forward we could see the officer’s quarters, the bridge and the barbette for number 2 turret. Battle damage was evident throughout. Holes were pierced in all areas, particularly in the bridge and hangar bay. The Number 2 turret had ripped loose from the ship and had slid to the starboard side with its barrels pointing directly down and embedded in the silt of the sea floor. Its barbette was completely open to the sea and we could easily swim through it to the open hatch on the port side directly forward of the Captain’s quarters.

Upon investigating the turret we found the hatch to be open but, upon looking in, found that it was completely filled with silt. On the port side we found the hatch to the Captain’s quarters was closed and dogged down tight. As we swam forward we found Number 1 turret, which was also pointing to starboard and still attached to the ship. Its barrels had been pushed up and were now parallel with the ocean bottom. We found a large break on the port side near the bow. We knew the ship was still underway as it sank and, with its length of 600 feet, realized that the bow probably impacted the bottom while the propellers were still turning on the surface. Perhaps the momentum of the impact caused the break. It was large enough to allow a diver to penetrate but we did not attempt to enter because we were concerned about the structural integrity of the area.

Later in the day we focused on the hanger bay and deck area. The deck directly forward of the hanger still had aircraft catapults in place along with cranes and many heavy wires and cables. We entered the port hanger and swam aft. Our first impression was that it looked nothing like how we imagined a hanger should look. There were broken pipes, debris and holes in all directions. It was more like swimming through a brick of swiss cheese. This was possibly due to tremendous battle damage as the exterior walls of the hanger had so many holes we almost didn’t need lights to see while inside. In the hanger bay we encountered five or six large, mean looking barracuda. They certainly gave me a start but we swam past them and they exited through the front of the hanger.

We exited to the rear and immediately came upon two large round circular tubs. There was one on each side of the ship and they appeared thick and well armored. We quickly realized they were mounts for the 5-inch guns, although the guns were long gone. Farther aft we found several smaller, semi-circular tubs that were for the 1.1 inch guns. The rear eight inch turret had completely broken free from the ship and lay nearby, its barbette open to the sea.

One of our divers noticed a large dent in the hull in the starboard rear quarter, below the waterline; possible indication of a dud torpedo or one that had not been fired at an adequate distance to enable it to arm. The rear tripod and mast were still in place and well preserved. We were disappointed to find that the propellers had long since been removed. We had heard rumors that they were removed years earlier by Japanese salvage divers. The prop shafts, propeller guards and rudder were still in place.

The battle bridge toward the bow was completely intact but with many holes. All glass was gone. Eyewitness accounts attributed this to the Battle of the Java Sea, the day before the sinking, during which all the glass had been blown out. The forward tripod and mast area was also still in place and intact but the conn above the bridge was filled with silt.

The Houston is truly majestic as it slumbers on the bottom of the ocean. In a way it still has a life of its own. It remains a ship of war but is now abundant with sea life of every description. Beautiful corals and sea fans provide a natural tribute, a memorial for the hundreds of men entombed within. As we looked at her we could easily visualize her cutting a foamy path through the sea, her men moving about the decks and the aircraft on her catapults.

The spirit of this ship continues to live on in the minds and hearts of those who have served on her and cared about her throughout the years. It is our responsibility to keep alive the memories and sacrifices of our forefathers and to teach our children the meaning of sacrifice. This ship continues to remain a living tribute to those who have served aboard her. It is still very much alive and bears a dignity that will never pass.

David Faltot.

( Reprinted with permission of USS Houston Survivors )

Taken by BRAD GIFT
















Brad Gift above Houston wreck Descending on HOUSTON