USS Jacob Jones’ bell returns home

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Author: Mark ‘Crowley’ Russell

The bell of the USS Jacob Jones on display during the ceremony (Photo: Crown Copyright)

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The ship’s bell of the USS Jacob Jones, the first US Navy destroyer to be sunk by enemy action during the First World War, has been returned to the United States Navy.

Jacob Jones (DD-61) was a Tucker-class destroyer commissioned in February 1916 and sent to operate as a convoy escort around British Isles in April 1917. She was sunk by a torpedo fired from a German U-boat off the Isles of Scilly in December 1917, with the loss of 64 men.

original picture of the USS Jacob Jones underway
USS Jacob Jones underway in 1916 (Photo: US Navy/Wikimedia Commons)

The ship was discovered in August 2022 by a team of wreck explorers; the bell subsequently recovered in February 2024 during a survey and salvage operation conducted UK Ministry of Defense’s salvage unit (SALMO) following a request by the US Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC).

The bell was presented to US Navy vice chief of operations, Admiral James Kilby, by Vice Admiral Martin Connell at a ceremony held at Lancaster House, London.

US Admiral James Kilby (left) and British Vice Admiral Martin Connell (right) pictured with the bell at Lancaster House (Photo: Crown Copyright)

‘This bell serves as a remembrance of the 64 sailors aboard Jacob Jones who made the ultimate sacrifice defending the freedom of our country and those who challenged it,’ said Adm Kilby. ‘As the first US destroyer lost in combat, her crew’s legacy will live on, their stories will be told and their loss will be remembered as we preserve this piece of our nation’s story.

‘Our Navy expresses our sincerest gratitude to those who made it possible to take this incredible artefact of sombre history back home.’

The bell will be preserved and displayed in the National Museum of the US Navy.

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