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Dutch WW II sub discovered in South China Sea

Torpedoed on Christmas Day 1941

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

DEN HELDER, the Netherlands - A Dutch submarine sunk in 1941 by the Japanese has been found in the South China Sea, near Borneo. The vessel, with the code name HNLMS K XVI, went down with 36 crew members aboard after it was hit by a Japanese torpedo on December 25, 1941. The wreck was found following a recent tip from a local fisherman.

Australian and Singaporean divers established the vesselís identity on the basis of features unique to Dutch submarines. The exact location of the wreck will be kept secret out of respect for the 36 mariners, including six Indonesians, entombed in it. Divers have been requested not to disturb the watery grave.

The day before the 1,000 ton submarine went down, it had sunk the Japanese destroyer Sagiri. At the time, the submarine was part of an Allied fleet ordered to stop the Japanese invasion of the Netherlands East Indies. The HNLMS K XVI was sunk by Japanese submarine hunter I-66. The wreck will be designated as a war grave.

The Dutch defense ministry is currently consulting the families of the 36 men who perished in the vessel about a plan to pay tribute to them. On this yearís December 25, it will be exactly 70 years ago that the submarine was destroyed.

In all, the Dutch naval forces lost seven submarines during World War II. Six were attacked and sunk while on patrol and one was hit during a bombing raid on the Indonesian port of Surabaya. Six of the wrecks have now been found. Only one submarine, the O13, which went down in the North Sea in June 1940, has yet to be located.