First US WW1 destroyer loss commemorated for Centenary

Posted on on 08 December 2017
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Britain's Maritime Archaeology Trust is commemorating the USS Jacob Jones, an American destroyer sunk by a German submarine while deployed on convoy duties in European waters.

The destroyer was returning to base at the Irish port of Queenstown (now Cobh) after escorting a convoy to France when it came into the sights of U-53, 30 miles south of the Isles of Scilly.

Hit by a single torpedo, it sank in eight minutes, becoming the first US destroyer lost to enemy action in the First World War.

Almost 70 crewmen perished. The death toll would probably have been higher but for a humanitarian gesture by the U-boat commander, Kapitänleutnant Hans Rose. He radioed the position of the sinking to the American base in Queenstown.

Rose had himself visited Newport, Rhode Island, with U-53 in October 1916 while the United States was still neutral.

To mark the Centennial of the sinking, the Maritime Archaeology Trust has added the story of USS Jacob Jones to its commemorative publication, Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War. A transcript of information held by the UK National Archives is also featured. It includes survivors' stories and details of the destroyer's operations while serving with the US flotilla at Queenstown.

Survivors from the USS Jacob Jones following their rescue (Photo: US Naval History & Heritage Command NH-92064,)

Julie Satchell from the Maritime Archaeology Trust (MAT) said: "It has been a privilege to investigate the many vessels lost off the south coast of England during the First World War, bringing to light the stories of bravery and sacrifice has been both fascinating and humbling. 

"The commendations of the crew of the Jacob Jones for their actions during the sinking provide formal recognition, while the detail in the accounts from The National Archives give a more personal insight into role and resolve of individual crew members".

MAT is seeking support for a further project to survey the wreck site, 110 metres below the southwest approaches to the English Channel, creating a 'virtual tour' to raise further awareness of those lost at sea.

USS Jacob Jones, commissioned in February 1916, had a short but distinguished career.

Of all the American destroyers sent across the Atlantic to help guard Allied shipping, it is credited with rescuing greatest number of survivors from torpedoed vessels.

'Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War', funded by the UK's Heritage Lottery Fund, is a Centenary project rediscovering the stories of the many ships lost off the British Isles in WW1. For more information, visit the Maritime Archaeology Trust website.

Sources: MAT/US Naval War College/Wikpedia

Images courtesy of Maritime Archaeology Trust (USS Jacob Jones cover); US Naval History & Heritage Command NH-92064  (survivors)

Posted by: CN Editorial Team