Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Loss of USS Jacob Jones

USS Jacob Jones

The first of three U.S. Navy ships named after Barbary Coast War Commodore Jacob Jones, Destroyer DD-61 was laid down 3 August 1914 by New York Shipbuilding Corp.. Camden, N.J. Launched on 29 May 1916, it was sponsored by Mrs. Jerome Parker Crittendon, great-granddaughter of Jacob Jones, and commissioned on 10 February 1917. It was destined to be the first American destroyer lost to enemy fire.

After shakedown, Jacob Jones and her crew of 102 officers and men began training exercises off the New England coast until entering the Philadelphia Navy Yard for repairs. Upon the outbreak of war between the United States and Germany on 6 April 1917, Jacob Jones patrolled off the Virginia coast before departing Boston for Europe on 7 May.

Arriving at Queenstown, Ireland, on 17 May, she immediately began patrol and convoy escort duty in waters of the United Kingdom. On 8 July she picked up 44 survivors of the British steamship Valetta, the victim of a German U-boat. Two weeks later, while escorting British steamship Dafila, Jacob Jones sighted a periscope, but the steamship was torpedoed before an attack on the submarine could be launched. Once again a rescue ship, Jacob Jones took on board 25 survivors of the stricken Dafila.  Throughout the summer the destroyer escorted supply laden convoys and continued rescue operations in submarine-infested waters. On 19 October she picked up 305 survivors of torpedoed British cruiser Orama

U-53 on an Earlier Visit to Newport, Rhode Island

After special escort duty between Ireland and France, she departed Brest, France, on 6 December on her return run to Queenstown. At 1621, as she steamed independently in the vicinity of the Isles of Scilly, her watch sighted a torpedo wake about a thousand yards distant. Although the destroyer maneuvered to escape, the high-speed torpedo struck her starboard side, rupturing her fuel oil tank. The crew worked courageously to save the ship, but as the stern sank, her depth charges exploded. Realizing the situation was hopeless, Comdr. Bagley reluctantly ordered the ship abandoned. Eight minutes after being torpedoed, Jacob Jones sank with 64 men still on board.

Survivors of the Sinking After Rescue

The 38 survivors huddled together on rafts and boats in frigid Atlantic waters off the southwest coast of England. Two of her crew were taken prisoner by attacking submarine U-53 commanded by Kapitän Hans Rose, who had visited America earlier in the war. In a humanitarian gesture rare in modern war, Rose radioed the American base at Queenstown the approximate location and drift of the survivors. He also took two severely injured American sailors aboard. Throughout the night of 6 to 7 December British sloop-of-war Camellia and British liner Catalina conducted rescue operations. By 0830 the following morning HMS Insolent picked up the last survivors of Jacob Jones

Photos:  NAVSource


  1. Any word of what happened to the US sailors taken aboard U-53?

  2. What was the fate of the two other ships with the same name?


  3. A very good story about the US entrance into the war.
    (And "Insolent" is a terrific name for a ship)