MDSU 1 conducts inaugural dive, preserves legacy of USS Salute

U.S. Navy Divers attached to MDSU 1 and divers serving with the Royal Brunei Armed Forces at the wreckage site of USS Salute (AM-294), which sank in Brunei waters on June 7, 1945, during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Brunei 2016, Nov. 15. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Chris Price

U.S. Navy Divers attached to MDSU 1 and divers serving with the Royal Brunei Armed Forces at the wreckage site of USS Salute (AM-294), which sank in Brunei waters on June 7, 1945, during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Brunei 2016, Nov. 15. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Chris Price

Task Force 73 Public Affairs

Navy divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 1 teamed up with with Royal Brunei navy personnel Nov. 16-18 for diving operations on former USS Salute (AM 294), a World War II-era minesweeper sunk by a Japanese mine during preparations for amphibious landings in the Battle of Borneo.

The diving operations are the first by the U.S. Navy on the wreckage of Salute, which lies in approximately 90 feet of water in Brunei Bay. The operations are occurring with divers embarked on Military Sealift Command rescue and salvage ship USNS Salvor (T-ARS-52) who are in Brunei for Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) 2016.

The dives on Salute were preceded by a remembrance ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Bandar Seri Begawan, Nov. 14, where U.S. Ambassador Craig Allen and Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson, commander, Task Force 73, recognized the service and sacrifice of the fallen Sailors who served aboard Salute.

“We have a unique opportunity during CARAT to pay tribute to the Sailors of USS Salute who gave their last full measure for our nation,” Gabrielson said. “Our remembrance ceremony and diving operations on Salute solemnly honor an important historical site, and pay rightful respects to the legacy of brave Americans who will never be forgotten.”

Salute struck a mine June 7, 1945, while conducting sweeping operations for an Australian landing force in preparation for the Battle of Borneo which liberated Brunei from Japanese imperial forces. Salute sank just after midnight June 8, after a failed attempt by two Navy landing craft to salvage the ship.

Lt. James J. Hughes, an officer aboard Salute who survived the explosion, later recalled the final hours before the minesweeper sank.

“The ship was hit mid-ship, right underneath the belly, and it came right up through all the decks,” Hughes said. “Anybody in that area was killed, especially in the engine room; they didn’t have a chance. We hit it about 4 p.m. and sunk about midnight. We were making the last run of the day.”

For Navy divers visiting Salute’s wreckage, it is an opportunity to pay tribute and reflect on a solemn war grave where U.S. service members perished.

“These operations provided U.S. Navy divers a unique opportunity to work alongside our Bruneian counterparts on a very meaningful project,” said Lt. Chris Price, detachment officer-in-charge, MDSU 1. “We are preserving our Navy’s rich history and heritage, and giving a very fitting remembrance to these fallen Sailors.”

In its 22nd year, CARAT is a bilateral exercise series between the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and the armed forces of nine partner nations in south and southeast Asia including Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Timor-Leste.

Editor’s Note: MDSU-1 is one of the Navy’s diving and salvage units based at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

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Category: News