First World War mystery SOLVED: First US Navy ship sunk by Germany finally found after 115 years | World | New
A team of experienced divers was able to locate the missing ship on August 11, 40 miles off the Isles of Scilly. The USS Jacob Jones was one of six ships named Tucker-class destroyers designed and built by the United States Navy prior to World War I. The impressive ship was the first of the American destroyers to be sunk by enemy action – and was torpedoed off the Isles of Scilly in 1917 by a German U-boat.
With 150 on board, 66 men died as a result of the incident on December 6, 1917.
One of the divers who took part in the expedition, Dominic Robinson, noted the significance of the find primarily for its historical significance.
Mr Robinson, 52, said: “This is such an exciting discovery – Jacob Jones was the first such ship to be lost to enemy action. The vessel, lost for over 100 years, was on many people’s wish list because of its historical weight. It is of particular interest to America given the amount they spent designing the destroyers.”
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.
Mr Robinson and his team at Dark Star have a long history of deep diving exploration and have identified wrecks from all over the UK, including HMS Jason in Scotland and the submarine HMS B1.
Plymouth diver Devon added: ‘One of the most interesting things about this vessel was the remarkable stories that accompanied its sinking. The commander of the destroyer ordered all life rafts and boats to be launched, but as the ship sank the armed depth charges began to explode – killing most of the men who had been unable to escape from the departing ship. A few crew members and officers also attempted to pull men out of the water and into the 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. The commander of the German submarine, Captain Hans Rose, showed incredibly kind – he actually saw all of Jacob Jones’ men in the water and took two seriously injured crew members aboard his own submarine, then radioed his enemies to the American base in Queenstown their coordinates to come and help the survivors.
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Jacob Jones sank in eight minutes without making a distress call.
Mr Robinson, who has been diving on the high seas for more than 30 years, explained how he and his fellow Dark Star divers were able to identify the vessel.
Mr Robinson said: ‘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 get there. So we’ve spent this week going to various GPS locations – provided by the UK Hydrographic Service – which have information on where wrecks are on the seabed but don’t know which ones. 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 into 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 Jacob Jones immediately – you can see his name written on some parts of the wreckage.
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“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.”
Mr Robinson added: “No human remains were found or any personal artefacts. But for me what brought him home was the twisted propeller shaft – which shows the trauma the ship must have suffered when it was torpedoed. Absolutely incredible.”
The ship, which was 96 meters long and just over 9.1 meters 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 to speeds of up to 34.5 miles per hour.