First US Navy Destroyer Sunk by Enemy Fire Is Found

Tales of kindness, bravery surround 1917 sinking of USS Jacob Jones
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 21, 2022 3:45 PM CDT
First US Navy Destroyer Sunk by Enemy Fire Is Found
This 1916 photo shows the USS Jacob Jones (DD-61).   (Wikimedia Commons/Naval History and Heritage Command)

The first US Navy destroyer to be sunk by enemy fire—specifically a torpedo shot from a German submarine—has been discovered more than a century after ending up in a watery grave. The USS Jacob Jones was sent to the submarine-infested waters around the UK to help safeguard supply convoys during World War I. It managed to rescue hundreds of sailors on ruined British warships before its own vanquishment in the English Channel, per CBS News. The 315-foot vessel was reportedly hit 20 miles east of Start Point, on the southern tip of England, on Dec. 6, 1917. It sank eight minutes later. Two officers and 62 crew members went down with the ship.

It "has been on a lot of people's wish lists because of its historical weight," Dominic Robinson tells the Independent. He's part of the UK dive group Darkstar, which discovered the wreck 60 miles south of Newlyn on Aug. 11 in about 400 feet of water. "One of the most interesting things about this vessel was the remarkable stories that came with its sinking," Robinson adds. Indeed, Lt. Stanton F. Kalk, the officer-of-the-deck at the time, died of exhaustion and exposure after helping crew members out of the water and into lifeboats and rafts, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command. He was posthumously awarded the Navy's Distinguished Service Medal and two Navy destroyers later took his name.

Capt. Hans Rose, commander of the enemy German sub, also "showed an incredible act of kindness," says Robinson. He brought two injured crewmen aboard his own submarine and radioed the US base in Queenstown with "the approximate location and drift of the survivors," asking just that he be given an hour to flee the area. The Independent notes the destroyer hadn't issued a distress call before sinking; 39 men ultimately survived. Among those rescued by British warships was Lt. Cdr. Norman Scott, "one of only five US Admirals KIA in WW2," Darkstar member Steve Mortimer wrote on Facebook, where he noted that Scott was awarded the Medal of Honor. (More shipwreck stories.)

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