VANDALS have attacked the wreckage of a World War Two era Japanese mini submarine that attempted to attack Sydney Harbour during the conflict, and have stolen parts of the craft and protected relics.
Three vessels were involved in the attack in 1942, after a Japanese reconnaissance flight reported that Allied warships were anchored in the harbour.
The submarines attempted to attack the warships, but were detected by the Allied forces. One of the Japanese crafts tried to torpedo the cruiser USS Chicago, but missed, sinking the Australian ferry HMAS Kuttabul, with the loss of 21 lives.
The crews of two of the submarines scuttled their crafts and committed suicide, with the fate of the third unknown until scuba divers discovered it off the northern beaches of Sydney in 2006.
Authorities set up an exclusion zone around the submarine, which is believed to hold the remains of the crew along with good luck charms and personal items including Samurai swords.
Divers apparently entered the site, damaging the hull of the submarine before taking some of the relics and part of the propeller blades.
A statement from Australia’s Environment Department appealed for information about the theft, saying:
“The resulting damage includes the breaking off and removal of two of three visible propeller blades of the submarine, causing permanent damage to a significant piece of Australia’s WWII heritage.”
An archaeological inspection uncovered the damage. Australian law dictates that anyone found guilty of damaging a protected wreck can face up to five years imprisonment.
The site is protected under the heritage laws of New South Wales, with a fine of around AU$1.1m (£763,000) for anyone found breaching the laws.