In a joint effort between the United Kingdom and the United States, the UK Ministry of Defence’s Salvage and Marine Operations, or SALMO, unit successfully conducted a survey of the historic World War One wreck of USS Jacob Jones (DD-61). The operation, carried out at the behest of Naval History and Heritage Command, or NHHC, and with pivotal support from the U.S. Embassy in London, led to the recovery of a key artifact — the ship’s bell.
USS Jacob Jones, sunk by German submarine U-53 on Dec. 6, 1917, was the first U.S. Navy Destroyer lost to enemy action. The ship 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. Meanwhile, the ship’s officer-of-the-deck that directed the rescue effort died of exposure and was posthumously awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal.
In the final 18 months of World War One, the U.S. Navy maintained a substantial presence in UK waters and the Western Approaches to help cope with the U-boat menace and keep the maritime lifeline between the Americas and the Europe open. Jacob Jones was one of half a dozen destroyers escorting a troop and supply convoy from southern Ireland to Brittany in December 1917.
The shipwreck was discovered off the Isles of Scilly, England, in Aug. 2022 by technical divers. 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, or ROV, survey by SALMO is a key step in the project and honors the legacy of the ship and its Sailors.
“The ship played an important role safeguarding convoys carrying the troops and supplies from the United States to the United Kingdom and France that were critical to Allied victory,” said Sam J. Cox, U.S. Navy rear admiral (retired), director of NHHC. “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. U.S. 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 U.S. 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 American 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 U.S. Navy.
“I am proud of what the team have achieved. 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, said Andy Liddell, SALMO Head.”
The survey and artifact recovery underscores the technical proficiency and collaborative spirit of the UK’s MOD and its American counterparts. It serves not only to safeguard a significant wreck site and historical artifact, but also as a gesture of respect and remembrance for those who have served.
“This most recent chapter in the story of Jacob Jones is one of collaboration and mutual respect for the site,” said Cox. “In addition to SALMO, we are also grateful to the Darkstar technical dive team that located the wreck, to the National Oceanography Centre for providing us with the first comprehensive data set of the site, and to Wessex Archaeology and Gray & Pape for supporting this effort throughout its evolution.”
Further details, updates on the preservation process and the planned transfer of the bell will be provided as available. The continued cooperation between the UK Ministry of Defence and the U.S. Navy fortifies the historical bonds and mutual dedication to honoring and preserving our shared naval history.
For more information regarding the sinking of USS Jacob Jones, visit: https://www.history.navy.mil/research/underwater-archaeology/sites-and-projects/ship-wrecksites/uss-jacob-jones-dd-61.html
NHHC, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for preserving, analyzing, and disseminating U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through our nation’s history and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC comprises many activities, including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, 10 museums, USS Constitution repair facility, and the historic ship Nautilus.
This work, UK Ministry of Defence Partners with NHHC to Recover Artifact from USS Jacob Jones, by PO1 Jonathan Nelson, identified by DVIDS, must comply with the restrictions shown on https://www.dvidshub.net/about/copyright.