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Discovery of USS Perch (SS-176) in the Java Sea reveals a wartime secret
by Kevin Denlay
In early March of 1942, less than three months into the War in the Pacific, the submarine USS Perch (SS-176) was conducting her second war patrol in the hostile waters of the Java Sea.

After a series of battles against multiple units of the Japanese Imperial Navy, during which Perch was severely damaged and rendered unable to dive safely or to defend herself, commanding officer David Hurt ordered his vessel abandoned.  He sent his vessel to the bottom with an open conning tower hatch in order to avoid its capture.  The entire crew was picked up by the Japanese and sent to Prisoner of War camps, where six members of the Perch crew died as POWs, but the remaining 53 did manage to survive and were liberated at the War’s end.

Over sixty years later, an international team of divers and photographers were on a regular dive charter in the waters north of Surabaya, Java when the vessels sonar revealed a long slender object on the sea floor that merited investigation. Vidar Skoglie and dive team members Kevin Denlay, Dieter Kops, Mike Gadd, and Craig Challen soon found a wreck at a depth of approximately 190 feet.  Although the divers immediately knew that the wreck was a submarine, they were unsure of its identity until they discovered a plaque on its conning tower.  Even under a layer of more than a half-century of marine growth, the large lettering of the plaque could be read:  USS PERCH  SUBMARINE.

Photographer Kevin Denlay contacted the Naval Historical Center in Washington, D.C., and the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in early December of last year and shared the news of the team’s discovery.  He provided the museum with still photographs and a DVD of the dive which clearly reveal, despite low visibility conditions, evidence of the identity and final resting place of the vessel.

When Perch survivor Robert Lents was contacted in his Arkansas home, he expressed great interest in the discovery.  He especially would like to see what his boat looks like after all these years.  Not only that, he added, “I left $35 in my locker on the boat.  It’s probably still there.”   The wreck is protected under U.S. and International laws, so Bob’s savings and as well his battling submarine lie at the bottom of the Java Sea, undisturbed.

For video-capture photos of the wreck and other information on USS Perch, please see
Please note:  This announcement is not an official U.S. Navy release, and in no way should be taken as emanating from the Navy or from any other U.S. Governmental agency.

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