Divers find wreckage of first US Navy destroyer sunk by enemy fire

Divers off the coast of England believe they have found the remains of a US destroyer sunk by a German submarine torpedo at the height of hostilities during the First World War.

The US Naval History and Heritage Command announced Friday that Darkstar, a team of specialist divers from the UK, found the wreck of the USS Jacob Jones off the southwest tip of England.

The ship was tasked with patrolling and escorting convoys around the United Kingdom from May 1917 until her sinking on 6 December.

The destroyer was 60 miles off the coast of England, near the English Channel, when the torpedo struck three feet below the water line.

Historians said that in the eight minutes until the ship sank, less than half the crew found refuge on emergency rafts.

Only 46 of the 110 crew members are believed to have survived the attack.

USS Jacob Jones sunk off the coast of England after being hit by a torpedo.
Naval History and Heritage Command

The NHHC says that after the sinking, a German U-boat commander took two prisoners of war across the frigid waters and radioed a nearby American base about the need for rescue ships.

How quickly the 1,000-plus ton destroyer sank, its final resting place was a mystery for more than a century.

UK divers estimate the ship to be at a depth of 400 feet and said they recovered no items from the wreckage during recent voyages.

Surviving members of the USS Jacob Jones.
Surviving crew members of the USS Jacob Jones.
Naval History and Heritage Command

Historians consider the destroyer a workhorse and responsible for rescuing hundreds of survivors from torpedoed ships.

By the time the war ended in November 1918, Germany was believed to have been responsible for the sinking of over 5,000 merchant ships and about 100 warships.

Historians say that despite the effort, the German forces never overcame the Allied naval capabilities and sheer numbers.

The divers intend to work with the US Embassy to determine next steps for the ship.

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