USS Jacob Jones (DD-61)

USS Jacob Jones (DD-61) was a Tucker class destroyer that became the only US destroyer lost to enemy action during the First World War, when she was sunk by U-53.

The Jacob Jones was laid down on 3 August 1914, launched on 29 March 1915 and commissioned on 10 February 1916. She was named after Jacob Jones, a US sailor who served during the Quasi-War with France, was captured during the war with the Barbary pirates in 1803 and commanded the USS Wasp and USS Macedonian during the War of 1812 as well as serving on Lake Ontario. After the war he served as commander of the Mediterranean Squadron, head of the Board of Navy Commissioners and finally as commander, US Naval Forces in the Pacific.

After her shakedown cruiser the Jacob Jones took part in training off New England, and then entered the Philadelphia Navy Yard for repairs. After the US entry into the First World War (6 April 1917) she patrolled off the Virginian coast for a few weeks.

The Jacob Jones was part of the second batch of US destroyers sent to Europe after the American entry into the First World War (Tucker (DD-57), Rowan (DD-64), Cassin (DD-43), Ericsson (DD-56), Winslow (DD-53), and Jacob Jones (DD-61)). She left Boston on 7 May and reached Queenstown, Ireland, on 17 May 1917.

USS Melville (Destroyer Tender No.2), Queenstown, 1917
USS Melville
(Destroyer Tender No.2),
Queenstown, 1917

The Jacob Jones was used for patrol and convoy escort duties from her base at Queenstown. On 8 July she rescued 44 survivors from the SS Valetta, a British steamship that had been sunk by a U-boat. In late July she spotted a periscope, but was unable to intervene before the submarine sank the SS Dafila. This time 26 survivors were rescued. On 19 October she rescued 305 survivors from the British armed merchant cruiser HMS Orama, sunk while escorting a convoy south of Ireland.

Late in 1917 the Jacob Jones was used to escort ships travelling between Ireland and France. On 6 December 1917 she departed from Brest to return to Queenstown. At 6.21pm, when she was close to the Isles of Scilly, a torpedo wake was spotted. An attempt to avoid the torpedo, which came from U-53 (Kapitan Hans Hose), failed, and she was hit on the starboard side. Her fuel oil tank was ruptured and she began to sink by the stern. Efforts to save her had to be abandoned after her depth charges exploded, and her captain, Lt. Commander D.W.Bagley, was forced to order the crew to abandon ship. The Jacob Jones sank eight minutes after being hit, taking 64 of her crew with her. A picture survives of the sinking ship, taken by Seaman William G. Ellis, one of her crew. Lt S.F. Kalk was awarded a posthumous Distinguished Service Medal for his life saving efforts after the sinking. After helping move men between the rafts to help balance their weights he died of exposure and exhaustion.

USS Jacob Jones (DD-61) sinking, 6 December 1917
USS Jacob Jones (DD-61) sinking, 6 December 1917

Survivors from USS Jacob Jones (DD-61)
Survivors from USS Jacob Jones (DD-61)

The remaining 38 survivors took refuge on rafts and boats. U-53 surfaced and took two prisoners. Hose then radioed the location and drift rate of the survivors to the US base at Queenstown, an impressive gesture. The survivors were then picked up by HMS Camellia, the liner Catalina and HMS Insolent.

Bagley surviving the sinking of the Jacob Jones, and rose to high rank. During the Second World War he commanded the Fourteenth Naval District and Hawaiian Sea Frontier (1942-44), the Eleventh Naval District based at San Diego in 1944 and the Fourteenth District again during 1945. He was promoted to Vice Admiral early in 1944 and in 1947 to full Admiral after his retirement.

The Executive Officer of the Jacob Jones when she sank was Lt Norman Scott, who was commended for his actions on the day. He also reached high rank, and as Rear Admiral commanded a series of naval task forces in the fighting around Guadalcanal. He fought at the Battle of Cape Esperance (11-12 October 1942) but was killed during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal (13 November 1942), when his flagship, the cruiser USS Atlanta (CL-51) was sunk.

The name Jacob Jones was reused on the Wickes class destroyer USS Jacob Jones (DD-130), laid down on 21 February 1918. By an unfortunate coincidence the new Jacob Jones was sunk by U-578 on 28 February 1942, while operating from New York. Only 11 of her crew survived.

Displacement (design standard)

1,090t (DD-57 to DD-59)
1,060t (DD-60)
1,150t (DD-61 to DD-62)

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

29.5kts at 17,000-18,000shp
29.56kt at 16,399shp at 1,103tons on trial (Tucker)


2-shaft Curtis turbines
4 boilers
17,000shp apart from
18,000shp (DD-58, DD-59)
17,500shp (DD-60)


2,500nm at 20kts (design)


315ft 3in


30ft 6in (DD-58, DD-59, DD-51)
29ft 9in (DD-57, DD-60, DD-62)


Four 4in/50 guns
Eight 21in torpedo tubes in twin mountings
Depth charges

Crew complement

99 (peacetime)
102 (when sunk)


29 March 1915


10 February 1916

Sunk by U-53

6 December 1917

U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History, Norman Friedmann . The standard history of the development of American destroyers, from the earliest torpedo boat destroyers to the post-war fleet, and covering the massive classes of destroyers built for both World Wars. Gives the reader a good understanding of the debates that surrounded each class of destroyer and led to their individual features.
cover cover cover

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (18 October 2016), USS Jacob Jones (DD-61) ,

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