The ship’s bell from the first US Navy destroyer to be sunk by a German submarine during World War I was recently recovered by the UK Ministry of Defense’s Salvage and Marine Operations (SALMO) unit.
The USS Jacob Jones was torpedoed by the German submarine U-53 on Dec. 6, 1917 and sank eight minutes after being struck, with the U-boat commander radioing the approximate location of the survivors to the nearest American base for rescue.
The shipwreck was discovered off the Isles of Scilly, England, in August 2022 by technical divers, although officials didn’t release the exact location. Since its discovery, efforts have been underway to fully document and study the wreck site for its long-term preservation and protection. The recent remotely operated vehicle survey by SALMO brought up the bell.
Retired US Navy Rear Admiral Sam Cox, director of Naval History and Heritage Command, said:
“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. 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 SALMO team for recovering the bell, which will serve as a memorial to sailors who made the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of both the United States and the United Kingdom.”
The UK MOD’s SALMO team not only collected ROV video data and recovered the ship’s bell, but also placed a wreath and US flag on the wreck in tribute to the sailors lost 107 years ago. After its recovery, the bell was placed into the temporary custody of Wessex Archaeology, a private firm contracted by NHHC. Later this year, after a ceremonial handover, the bell will be sent to the NHHC’s Underwater Archaeology Branch for conservation treatment and eventual display at the National Museum of the US Navy.
You can learn more about the USS Jacob Jones here.
(Image of multibeam data collected and provided by the UK National Oceanography Centre and further processed by Wessex Archaeology, via Naval History and Heritage Command.)