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Historic Find: Artifact Over a Century Old Recovered from 'Hallowed War Grave' in Depths of Atlantic Ocean

Brass Bell from U.S. Ship Sunken During WWI Recovered
Source: Naval History and Heritage Command

The bell was aboard the USS Jacob Jones when it was sunk in 1917.

Feb. 25 2024, Published 1:02 p.m. ET

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A relic from World War I, missing for over a century, has reportedly been recovered by the United States and United Kingdom.

Discovered in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, an 80-pound brass bell belonging to the USS Jacob Jones, the first American ship sunk by submarines during World War I, has been brought to the surface.

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The ship was torpedoed off the Southeastern tip of Great Britain in 1917 while escorting a troop and supplying convoy to France, sailing alone when attacked by a German U-boat. Within minutes, it succumbed to the icy waters of the Atlantic, with only 46 of the 103 crew members surviving on three lifeboats.

Located 60 miles southwest of the Isles of Scilly in 2022, at a depth exceeding 377 feet, the recovery mission led by the U.K. Ministry of Defense's Salvage and Marine Operations (SALMO) has now been successfully completed, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.

"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 Defense assistance," said Sam J. Cox, retired U.S. Navy rear admiral , director of NHHC.

Expressing gratitude to the SALMO team for their efforts, Cox emphasized the significance of the bell as a memorial to the sailors who sacrificed their lives in defense of both the United States and the United Kingdom.

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The recovery process involved collecting video data, placing a wreath and American flag on the wreckage in tribute to the lost sailors, and eventually bringing the bell onto land under the temporary custody of Wessex Archaeology, contracted by NHHC.

Following a ceremonial handover later this year, the bell will undergo conservation treatment at NHHC’s Underwater Archaeology Branch and will eventually be displayed at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy.

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“This most recent chapter in the story of Jacob Jones is one of collaboration and mutual respect for the site,” Cox stated, acknowledging the contributions of various organizations and teams involved in the recovery effort.

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