February 28, 1942 – This Day During World War ll – German submarine U-578 sank destroyer USS Jacob Jones

February 28, 1942 – German submarine U-578 attacked destroyer USS Jacob Jones 10 kilometers east of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, United States, hitting her with two or three torpedoes, sinking her. About 80 of the 110 aboard were killed.
USS Jacob Jones (DD-130), named for Commodore Jacob Jones USN (1768–1850), was a Wickes-class destroyer. Jacob Jones was laid down by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation at Camden, New Jersey on 21 February 1918, launched on 20 November 1918 by Mrs. Cazenove Doughton, great-granddaughter of Commodore Jones and commissioned on 20 October 1919, Lieutenant Commander Paul H. Bastedo in command.
On the morning of 27 February 1942, Jacob Jones departed New York harbor and steamed southward along the New Jersey coast to patrol and search the area between Barnegat Light and Five Fathom Bank. Shortly after her departure, she received orders to concentrate her patrol activity in waters off Cape May and the Delaware Capes. At 1530 she spotted the burning wreckage of tanker R. P. Resor, torpedoed the previous day east of Barnegat Light; Jacob Jones circled the ship for two hours searching for survivors before resuming her southward course. Cruising at 15 knots (28 km/h) through calm seas, she last reported her position at 2000 and then commenced radio silence. A full moon lit the night sky and visibility was good; throughout the night the ship, completely darkened without running or navigation lights showing, kept her southward course.
At the first light of dawn 28 February 1942, the undetected German submarine U-578 fired a spread of torpedoes at the unsuspecting destroyer. The torpedoes were not detected and two or three struck the destroyer’s port side in rapid succession.
According to her survivors, the first torpedo struck just aft of the bridge and caused major damage. Apparently, it exploded the ship’s magazine; the resulting blast sheared off everything forward of the point of impact, destroying completely the bridge, the chart room, and the officers’ and petty officers’ quarters. As she stopped dead in the water, unable to signal a distress message, a second torpedo struck about 40 feet (12 m) forward of the fantail and carried away the after part of the ship above the keel plates and shafts and destroyed the after crew’s quarters. Only the midships section was left intact.
All but 25 or 30 officers and men, including Lieutenant Commander Black, were killed by the explosions. The survivors, including a badly wounded, “practically incoherent” signal officer, went for the lifeboats. Oily decks, fouled lines and rigging, and the clutter of the ship’s strewn twisted wreckage hampered their efforts to launch the boats. Jacob Jones remained afloat for about 45 minutes, allowing her survivors to clear the stricken ship in four or five rafts. Within an hour of the initial explosion Jacob Jones plunged bow first into the Atlantic; as her shattered stern disappeared, her depth charges exploded, killing several survivors on a nearby raft (as had happened to Jacob Jones (DD-61) in 1917).
At 0810, an Army observation plane sighted the liferafts and reported their position to Eagle 56 of the Inshore Patrol. By 1100, when strong winds and rising seas forced her to abandon her search, she had rescued 12 survivors, one of whom died en route to Cape May. The search for the other survivors of Jacob Jones continued by plane and ship for the next two days, but none were ever found.

USS Jacob Jones (DD-130)

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