Bell of WWI shipwreck, USS Jacob Jones, recovered – DIVE Magazine

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a picture of the ships bell from the USS Jacob Jones after it was recovered
The USS Jacob Jones’ ship’s bell shortly after it was recovered (Photo: UK MoD/SALMO)


The bell of the USS Jacob Jones, the first US Navy destroyer to be sunk by enemy action, has been recovered from the ship’s resting place near the UK’s Isles of Scilly.

The survey and salvage operation was conducted by the UK Ministry of Defense’s salvage unit (SALMO) after a request was made to the British Royal Navy by the US Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC)

Jacob Jones (DD-61) was one of six Tucker-class destroyers designed and built for the US Navy before the United States entered the First World War. Laid down in August 1914 and commissioned in February 1916, she patrolled the New England coast until being sent to the British Isles in April 1917. She served as a convoy escort and was instrumental in saving the survivors of three other stricken ships, until her sinking on 6 December 1917. while returning to Queenstown, Ireland after returning from escort duty in France.

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original picture of the USS Jacob Jones underway
USS Jacob Jones underway in 1916 (Photo: US Navy/Wikimedia Commons)

Jacob Jones was returning to Queenstown, Ireland, after returning from escort duty in France, when she was struck by a torpedo close to the Isles of Scilly, off the south-western coast of England. The impact rapidly flooded the ending room and the destroyer began to sink, almost vertically by the stern, just eight minutes after impact.

Survivors of the initial explosion ditched into the water, but the ship was carrying armed depth charges, which detonated as she sank. A total of 64 men from her complement of 99-man crew were killed during the sinking and its aftermath. Reports at the time said that the number could have been higher, but the U-boat’s commanding officer radioed Jacob Jones‘ coordinates to the Allied Forces, in order that they could effect a rescue.

The last resting place of USS Jacob Jones remained lost until 11 August 2022 when the wreck was discovered by a team of British technical divers. Work to survey the wreck has continued since its discovery, and the bell was recovered by ROV in early February, 2024, 107 years after her sinking.

the uss jacob jones pictures as she sinks
Jacob Jones photographed as she sinks (Photo: Seaman William Ellis/Smithsonian)

‘The ship played an important role safeguarding convoys carrying the troops and supplies from the US to the United Kingdom and France that were critical to Allied victory,’ said Rear Admiral Sam J Cox (retired).

‘The wreck of the ship is a hallowed war grave and is the last resting place for many of the 64 men who were lost in the sinking,’ added Admiral Cox. ‘US Navy policy is to leave such wrecks undisturbed, however, due to risk of unauthorized and illegal salvaging of the ship’s bell, NHHC requested Ministry of Defence assistance.

‘The US Navy is grateful to the Salvage and Marine Operations Team for recovering the bell, which will serve as a memorial to sailors who made the ultimate sacrifice in the defence of both the United States and the United Kingdom.’

The bell will be put on permanent display by th NHHC (Photo: Crown Copyright)

“I am proud of what the team have achieved,’ said SALMO head Andy Liddell. ‘This operation highlights the longstanding and enduring naval ties between the UK and US and provided an excellent training opportunity for the expert SALMO team.

‘To assist our Allies in the recovery of the bell from such a historic wreck on the first deployment of the new ROV is a massive achievement.’

The bell will be put on permanent display by the NHHC’s Underwater Archaeology Branch, following a ceremonial handover to the US Navy.

Mark 'Crowley' Russell

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