First US Navy ship sunk by enemy forces in World War I finally found, ending 105 years of mystery

LONDON – The first US Navy ship sunk by the enemy during World War I has finally been found, ending 105 years of mystery. A team of experienced divers was able to locate the missing USS Jacob Jones on August 11, around 40 miles off the UK’s Isles of Scilly.

The USS Jacob Jones was one of six ships called “Tucker-class” destroyers, designed and built by the Navy before the country entered World War I. This impressive ship was the first of the American destroyers to be sunk by enemy action. She was torpedoed off the Isles of Scilly in 1917 by a German U-boat.

With 150 on board, 66 men met their fateful end on December 6, 1917.

Dominic Robinson of the British dive team “Darkstar”, notes the significance of the find primarily for its historical significance. “It’s such an exciting find – Jacob Jones was the first such ship to be lost to enemy action,” the 52-year-old told South West News Service. “The ship, lost for over 100 years, was on many people’s wish lists because of its historic weight. It is of particular interest to America given the amount they have spent designing the destroyers. .

Engine machinery of the ship. (Credit: Darkstars/SWNS)

Once the United States entered World War I in April 1917, the USS Jacob Jones was sent overseas. Upon returning to Ireland, the ship was traveling approximately 40 miles from the Isles of Scilly until spotted by the German U-boat.

Robinson and his team at Darkstar have a long history of deep diving exploration. They have identified wrecks from all over the UK, including HMS Jason in Scotland and the HMS B1 submarine.

“One of the most interesting things about this ship was the remarkable stories that accompanied its sinking. The commander of the destroyer ordered all life rafts and boats launched, but as the ship sank, armed depth charges began to explode – killing most of the men who had been unable to escape from the ship initially,” adds the diver from Plymouth, Devon in England. “Some crew and officers also attempted to pull men from the water and put them into life rafts. One name in particular was Stanton F. Kalk, who spent his time swimming between rafts in the freezing waters of the Atlantic. But he ended up dying of cold and exhaustion – he was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for his heroic actions that day.

Diver Dom Robinson swims past other boilers.
Diver Dom Robinson swims past other boilers. (Credit: Darkstars/SWNS)

“The commanding officer of the German submarine, Captain Hans Rose, was incredibly kind – he actually saw all of Jacob Jones’ men in the water and took two seriously injured crew members aboard. of his own submarine,” he continued. “He then radioed his enemies at the US base in Queenstown their coordinates to come and rescue the survivors.”

Jacob Jones sank in eight minutes without making a distress call.

Dominic, who has been diving the deep seas for over 30 years, explained how he and his fellow Darkstar divers were able to identify the vessel.

“We had already decided that we were going to look for the vessel, but due to its depth and its remoteness, it is very difficult to access it. So we’ve spent this week going to different GPS locations – provided by the UK Hydrographic Office – which have information on where the wrecks are on the seabed, but don’t know which ones they are,” he says. “We found the vessel on our second day of diving to other wrecks in the area, but there had been many hours of searching beforehand. That day five of us went to the water and the ship was about 115 meters from the seabed and 110 meters from the top of the wreck It was very clear that it was immediately Jacob Jones – you can see his name written on some parts of the wreck.

Ship engine machinery.
Ship engine machinery. (Credit: Darkstars/SWNS)

“It was a steamship that had big boilers and really big engines in it to make it travel at such speed. Warships are very different from cargo ships underwater – we could actually see the guns, the torpedo tubes and one of the propeller shafts which was bent 390 degrees – which would have happened either when the ship exploded or when it hit the seabed,” he continues. “No human remains were found or any personal artifacts. But for me what brought it home was the bent propeller shaft – which shows the trauma the ship must have suffered when it was torpedoed. Absolutely amazing.”

The ship, which was 315 feet long and just over 30 feet wide, was armed with eight 21-inch torpedo tubes and four four-inch guns. She was powered by a pair of steam turbines capable of propelling the ship at speeds of up to 30 knots (34.5 miles per hour).

Ship's bell.
Ship’s bell. (Credit: Darkstar/SWNS)
Boat machinery and porthole next to the crab.
Boat machinery and porthole next to the crab. (Credit: Darkstars/SWNS)
Diver Dom Robinson illuminates the silt above the wreck.
Diver Dom Robinson illuminates the silt above the wreck. (Credit: Darkstars/SWNS)
Diver Dom Robinson illuminates the silt above the wreck.
Diver Dom Robinson illuminates the silt above the wreck. (Credit: Darkstars/SWNS)

Report by South West News Service editor Lauren Beavis

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