Divers find First World War US shipwreck which has been missing since 1917

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British divers have finally found a US shipwreck from the First World War which has been missing under the ocean since 1917. (SWNS)
British divers have finally found a US shipwreck from the First World War which has been missing under the ocean since 1917. (SWNS)

British divers have finally found a US shipwreck from the First World War that has been missing under the ocean since it sunk in 1917.

A team of experienced divers found the USS Jacob Jones 40 miles off the coast of the Isles of Scilly on 11 August.

The vessel was one of six Tucker-class destroyers, designed by and built for the US Navy before the First World War.

The USS Jacob Jones was one of six vessels named Tucker-class destroyers, designed by and built for the US Navy before the nation entered World War One. (SWNS)
The USS Jacob Jones was one of six vessels named Tucker-class destroyers, designed by and built for the US Navy before the nation entered World War One. (SWNS)
Diver Dom Robinson, part of the Dark Star diving team, which found the vessel, lights up the silt over the wreck. (SWNS)
Diver Dom Robinson, part of the Dark Star diving team, which found the vessel, lights up the silt over the wreck. (SWNS)

It was the first of the American destroyers ever to be sunk by enemy action when it was torpedoed off the Isles of Scilly in 1917 by a German submarine, killing 66 of its 150-strong crew. The vessel sank in eight minutes without issuing a distress call.

Dominic Robinson, 52, one of the divers who took part in the expedition, said: "This is such an exciting find - Jacob Jones was the first ship of its kind to be lost to enemy action.

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"The ship, lost for over 100 years, has been on a lot of people’s wish lists because of its historical weight.

"It has a particular interest in America given the amount they spent on designing the destroyers."

Some 66 men of the 150 crew on board were killed when the vessel sank on 6 December 1917. (SWNS)
Some 66 men of the 150 crew on board were killed when the vessel sank on 6 December 1917. (SWNS)

Robinson is part of an experienced diving team dubbed Dark Star, who have a long history of deep diving exploration and have identified wrecks from all over the UK.

The diver, from Plymouth, Devon, who as been completing deep sea divers for over 30 years, said: "We had already decided we were going to look for the vessel, but because of its depth and remoteness it is very difficult to get to.

"So we spent this week going to different GPS locations – provided by the UK hydrographic office – who have information on the location of shipwrecks upon the seabed, but do not know which ones they are.

"We found the vessel on our second day of diving to other wrecks in the area, but there had been many hours of research before hand."

The vessel was the first of the American destroyers ever to be sunk by enemy action when it was torpedoed off the Isles of Scilly in 1917 by a German submarine. (SWNS)
The vessel was the first of the American destroyers ever to be sunk by enemy action when it was torpedoed off the Isles of Scilly in 1917 by a German submarine. (SWNS)

"On the day, five of us went into the water, and the ship was about 115 metres to the seabed and 110 metres to the top of the wreck.

"It was very clear that it was Jacob Jones immediately – you can see its name written on parts of the shipwreck.

"This was a steam ship which contained big boilers and very big engines to get it to travel at such a speed.

"War ships look very different to cargo ships underwater - we could actually see the guns, torpedo tubes and one of the prop shafts that was bent 390 degrees – which would have happened either when the vessel exploded or when it hit the sea bed."

The USS Jacob Jones, which measured at 315 feet (96 metres) long and just over 30 feet (9.1 metres) wide, was armed with eight 21 inch torpedo tubes and four four-inch guns.

She was powered by a pair of steam turbines which were able to propel the vessel to a speed of up to 30 knots (34.5 miles per hour).

The vessel was found on 11 August, 40 miles off the coast of the Isles of Scilly. (SWNS)
The vessel was found on 11 August, 40 miles off the coast of the Isles of Scilly. (SWNS)

Robinson added: "No human remains were found or personal artefacts.

"But for me, the thing that brought it home was the bent prop shaft – which shows the trauma the vessel must have been through when it was torpedoed. Absolutely incredible."

He said one of the most interesting things about the vessel was the remarkable stories that came with its sinking.

"The destroyer’s commander ordered all life rafts and boats launched, but as the ship was sinking the armed depth charges began to explode – which is what killed most of the men who had been unable to escape the ship initially.

"A few of the crew and officers also tried to get men out of the water and into the life rafts.

"One name in particular was Stanton F. Kalk, who spent his time swimming between the rafts in the freezing Atlantic water.

“But he ended up dying of cold and exhaustion – he was awarded the Navy's Distinguished Service Medal for his heroic actions that day."

He said the German submarine commander showed an incredible act of kindness after see the Jacob Jones' crew in the water - taking two badly injured crewmen aboard his own submarine and radioing his enemies at the US base in Queenstown with their coordinates to come and rescue the survivors.