Skip to main content

Lieutenant Commander David W. Bagley, Commander, U.S.S. Jacob Jones, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Navy Forces Operating in European Waters



10 December, 1917.

From: Lt. Com. D.W. Bagley, U.S.N. (Comdg. Off. U.S.S. Jacob Jones)

To:  Force Commander.

SUBJECT:  Torpedoing and sinking of U.S.S. Jacob Jones, by enemy

          submarine, 6 December 1917.

     1.   At 4:21 p.m., G.M.T., 6 December 1917, in Latitude 49-23 N., Longitude 6-13 W., clear weather, smooth sea, course 329° true, speed 13 knots, zig-zagging, the Jacob Jones was struck on the starboard side by a torpedo from an enemy submarine. The ships was one of the six of an escorting group which were returning independently from off Brest, to Queenstown. All other ships were out of sight ahead.

     2.   I was in the chart-house and heard someone call out “Torpedo”! I jumped at once to the bridge and on my way up, saw one point abaft the starboard beam headed for a point about amidships, making a perfectly straight surface run (alternately broaching and submerging to four or five feet), at very high speed, which I estimate at, at least 40 knots. No periscope was sighted. When I reached the bridge, I found that the officer-of-the-deck had already put the rudder hard left and rung up emergency speed on the engine room telegraph. The ship had already begun to swing to the left. I personally rang up emergency speed again and then turned to watch the torpedo. The Executive Officer, Lieutenant Norman Scott, left the chart-house just ahead of me, saw the torpedo immediately on getting outside the door and estimates that the torpedo when sighted by him, was 1,000 yards away, approaching from one point, or slightly less, abaft the beam, and making exceedingly high speed.

     3.   After seeing the torpedo and realizing the straight run, line of approach, and high speed it was making, I was convinced that it was impossible to maneuver to avoid it. Lieutenant (jg) Stanton F. Kalk was officer-of-the-deck at the time and I consider that he took correct and especially prompt measures in maneuvering to avoid the torpedo. Lieutenant Kalk was a very able officer, calm and collected in emergency. He had been attached to the ship for about two months and had shown especial aptitude. His action in this emergency entirely justified my confidence in him. I deeply regret to state that he was lost as a result of the torpedoing of the ship, dying of exposure on one of the rafts about 11:00 p.m.

     4.   The torpedo broached and jumped clear of the water at a short distance from the ship, submerged fifty or sixty feet from the ship and struck approximately three feet below the waterline in the fuel oil tank between the auxiliary room and the after crew space. The after compartment, fuel oil tank and the auxiliary room were flooded immediately and the engine room flooded thru the door between the auxiliary room and the engine room, the ship settling aft immediately after being torpedoed, to a point at which the deck just forward of the after deck house was awash, and then more gradually until the deck abreast the engine room hatch was awash. A man on watch in the engine room, David R. Carter, Fireman first class, attempted to close the water-tight door between the auxiliary room and the engine room, but was unable to do so against the pressure of water from the auxiliary room.

     5.   The deck over the forward part of the after crew space and over the fuel tank just forward of it, was blown clear for a space athwartships of about twenty feet from starboard to port, and the auxiliary room wrecked. The starboard after torpedo tube was blown into the air. No fuel oil ignited and apparently no ammunition exploded. The depth charges in the chutes aft were set on ready and exploded after the stern sank. It was impossible to get to them to set them on safe as they were under water. Immediately [after] the ship was torpedoed, Lieut. John K. Richards, the gunnery officer, rushed aft to attempt to set the charges on “safe”, but was unable to get further aft than the after deck-house.

     6.   As soon as the torpedo struck, I attempted to send out an “S.O.S.” message by radio, but the mainmast was carried away, antennae falling and all electric power failed. I then tried to have the gun-sight-lighting batteries connected up in an effort to send out a low power message with them, but it was at once evident that this would not be practicable before the ship sank. There was no other vessel in sight and it was therefore impossible to get through a distress signal of any kind.

     7.   Immediately after the ship was torpedoed, every effort was made to get rafts and boats launched. Also the circular life-belts from the bridge and several splinter mats from the outside of the bridge were out adrift and afterwards proved very useful in holding men up until they could be got to the rafts.

     8.   Weighted confidential publications were thrown over the side. There was no time to destroy other confidential matter, but went down with the ship.

     9.   The ship sank about 4:29 p.m. (about eight minutes after being torpedoed). As I saw her settling rapidly, I ran along the deck and ordered everybody I saw to jump overboard. At this time most of those not killed by the explosion had got clear of the ship and were on rafts or wreckage. Some, however, were swimming and a few appeared to be about a ship’s length astern of the ship, at some distance from the rafts, probably having jumped overboard very soon after the ship was struck.

     10.  Before the ship sank, two shots were fired from No. 4 gun with the hope of attracting attention of some nearby ship. As the ship began sinking, I jumped overboard. The ship sank stern first and twister slowly through nearly 180 degrees as she swung upright. From this nearly vertical positon, bow in the air to about forward funnel, she went straight down. Before the ship reached the vertical position, the depth charges exploded, and I believe them to have caused the deaths of a number of men. The also partially paralyzed, stunned or dazed a number of others including Lieutenant Kalk and myself and several men, some of whom are still disabled, but recovering.

     11.  Immediate efforts were made to get all survivors on the rafts and then get rafts and boats together. Three rafts were launched before the ship sank and one floated off when she sank. The motor dory, hull undamaged but engine out of commission, also floated off, and the punt and wherry also floated clear. The punt was wrecked beyond usefulness, and the wherry was damaged and leaking badly, but was of considerable use in getting men to the rafts. The whaleboat was launched but capcized soon afterwards having been damaged by the explosion of the depth charges. The motor sailer did not float clear, but went down with the ship.

     12.  About fifteen or twenty minutes after the ship sank, the submarine appeared on the surface about two or three miles to the Westward of the rafts, and gradually approached until about 800 to 1000 yards from them, where it stopped and was seen to pick up one unidentified man from the water. The submarine then submerged and was not seen again.

     13.  The submarine appeared to be 150 to 200 feet long, had one gun of about 3” (possibly slightly larger) forward of conning tower and had periscope housed. The general appearance of the hull and position of gun was like that of the U-51-56 Class in pamphlet I.D. 1163 (“German Submarines, Oct., 1917) and the conning tower like that of the U-B-49 in same pamphlet.1

     14.  I was picked up by the motor dory and at once began to make arrangements to try to reach the SCILLYS in that boat in order to get assistance to those on the rafts. All survivors in sight were then collected and I gave orders to Lieutenant Richards to keep them together. Lieutenant Scott, the navigation officer, had fixed the ship’s position a few minutes before the explosion and both he and I know accurately the course to be steered. I kept Lieutenant Scott to assist me and four men who were in good condition, in the boat to man the oars – the engine being out of commission. With the exception of some emergency rations and half a bucket of water, all provisions including medical kits were taken from the dory and left on the rafts. There was no apparatus of any kind which could be used for night signaling.

     15.  After a very trying trip, during which it was necessary to steer by stars and by direction of the wind, the dory was picked up about 1:00 p.m., 7 December, by a small patrol vessel about six miles South of St. Marys. Commander Randell, R.N.R., S.N.O., Scilly Isles,2 informed me that the other survivors had been rescued.

     16.  One small raft (which had been separated from the others from the first) was picked up by the S.S. CAROLINA at 8:00 p.m., 6 December. After a most trying experience through the night, the remaining survivors were picked up by the H.M.S. CAMELLIA, at 8:30 a.m., 7 December.

     17.  I deeply regret to state that out of a total of 7 officers and 103 men on board at the time of the torpedoing, two officers and sixty-four men died in the performance of duty. A tabulated list of casualties showing where and by whom each one who can be accounted for was last seen, is attached.

     18.  The behavior of officers and men under the exceptionally hard conditions is worthy of the highest praise.

     19.  Lieutenant Norman Scott, Executive Officer, accomplished a great deal towards getting boats and rafts in the water, turning off steam from fireroom to the engine room, getting life-belts and splinter mats free from the bridge into the water, in person firing the signal guns, encouraging and assisting the men, and in general, doing every-thing possible in the short time available. He was of invaluable assistance during the trip in the dory.

     20.  Lieutenant J.K. Richards, was left in charge of all the raft and his coolness and cheerfulness under exceedingly bad conditions was highly commendable, and undoubtedly served to put heart into the men to stand the strain.

     21.  Lieutenant (jg) Stanton F. Kalk, during the early part of the evening, but already in a weakened condition, swam from one raft to another in the effort to equalize weight on the rafts. The men who were on the raft with him state, in their own words, that “He was game to the last.”

     22.  Lieutenant (jg) Nelson N. Gates, was calm and efficient in the performance of duty.

     23.  During the night, Charles Charlesworth, BM1c., removed parts of his own clothing (when all realized that their lives depending on keeping warm) to try to keep alive men more thinly clad than himself. This sacrifice shows his calibre and I strongly recommend that he should be commended for his action.

     24.  At the risk of almost certain death, Patrick J. Burger, Seaman second class, remained in the motor sailer and endeavored to get it clear for floating from the ship. While he did not succeed in accomplishing this work (which would have undoubtedly <saved> 20 or 30 lives), I desire to call to attention to his sticking to duty until the very last and recommend him as being most worth of commendation. He was drawn under the water with the boat, but later came to the surface and was rescued.

     25.  Lawrence J. Kelly, Chief Electrician, and Chase H.U. Quartermaster, third class, remained on board until the last, greatly endangering their lives thereby, to cut adrift splinter mats and life preservers. Kelly’s stamina and spirit were especially valuable during the motor dory’s trip.

     26.  Harry L. Gibson, Chief Boatswain’s Mate, and Maier Edward, Watertender, were of great assistance to men on their rafts in advising and cheering them under the most adverse conditions.

     27.  The foregoing report is made from my own observations and after questioning all surviving officers and men.

/s/ D.W. BAGLEY, Comdg.          

- - - - -


U.S.S. Jacob Jones

Lieut. (jg) S.F. Kalk, U.S.N.

Died of exposure about midnight 6 December, 1917, on one of the small Carley rafts and was dropped overboard.

Gunner (T) Harry R. Hood, U.S.N.

Was standing directly above the point of impact of torpedo and was killed in the explosion.








Where and Conditions

Anderson, Harry P.


Twomey, T.E. 

Stutzke, H.A. and others

Died of exposure and was dropped overboard from large Carley Float.

Bielatowicz, John W.


Lt. Richards

Last seen in wherry in a fainting condition. Wherry was lost.

Brammall, John T.


Maletz, Sea.

Meier, WT.

Seen in water after submarine submerged.

Brannigan, James


Stutzke, Ha. CMM Twomey, TE.Sea.

Died of exposure and was dropped overboard from large Carley Float.

Butler, John E.




Cooney, John J.


McBride, CE CBM

Seen on deck badly wounded before sinking of ship

Cross, James F.M.


Kulitz, G. Sea

Gibson, HL. CBM

Was standing at a point below which the torpedo struck. Killed by explosion.

Cummings, James


Lance, CB. Sea.

Was killed by flying parts on after deck house.

DeMello, Albert


Nunnery, B. Cox.

Unconscious on deck in washroom just before sinking of ship.

Dismuke, Edward T.


Gibson, HL. CBM

Was standing at point below which torpedo struck. Killed by explosion.

Dolezal, George



On watch in steaming fireroom. No one in this location was able to get on deck.

Donovan, William A.


Meier, E. WT

Was last seen shortly after explosion on No.4 torpedo tube. This man could not swim and sank with ship.

Favreau, Henry F.


Coassairt, JA. Ch.Yeo. Gibson, HL.CBM and W.P. Hughes, CM1c

After the explosion was on after deck house in an unconscious condition.

Fisher, Reginald J.


Eultiz, G.Sea.

In water in a dying condition. It would have been impossible for submarine to have taken this man.

Fitzgerald, James S.


Eulitz, G.Sea.

Standing directly above point of impact. Was killed by explosion.

Flaherty, John J.


Lt. Richards.

Cossairt, JA. Ch.Yeo.

Last seen in wherry as coxswain. Wherry was lost.

Flanagan, Thomas H.


Lt. Richards.

On small Carley raft. Died of exposure and was dropped overboard.

French, Charles



Was on watch in No. 1 fireroom from which no once escaped.

Gifford, William T.


Pierce, CE. F1c

Grady EF. F2c

Seen in water after submarine submerged.

Gregory, Schuyler


Lt. Richards.

On small Carley raft. Died of exposure and was dropped overboard.

Grinnell, Clifton S.


Lt. Richards.

Last seen in wherry. Wherry was lost/

Hight, Leeland M.


Everroad, AL. S2c

Drowned in water near ship.

Jaskolski, Francis J.


Twomey, TE. Sea.

Wounded, seen in water after submarine submerged

Johnson, Dock


Kelley, LG. CE(g)

Suction caused by sinking of ship pulled him under, drowning him.

Kearney, William H.


Stutzke, HA. CMM Twomey, TE. Sea

On large Carley float. Died of exposure and was dropped overboard.

LaCombe, Henry J.



On watch in steaming fireroom, from which no one escaped.

Laskon, William F.




Leedy, Archie B.


Korzenecky, J. F1c

Was asleep in bunk at time of explosion. Bulk head blown in on him.

Lentz, Herbert P.


Moyer, HA. F3c

Seen in water after submarine had submerged.



Stutzke, HA. CMM

On large Carley float died of exposure and was dropped overboard.

McKeown, Bernard J.



On watch in steaming fireroom. No one escaped.

Mendes, Jose A.


Lt. Richards.

On small Carley float. Died of exposure and was dropped overboard

Merkel, George C.



Wounded in wherry which was lost.

Michaelec, John


Twomey, TE. Sea.

Stutzke, HA. CMM

On large Carley float. Died of exposure and was dropped overboard.

Montiel, Alfonso


Lt. Richards,

JA Cossairt, CY

Seen wounded. Not possible for submarine to have picked him up.

Morgan, Eugene J.


Lt. Gates

On small Carley float. Badly wounded. Died and dropped overboard.

Murphy, Simon P.


Moyer, HA. F3c

Killed in washroom by explosion.

Nee, Martin J.



Was seen by several just before ship sunk. Impossible for submarine to have reached him.

Phillips, Adolph


Marchand ,D. Cox.

Maletz, HJ. Sea.

On raft wounded. Died and was dropped overboard.

Plant, Howard, W.


Judge, PH. WT

Was seen in water as submarine was submerging.

Pote, George W.


Carter, DR. F1c

Killed by explosion. He was in auxiliary engine room.

Rogers, Coit S.


Lt. Richards.

JA. Cossairt, CY

In wherry which was lost.

Sanford, Charlie H.


Lt. Gates and others.

Died of exposure and was dropped overboard.

Simmons, Charles R.


J.Korzenecky, F1c

Asleep in bunk at point of impact. Killed by the explosion.

Simpson, Wallace


Stutzke, HA. CMM Twomey, TE. Sea. and others

On large Carlet float. Died of exposure and was dropped overboard.

Sohn, William H.


Meier, E. WT

Eulitz, G. Sea

Was seen in exhausted condition in water; sunk before submarine could have reached him.

Stark, Richard J.


McBride, CE. CBM

Was seen after submarine submerged. Was in water in exhausted condition.

Steainer, Simon


Maletz, HJ. Sea.

Last seen in water at such a distance from sub marine that would have been impossible for him to have been picked up.

Sweeney, James T.


Korzenecky, F1c

Was seen in bunk, near point of impact just before explosion. Killed by explosion.

Tufts, John T.


Lt. Gates and others.

On small Carley float. Died from effects of wounds. Dropped overboard.

Bryan, George F.


Marchand, D. Cox.

Possibly killed by explosion.

Chappie, Frank W.


Eulitz, G. Sea.

Last seen in whale boat. Probably lost when it capsized or by explosion of depth charge.

Costigan, Maurice J


Eulitz, G. Sea.

Last seen in whale boat. Probably lost when it capsized or by explosion of depth charge

Felach, Carl G.


Hughes, WP CM1c

Probably killed in wash room

Francois, James A.


McBride, CE .CBM

Moyer, FA. F3c

Seen wounded on deck with life-belt. Probably lost in water when ship sank.

Hill, Luther


Hughes, WP. CM1c

Was seen on deck after explosion thinly dressed. Possibly died from exposure before chance of being rescued.

McGinty, John W.


McBride, CE. CBM

Possibly killed in compartment. Seen 15 minutes before explosion.

Morrissette, Walter


Hughes, PW. CM1c

Possibly killed after having gone therefor provisions. was very thinly clad.

Murphy, John F.


Maletz, HA. Sea.

Seen on deck after explosion thinly clad with life-belt. Probably died from exposure or lost in suction.

Peterson, Arthur J.


Cossairt, JA. CY

Hughes, WP. CM1c

Seen wounded on deck shortly before ship sank. Could not have been reached by submarine.

Rogaers, George F. H.


Pierce, CE. F1c

Probably killed in compartment or wash room.

Wetzel, Leon J.


Nunnery, B. Cox.

Knocked unconscious in wash room. Probably went down.

Williams, Ralph B.


Eulitz, HJ. Sea

Maletz, H. Sea.

Caught in suction while trying to lower whaleboat.


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B, Destroyer Ships Files: Jacob Jones.

Footnote 1: This submarine was later identified as U-53.

Footnote 2: Herbert Watson Randall.

Related Content