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BaronVonTom

Follow up on looting of World War II Shipwrecks near Indonesia

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In a previous article I wrote about LCDR Anton Bussemaker, Capt of Dutch Submarine HNLMS O-16, I briefly mentioned the illegal industrial salvaging operations of world war II shipwrecks...called  "The largest grave robbery in the world."   The documentary below was just uploaded to youtube 2 weeks ago and is the latest info on how they are doing it and who is behind it.   It is 45 mins long and well done.

 

  

 

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I don't know if this would be controversial to ask but would the looting of a B-52 bomber after it crashed while bombing your city be considered grave robbing?

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On 6/11/2021 at 10:30 PM, BaronVonTom said:

In a previous article I wrote about LCDR Anton Bussemaker, Capt of Dutch Submarine HNLMS O-16, I briefly mentioned the illegal industrial salvaging operations of world war II shipwrecks...called  "The largest grave robbery in the world."   The documentary below was just uploaded to youtube 2 weeks ago and is the latest info on how they are doing it and who is behind it.   It is 45 mins long and well done.

 

  

 

Thanks for sharing.

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On 6/13/2021 at 11:51 PM, Sventex said:

I don't know if this would be controversial to ask but would the looting of a B-52 bomber after it crashed while bombing your city be considered grave robbing?

Well, the ship sunk in deep water isn't necessarily bothering anyone, and it serves as a grave for the crew who went down with her. When the plane is lying in bits in the downtown area, getting it out of the way is sort of necessary for rebuilding... but at the same time, removal of the crew's remains for burial in a proper grave is also easier and simpler.

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1 hour ago, Ensign_Cthulhu said:

Well, the ship sunk in deep water isn't necessarily bothering anyone, and it serves as a grave for the crew who went down with her. When the plane is lying in bits in the downtown area, getting it out of the way is sort of necessary for rebuilding... but at the same time, removal of the crew's remains for burial in a proper grave is also easier and simpler.

I bring it up because I recently heard that Titanic isn't long for this world, in a few decades it will rust away until there's nothing left but a red spot on the ocean floor.  Is that even morally preferable to salvaging artifacts, history and valuable materials from a sunken ship?  From what I've seen of Bismarck, the bodies completely disappear after awhile, all that's left of them are their boots on the ground.  Why does the ship hull itself become sacred as a grave? 

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1 hour ago, Sventex said:

Is that even morally preferable to salvaging artifacts, history and valuable materials from a sunken ship? 

Let's say a hundred years from now, tombstone marble becomes the key to space travel for some reason. You might be happy for your gravestone to be ripped up and reused, BUT OTHERS WILL NOT FEEL THE SAME WAY, about either your headstone or (potentially) theirs.

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23 minutes ago, Ensign_Cthulhu said:

Let's say a hundred years from now, tombstone marble becomes the key to space travel for some reason. You might be happy for your gravestone to be ripped up and reused, BUT OTHERS WILL NOT FEEL THE SAME WAY, about either your headstone or (potentially) theirs.

Sure.  But we're talking about a ship hull, not a tombstone.  Just as a bomber plane crashing into a city, you say it's necessary to remove it to rebuild, but would you say the same thing about scrapping tombstones from a graveyard to rebuild a city?  So would a crashed bomber plane really be comparable to a tombstone?

Edited by Sventex

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1 minute ago, Sventex said:

but would you say the same thing about removing tombstones from a graveyard to rebuild a city?

It's a different thing. Cemeteries are integrated into cities or built outside them.

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1 minute ago, Ensign_Cthulhu said:

It's a different thing. Cemeteries are integrated into cities or built outside them.

But the ocean floor is literally not a cemetery and a ship hull is literally not a tombstone.  I'm not trying to be provocative here, I'm just trying to find out why sunken ship hulls are considered sacred.  Like I said, we wouldn't afford the same reverence to a crashed bomber plane that was bombing you.  Sure ships on the ocean floor aren't bothering anyone but they could be helping people and restoring lost history.  Instead it's considered better to let the ships dissolve away into nothing?  The thing about marble tombstones is that we don't leave them in acid to melt away, we make efforts to maintain them in graveyards.

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1 minute ago, Sventex said:

why sunken ship hulls are considered sacred.

If you truly can't grasp that concept on a res ipsa loquitur basis, I'm not sure I can explain it to you. It's a subjective, emotional thing. It's why some people will fight tooth-and-claw to avoid their deceased loved ones undergoing an autopsy while others will fight tooth-and-claw to make sure the deceased gets one.

If you want to raise these ships, let it be done by the nation the ship fought for; let the human remains be gathered and buried; let that nation make its own decision on what happens to the carcass of the ship. What's going on here is akin to people breaking into some famous 19th century person's marble tomb just so they can recycle the pennies on their eyes.

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Just now, Ensign_Cthulhu said:

If you truly can't grasp that concept on a res ipsa loquitur basis, I'm not sure I can explain it to you. It's a subjective, emotional thing. It's why some people will fight tooth-and-claw to avoid their deceased loved ones undergoing an autopsy while others will fight tooth-and-claw to make sure the deceased gets one.

If you want to raise these ships, let it be done by the nation the ship fought for; let the human remains be gathered and buried; let that nation make its own decision on what happens to the carcass of the ship. What's going on here is akin to people breaking into some famous 19th century person's marble tomb just so they can recycle the pennies on their eyes.

But the North Vietnamese didn't let the Americans remove their own crashed B-52 bombers from Hanoi.  Why would they?  And is that morally wrong?

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1 hour ago, Sventex said:

But the North Vietnamese didn't let the Americans remove their own crashed B-52 bombers from Hanoi.  Why would they?  And is that morally wrong?

Most cultures prefer the proper care and respectful handling of the deceased.
The details may vary, but in my understanding the principle is common (most of the time).

When it is not common, or there is little to no respect, personal feelings may run high in the hearts of the family/friends/national-citizenry of the deceased.

There are examples of these strong feelings motivating people to prod their politicians to enact laws on the topic.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protection_of_Military_Remains_Act_1986
https://www.history.navy.mil/research/underwater-archaeology/policy-and-resource-management/sunken-military-craft-act.html

Grave Robbing or Archaeology?  https://www.huffpost.com/entry/grave-robbing-or-archaeol_b_5312978

https://time.com/5767262/titanic-treaty/

http://www.warmemorials.org/maritime/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_grave

I don't presume to speak for the motivations of the North Vietnamese.

Edited to add:  "Maritime Legacies and the Law" https://www.elgaronline.com/view/9781784717247/07_introduction.xhtml

Edited by Wolfswetpaws

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4 minutes ago, Wolfswetpaws said:

Most cultures prefer the proper care and respectful handling of the deceased.
The details may vary, but in my understanding the principle is common (most of the time).

When it is not common, or there is little to no respect, personal feelings may run high in the hearts of the family/friends/national-citizenry of the deceased.

There are examples of these strong feelings motivating people to prod their politicians to enact laws on the topic.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protection_of_Military_Remains_Act_1986
https://www.history.navy.mil/research/underwater-archaeology/policy-and-resource-management/sunken-military-craft-act.html

Grave Robbing or Archaeology?  https://www.huffpost.com/entry/grave-robbing-or-archaeol_b_5312978

https://time.com/5767262/titanic-treaty/

http://www.warmemorials.org/maritime/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_grave

I don't presume to speak for the motivations of the North Vietnamese.

Edited to add:  "Maritime Legacies and the Law" https://www.elgaronline.com/view/9781784717247/07_introduction.xhtml

I don't mean to imply the North Vietnamese are unique or anything.  Russia and China has shot down U2 planes on display in museums as trophies.  I just don't consider it odd that they would display it in a museum.  It's history and it's being preserved.  I just wonder why ships are afforded such a different standard.  The ocean is corrosive, it's dissolving history every day and it's not like the dead are interned within the ship, at a certain point the ocean devours the dead and leaves nothing behind.  A grave or memorial is about preservation and the ocean does not preserve the dead or history.  It eats it.

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3 minutes ago, Sventex said:

I don't mean to imply the North Vietnamese are unique or anything.  Russia and China has shot down U2 planes on display in museums as trophies.  I just don't consider it odd that they would display it in a museum.  It's history and it's being preserved.  I just wonder why ships are afforded such a different standard.  The ocean is corrosive, it's dissolving history every day and it's not like the dead are interned within the ship, at a certain point the ocean devours the dead and leaves nothing behind.  A grave or memorial is about preservation and the ocean does not preserve the dead or history.  It eats it.

 

What are you trying to preserve?
The equipment?
The human remains?
The sanctity of the site?
The story of the lives of those who are deceased?

Rituals of burial. 
Have you ever wondered why they exist and what purpose they serve? 
Who do the burial ceremonies comfort?
Who would be upset if a grave site is disturbed?

For a long time, the capability to visit a maritime grave was non-existent. 
Eventually, technology provided the means to visit deep underwater locations.

Nature, meanwhile, has been doing what nature does.

Humans can't bring nature into a court of law as a defendant.
Humans can hold other humans accountable for their actions in a court of law.

There are reasons for what's been happening to shipwrecks.  Some are natural.  Some are human behaviors with human motivations.

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Just now, Wolfswetpaws said:

What are you trying to preserve?
The equipment?
The human remains?
The sanctity of the site?
The story of the lives of those who are deceased?

Conversely what are we trying to preserve by acting shocked and appalled that people are visiting undefended wreaks on the other side of the world and taking things back with them?  Honor?
What's protecting these shipwrecks from being investigated beyond morality?  The dead aren't being defiled, they were already devoured by the sea.  What dignity is being lost here?

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3 minutes ago, Sventex said:

Conversely what are we trying to preserve by acting shocked and appalled that people are visiting undefended wreaks on the other side of the world and taking things back with them?  Honor?
What's protecting these shipwrecks from being investigated beyond morality?  The dead aren't being defiled, they were already devoured by the sea.  What dignity is being lost here?

Personally, I'm in favor of treating maritime shipwrecks and war graves as sites which are "off limits".
Any purpose for visiting them should require gaining permission from the Nation the warship belonged too, and should have a compelling justification.

As various news articles have reported, not all share my sentiments.

Human dignity begins when a human life begins, and doesn't end when a human life ends.
Therefore, human dignity is affected by those who disturb grave sites, wherever they are located.

I'm not sure if you have had the chance to view Drachinifel 's video on the aftermath of the Attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent efforts to raise the sunken ships and the decisions about which ones to leave in place.
There are a number of considerations involved, including human sentiment and technological and logistical capabilities available.
Ship wrecks of any kind pose hazards to divers.  Military shipwrecks also add military ordnance to the list of hazards.
 

Spoiler

 

 

 

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2 minutes ago, Wolfswetpaws said:

Personally, I'm in favor of treating maritime shipwrecks and war graves as sites which are "off limits".
Any purpose for visiting them should require gaining permission from the Nation the warship belonged too, and should have a compelling justification.

But then we get to the air bomber situation where North Vietnam would need permission from the United States to move a crashed B-52 bomber that was bombing their city.  I understand legally there is a difference, but morally why would a crashed plane be treated with less reverence than a shipwreak?  Is the moral difference here that if the bodies can be removed, even without permission, it is no longer considered a war grave?

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1 minute ago, Sventex said:

But then we get to the air bomber situation where North Vietnam would need permission from the United States to move a crashed B-52 bomber that was bombing their city.  I understand legally there is a difference, but morally why would a crashed plane be treated with less reverence than a shipwreak?  Is the moral difference here that if the bodies can be removed, even without permission, it is no longer considered a war grave?

One of the nuances involved in your North Vietnam Bomber situation is the legal jurisdiction.
North Vietnam gets to decide what happens in North Vietnam.  North Vietnam is a sovereign nation.  (Whatever their reputation in the world's public eye may be, legally, they're a recognized nation, as far as I am aware.)

The USA can only "negotiate".

Ideally, a downed plane can be found in a timely manner and the human remains recovered in a respectful manner so that they can be returned "home".

Captured war material, whether it be planes, family swords of Japanese military, heirloom pocket-watches or whatever it may be, is often treated in a manner that is decided upon by those who captured the material.
Right or wrong or whatever.  
And there are plenty of stories about such items.

Treatment of human remains, in my understanding, often involves the principle of "reciprocity".
<Insert nation here> wants their deceased treated with dignity AND <insert another nation here> also wants their deceased treated with dignity.
Often treaties and policies are signed and enacted to ensure the behavior of the signatory nations of the documents, because of the value placed upon treating the deceased with dignity.
Often, but, I suspect, perhaps not always.

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1 minute ago, Wolfswetpaws said:

One of the nuances involved in your North Vietnam Bomber situation is the legal jurisdiction.
North Vietnam gets to decide what happens in North Vietnam.  North Vietnam is a sovereign nation.  (Whatever their reputation in the world's public eye may be, legally, they're a recognized nation, as far as I am aware.)

The USA can only "negotiate".

Ideally, a downed plane can be found in a timely manner and the human remains recovered in a respectful manner so that they can be returned "home".

Captured war material, whether it be planes, family swords of Japanese military, heirloom pocket-watches or whatever it may be, is often treated in a manner that is decided upon by those who captured the material.
Right or wrong or whatever.  
And there are plenty of stories about such items.

Treatment of human remains, in my understanding, often involves the principle of "reciprocity".
<Insert nation here> wants their deceased treated with dignity AND <insert another nation here> also wants their deceased treated with dignity.
Often treaties and policies are signed and enacted to ensure the behavior of the signatory nations of the documents, because of the value placed upon treating the deceased with dignity.
Often, but, I suspect, perhaps not always.

I see, so it's more of the moral equivalent to the "Golden Rule".  These looters would perhaps not want their military's wreaks looted if the situation were reversed such as with that Indonesian Submarine that just went down.

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3 minutes ago, Sventex said:

I see, so it's more of the moral equivalent to the "Golden Rule".  These looters would perhaps not want their military's wreaks looted if the situation were reversed such as with that Indonesian Submarine that just went down.

Looters, by definition and behavior, are categorically criminals, some might argue.

Those who've looted underwater war graves have done so for their own motivations, whatever they may be.

Some of the moral questions were examined in the article I linked for you.
Grave Robbing or Archaeology?  https://www.huffpost.com/entry/grave-robbing-or-archaeol_b_5312978

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2 minutes ago, Wolfswetpaws said:

Looters, by definition and behavior, are categorically criminals, some might argue.

Those who've looted underwater war graves have done so for their own motivations, whatever they may be.

Some of the moral questions were examined in the article I linked for you.
Grave Robbing or Archaeology?  https://www.huffpost.com/entry/grave-robbing-or-archaeol_b_5312978

I lean heavily towards archeology.  If we respected the Egyptian graves, we would know extremely little about them beyond being the despised villains of the bible and we would still have this notion that the Jews built their pyramids for them.  I almost view it as morally good to acquire that knowledge and preserve.  But of course I look down upon the desecration of the dead, where the Victorian British unwrapped mummies for their own amusement at parties and used the bodies to make medicine and charms.  Ugh...

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4 minutes ago, Sventex said:

I lean heavily towards archeology.  If we respected the Egyptian graves, we would know extremely little about them beyond being the despised villains of the bible and we would still have this notion that the Jews built their pyramids for them.  I almost view it as morally good to acquire that knowledge and preserve.  But of course I look down upon the desecration of the dead, where the Victorian British unwrapped mummies for their own amusement at parties and used the bodies to make medicine and charms.  Ugh...

Glad to know you're considering the situation from a variety of angles & perspectives.

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On 6/15/2021 at 1:20 PM, Sventex said:

I bring it up because I recently heard that Titanic isn't long for this world, in a few decades it will rust away until there's nothing left but a red spot on the ocean floor.  Is that even morally preferable to salvaging artifacts, history and valuable materials from a sunken ship?  From what I've seen of Bismarck, the bodies completely disappear after awhile, all that's left of them are their boots on the ground.  Why does the ship hull itself become sacred as a grave? 

This is a deep issue (besides the oceans depths).

In the case of Titanic, there really is no benefit to recovering anything. the 1910s are pretty well covered in the annals of history. We can't really learn anything more of that period we dont already know. The only reason to explore would be to determine why it sank.

 

Bismarck is a war grave. As such it is still owned by Germany and any attempt at salvage should be prosecuted.

 

On 6/15/2021 at 3:12 PM, Sventex said:

But the North Vietnamese didn't let the Americans remove their own crashed B-52 bombers from Hanoi.  Why would they?  And is that morally wrong?

The Vietnam war is a bit of a sore point for many.

However, 30+ years on, teams from the US are now able to travel into Vietnam and have since recovered missing pilots from crash sites.

Not every plane that crashed took its crew with it.

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4 minutes ago, Lord_Slayer said:

In the case of Titanic, there really is no benefit to recovering anything. the 1910s are pretty well covered in the annals of history. We can't really learn anything more of that period we dont already know. The only reason to explore would be to determine why it sank.

The benefit would be preserving the artifacts of the Titanic, unique to the Titanic, not the era.  The Titanic itself is an extremely important piece of history being one of the most famous sinking events in naval history.

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1 hour ago, Sventex said:

The benefit would be preserving the artifacts of the Titanic, unique to the Titanic, not the era.  The Titanic itself is an extremely important piece of history being one of the most famous sinking events in naval history.

what artifacts are unique to the Titanic?

The dishes? Every White Star Ship had the same dishes.

Ship fittings? Titanic was the Second Olympic-class ship built out of three. Olympic survived to be scrapped in the late 30s and quite a bit of her fittings survive today. Britannic never was fitted out and anything that was were removed was stored and later used in other ships or sold.

The only things that are truly unique are the personal items of the passengers and crew, which again are every day items from 1910s that we already know much about.

 

Yes, it is a famous and infamous moment in history. 1,500 people died on her maiden voyage. Leave them to rest in peace.

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