shipwreck, destroyer, Wickes / Tattnall class, U.S. Navy
1919, Camden NJ USA
( 314 x 31 ft ) 1211 gross tons, 145 crew
Saturday February 28, 1942
torpedoed by U-578 - 134 casualties
Newly commissioned, circa 1919
Note the fine, yacht-like lines of the Wickes class
The approximate locations of the torpedo strikes are indicated
The Wickes class destroyer was an ambitious design for its day, combining high speed with heavy armament, but at a cost of range, handling, and sea-keeping. Nonetheless, they were generally considered satisfactory, and a great improvement over previous ships. Commonly known as "Flush Deckers" or "Four Stackers", most were mothballed after World War I, only to be brought out again in the 1930s to replace newer ships of the derived Clemson class that had worn out prematurely. At this time, much of the armament was changed to give them better anti-aircraft and anti-submarine capabilities.
"Flush deck" refers to the main deck running in an uninterrupted straight line from bow to stern, unlike later designs that had raised bows or forecastles. The low bow made them very wet in rough seas. The narrow V-shaped stern and long narrow hull gave them a large turning radius. At least half of the internal space must have been dedicated to propulsion machinery to achieve the design speed of 35 knots, leaving little room for fuel, ammunition, stores and crew.
50 of these vessels were famously traded to England in the early stages of World War II in exchange for 99-year leases on military bases. Although they were used for convoy duty, their trans-Atlantic range was marginal, something that was eventually solved by at-sea replenishment. Many were converted to other uses, such as training, seaplane tenders, mine-laying and fast transport. Another famous incident involving "Flush Deckers" took place on September 8 1928, when seven destroyers ran at high speed onto the rocky coast near Santa Barbara California. Bad weather and bad navigation are blamed. All seven ships remain where they struck; the area is now part of Vandenberg AFB. Several other Wickes-class ships are diveable off Southern California, sunk as targets or for filmmaking.
USS Jacob Jones - DD-130
CLASS - WICKES / TATTNALL ( as built )
Built to Bath plans by New York Shipbuilding
Displacement: 1,211 tons,
Dimensions: 314' 5" (oa) x 31' 8" x 9' 10" (Max)
Armament: 4 x 4"/50 guns, 2 x 3"/23AA guns, 12 x 21" torpedo tubes
Machinery: 24,900 SHP; direct drive turbines with geared cruising turbines, 2 screws
Speed: 35 Knots
Launching of USS Jacob Jones, at New York Shipbuilding Co. shipyard, 20 Nov.1918
USS Jacob Jones, a 1211-ton Wickes class destroyer, was built Camden, New Jersey. After commissioning in October 1919 she operated briefly in the Atlantic, then transited the Panama Canal in January 1920 to join the Pacific Fleet. Except for a period in reserve between August 1920 and June 1921, the destroyer was active along the West Coast until she was decommissioned in June 1922.
During a general renewal of the Navy's destroyer force, Jacob Jones was recommissioned in May 1930. She served in the eastern Pacific until March 1931, when she went to the Caribbean for maneuvers. Jacob Jones was again in the Pacific from early 1932 into the spring of 1933, but was thereafter stationed in the Atlantic area, where she was involved in tactical exercises, training duties and diplomatic missions. In October and November 1938 she crossed the Atlantic to operate in European waters and North African as part of Squadron 40-T. Jacob Jones returned to the United States in October 1939, shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War.
As rebuilt in the 1930s
Jacob Jones tied-up next to brand-new aircraft carrier USS Yorktown
During the next two years, Jacob Jones took part in submarine support work, anti-submarine training, and Neutrality Patrols off the U.S. coast and in the Caribbean area. Upon the United States' entry into World War II in December 1941, she began convoy escort operations out of Argentina, Newfoundland. She was assigned to anti-submarine patrols off the East Coast in February 1942, making one intense but inconclusive attack on a suspected submarine on the 22nd.
On the morning of 27 February, 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 2 hours searching for survivors before resuming her southward course. Cruising at a steady 15 knots 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, undetected German submarine U-578 fired a spread of torpedoes at the unsuspecting destroyer. The deadly "fish" sped unsighted and two "or possibly 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 almost unbelievable damage. Apparently, it exploded the ship's magazine; the resulting blast sheered 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 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 Lt. Comdr. 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 cold Atlantic, as her shattered stern disappeared, her depth charges exploded, killing several survivors on a nearby raft.
The graceful stern was completely obliterated by the depth charges
At 0810 an Army observation plane sighted the life rafts 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 di ed en route to Cape May. The search for the other survivors of Jacob Jones continued by plane and ship for the next 2 days; but none were ever found.
-- from Navy historical records
Eagle 56 was later sunk by U-853 off Portland Maine.
While the Jacob Jones may have an interesting history, it is a good example that this does not always translate into a good dive. In fact, after a long boat ride, all you are likely to find is some low unidentifiable wreckage that could easily be an old barge, or anything. The ship was quite small and lightly constructed, and was devastated with multiple explosions during the sinking, breaking into two or more separated pieces. Nothing stands more than 3 or 4 feet above the bottom, although this could change with shifting sands.
Some protruding ribs are all that remains of the hull. These near the stern are part of a curved pattern that might be a fantail.
A diver swims near the largest piece of wreckage. I think this may be a main reduction gear, with the core of the turbine in front of it, and a single long drive shaft behind. However, there should be two of these assemblies next to each other, not just one.
The reduction gear again, from the side
Cross-section of a Yarrow-type water tube boiler, with water tanks at each lower corner and steam tank at the top, interconnected by water tubes. The Jacob Jones was built with four boilers like this, but one was later removed, along with the corresponding stack. In addition, most of the heavy guns were removed, as were half of the torpedo tubes.
All three boilers have collapsed. The steam tanks appear as big drums strewn in the sand, while the water tanks lie buried nearby, marked by bundles of water tubes. Each boiler trunked directly up into its own stack.
This is an interesting object that might be a gun mount, or a searchlight, or maybe a driveshaft packing gland. Or something else entirely.
A four inch shell. The brass casing is crushed from the pressure. It could still explode, even after all these years.
Gary Gentile give a picturesque description of the wreck in his book Shipwrecks of Maryland and Delaware, including torpedo tubes, triangular swim-through boilers, and other highlights. Nothing like that remains. Except for the odd artillery shell, the Jacob Jones today is completely unremarkable. Visibility is generally very good, sometimes in excess of 100 ft, averaging 30 ft or so.
Type VIIC U-boat U-578, being rammed by a Russian patrol boat in 1941, sunk August 1942
Monday January 3, 1944
munitions explosion while at anchor - 138 casualties
The second Turner (DD-648) was laid down on 16 November 1942 at Kearny, N.J., by the Federal Shipbuilding & Drydock Co.; launched on 28 February 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Louis E. Denfeld; and commissioned on 15 April 1943 at the New York Navy Yard, Lt. Comdr. Henry S. Wygant in command.
Turner completed outfitting at the New York Navy Yard and then conducted shakedown and antisubmarine warfare training out of Casco Bay, Maine, until early June. On the 9th, she returned to New York to prepare for her first assignment, a three-day training cruise with the newly commissioned carrier, Bunker Hill (CV-17). Returning to New York on 22 June, she departed again the next day on her first real wartime assignment, service in the screen of a transatlantic convoy. First, she sailed with a portion of that convoy to Norfolk, Va., arriving that same day. On the 24th, the convoy departed Hampton Roads and shaped a course eastward across the Atlantic. After an uneventful voyage, she escorted her convoy into port at Casablanca, French Morocco, on 18 July. She departed with a return convoy on the 23d and arrived back in New York on 9 August. Later that month, she was in the screen of a convoy to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, making a brief stop at Hampton Roads along the way. On the return trip, she rendezvoused with HMS Victorious and accompanied the British carrier to Norfolk.
During the first two weeks of September, Turner conducted ASW training at Casco Bay, Maine, and then returned to New York to prepare for her second transatlantic voyage. On 21 September, the destroyer headed south to Norfolk. She arrived there on the 23d and, the following day, headed out across the Atlantic with her convoy. After an 18-day passage, during which she made one depth-charge attack on a sound contact, Turner arrived at Casablanca on 12 October. Four days later, she departed again and headed for Gibraltar to join another convoy. The warship reached the strategic base on the 17th and, after two days in port, stood out to join the screen of Convoy GUS-18.
On the night of 23 October, Turner was acting as an advance ASW escort for the convoy when she picked up an unidentified surface contact on her SG radar. At 1943, about 11 minutes after the initial radar contact, Turner's lookouts made visual contact with what proved to be a German submarine running on the surface, decks awash, at about 500 yards distance. Almost simultaneously, Turner came hard left and opened fire with her 6-inch, 40-millimeter, and 20-millimeter guns. During the next few seconds, the destroyer scored one 6-inch hit on the U-boat's conning tower as well as several 40-millimeter and 20-millimeter hits there and elsewhere. The submarine began to dive immediately and deprived Turner of any opportunity to ram her. However, while the U-boat made her dive, Turner began a depth-charge attack. She fired two charges from her port K-gun battery, and both appeared to hit the water just above the submerged U-boat. Then, as the destroyer swung around above the U-boat, Turner rolled a single depth charge off her stern. Soon after the three depth charges exploded, Turner crewmen heard a fourth explosion, the shock from which caused the destroyer to lose power to her SG and FD radars, to the main battery, and to her sound gear. It took her at least 15 minutes to restore power entirely.
Meanwhile, she began a search for evidence to corroborate a sinking or regain contact with the target. At about 2017, she picked up another contact on the SG radar - located about 1,600 yards off the port beam. Turner came left and headed toward the contact. Not long thereafter, her bridge watch sighted an object lying low in the water. Those witnesses definitely identified the object as a submarine which appeared to be sinking by the stern. Unfortunately, Turner had to break contact with the object in order to avoid a collision with another of the convoy's escorts. By the time she was able to resume her search, the object had disappeared. Turner and Sturtevant (DE-239) remained in the area and conducted further searches for the submarine or for proof of her sinking but failed in both instances. All that can be said is that probably the destroyer heavily damaged an enemy submarine and may have sunk her. No conclusive evidence exists to support the latter conclusion.
On the 24th, the two escorts rejoined the convoy, and the crossing continued peacefully. When the convoy divided itself into two segments according to destination on 4 November, Turner took station as one of the escorts for the Norfolk-bound portion. Two days later, she saw her charges safely into port and then departed to return to New York where she arrived on 7 November.
Following 10 days in port, the warship conducted ASW exercises briefly at Casco Bay before returning to Norfolk to join another transatlantic convoy. She departed Norfolk with her third and final convoy on 23 November and saw the convoy safely across the Atlantic. On 1 January 1944, near the end of the return voyage, that convoy split into two parts according to destination as Turner's previous one had done. Turner joined the New York-bound contingent and shaped a course for that port. She arrived off Ambrose Light late on 2 January and anchored.
Early the following morning, the destroyer suffered a series of shattering internal explosions. By 0660, she took on a 16- degree starboard list; and explosions mostly in the ammunition stowage areas - continued to stagger the stricken destroyer. Then, at about 0750, a singularly violent explosion caused her to capsize and sink. The tip of her bow remained above water until about 0827 when she disappeared completely taking with her 15 officers and 123 crewmen. After nearby ships picked up the survivors of the sunken destroyer, the injured were taken to the hospital at Sandy Hook. A Coast Guard Sikorsky HNS-1 flown by Lt. Comdr. F. A. Erickson, USCG - in the first use of a helicopter in a life saving role - flew two cases of blood plasma, lashed to the helicopter's floats, from New York to Sandy Hook. The plasma saved the lives of many of Turner's injured crewmen. Turner's name was struck from the Navy list on 8 April 1944.
H10031/82 -- OPR-B139-WH-82; 1:10,000 SCALE; DELNORTE (R/R), DELNORTE-THEODOLITE (R/A); WK NOT CHARTED; NO TRACE FOUND ON SURVEY; EVALUATOR RECOMMENDED RETAINING CHARTING DISPOSITION. (ENTERED 1/7/85 MSM)
There doesn't seem to be a whole lot left of the Turner. The wreck was demolished and even partially removed by Navy. After much trolling around to anchor into "the big part" of the wreck, all that I found was a small patch of rubble.
In one part, the boilers were clearly evident, recognizable by piles of tubes. However, the rest of the wreckage is low. But with two foot viz ( four if you looked both ways ) I could certainly have missed a lot.
The explosion and subsequent sinking of the Turner are attributed to accidental detonation of Mousetrap ASW weapons during unloading, which is also thought to be the cause of the loss of the USS Solar.
Anti-Submarine Projector Mk 20 & 22 ( Mousetrap )
Though Hedgehog had been a success, its large dimensions, especially weight, caused much trouble in the fleet. In fleet destroyers, for example, one of the forward 5" mounts would have been due for removal if a Hedgehog was to be installed; this, among other reasons, caused Hedgehog in the U.S. Navy to be exclusively fitted to destroyer escorts and license-built British frigates and ASW refits of flush-deck destroyers.
However, the benefits of Hedgehog could be of use in the large number of small sub hunters, the PCs, which rarely even sighted a submarine but which made for good coastal escorts nevertheless. The new weapon, ordered developed early in 1942, was to fit on the small ships and yet be able to deliver an effective pattern of charges, 70 ft wide. Those were originally intended to be slightly larger than the original Hedgehog round, but problems with the development of that new charge caused it to be abandoned in favor of the original Hedgehog round. A rocket (in this case meaning a slow-burning propellant) was attached to the lower body to make it fireable without the recoil inherent in Hedgehog.
Mousetrap suffered from a far smaller pattern, lack of stabilization and range adjustment, and was not the equal of Hedgehog. It was, nevertheless, installed in large numbers aboard small craft and even on twelve fleet destroyers ( because it could be mounted alongside the superstructure. ) These weapons were Mk 22 projectors, paired to equal a Hedgehog salvo, but was unsuccessful, probably causing the loss of the destroyer Turner in early 1944.
Mk 20 was a four-rail projector, while Mk 22 added two rails on each side for a total of eight. Mk 22 was standard later in the war; Mk 20 being adapted to fit the additional rails.
Official Report of the Sinking
Here is a reproduction of the official Navy report on the loss of the Turner, as recorded on board the USS Swasey, DE-248, which took part in rescue operations. Swasey was a destroyer escort, much like the USS Solar pictured below, which was lost just a few miles away in a similar accident two years later.
This report, still marked Secret by the War Department, was sent to me by
UNITED STATES FLEET
HEADQUARTERS OF the COMMANDER IN CHIEF
NAVY DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON, D. C.
13 January 1944
To: Secret Mail Room
Subject: Distribution of Extracts from USS SWASEY War Diary
dated 1, 2 and 3 January 1944.(Atlantic Coast.)
1. Please have subject report distributed as follows:
(F-105; F-48 ( 2); F-30) 4
(Op-02; Op-16; Op-16E; Op-20G; Op-23) 5
Naval War College 1
General Board 1
Naval Training School (Damage Control) 1
BURN WHEN NO LONGER REQUIRED.
1. 1100 - On orders CTF64 Norfolk, Va. section of convoy split. This vessel took station on port quarter of New York section of advance base course 327 T. Speed 9.75 knots. Positions: Time Lat. Long. 0800 36 01' N. 68 53' W. 1200 36 08' N. 69 35' W. 2000 37 04' N. 70 16' W. 2 January, 1944 1123 Convoy Base course changed course to 312 T. 1245 Fired 24 practice rounds of plastic loaded Hedgehogs. 1400 Cut in Degaussing. 1630 Convoy formed in a single column, SWASEY patrolled port side, distance 2000 to 3000 yards - maintaining various courses and speed conforming to channel. 0110 Secured sound gear and 0134 dropped starboard anchor in 34 ft of water off Ambrose Light - Lat. 40 30' 15" N Long. 73 53' 24" W, using 45 fathom of chain Positions: Time Lat. Long. 0800 38 32' N. 71 30' W. 1200 39 03' N. 72 06' W. 2000 39 57' N. 73 22' W. 3 January 1944
1. At anchor 5 miles bearing 328 T. from Ambrose light awaiting clearance to channel. Orders of CTF64 to get underway at 0715 and proceed to Navy Yard Brooklyn were not carried out as scheduled due to an explosion and final sinking of the U.S.S. TURNER. The original explosion on board the U.S.S. TURNER was observed from this vessel at 0618, by the O.O.D. and J.O.O.D. who were on the flying bridge of this vessel at the time, and by several enlisted men that were on duty topside. Their impressions were of a rumbling, rather then a sharp noise of explosion and of flames leaping above the TURNER in a volcanic effect. Three projectiles that resembled rockets, appeared above the flames and curved out- ward in wide arcs. This vessel was anchored 3000 yards, 330 degrees true from TURNER at this time.
2. Commanding Officer was called and preparations were begun immediately for getting underway. General quarters was sounded at 0623. Several explosions were noted on about this time, though not of great violence. At 0635 this vessel was underway and proceeding at best speed toward TURNER. Fire and Rescue party was ordered to assemble on starboard side main deck with full equipment. Men were ordered G.Q. gun stations as necessary to man line handling details, and to assist repair parties.
FILMED Photostated ENCLOSURE "A" 9.
Hoses were fixed and manned to side. All search- lights were manned and trained toward TURNER. This vessel approached TURNER from aft and to port with intention of going alongside. At 0645 SWASEY had approached to within 500 yards of TURNER when it observed that a small craft was moving in to TURNERS port quarter. This fact made going directly alongside impossible so motor whaleboat was lowered immediately and fire and rescue party of 15 men dispatched to board TURNER if possible. SWASEY then moved forward and managed to get within approximately twenty yards of the fire. All hoses were used that could be brought to bear in vicinity of the fire but the volume of water we were able to get over was pitifully ineffective for a flame of that magnitude.
3. TURNER, at this time had a large hole in her port side in vicinity of #2 turret four to six feet at main deck, tapering "V" shaped to about two feet from the waterline. Brilliant flames, bright yellowish in color billowed out this hole and through the main deck and were blown by the wind across the entire bridge superstructure which by this time was also on fire. Number two turret appeared to have been blown completely away by the original explosion. Number one turret was forced upward and forward. The bridge superstructure was badly twisted and torn and appeared to have been blown upward and aft. There were no personnel on deck in the forward part of the vessel at the time. Several who had been on the forecastle when we arrived had jumped overboard to starboard and. were subsequently picked up by small boats.
4. When danger of becoming fouled in TURNERS anchor chain became imminent SWASEY came ahead and crossed the TURNERS bow to port illuminating the water to assist small boats in picking up survivors. A coast guard cutter was observed on TURNERS star- board quarter, close aboard. There was a hole in TURNERS star- board side in about abreast of number two turret, approximately ten feet wide at edge of main deck tapering "V" shaped to the edge of the waterline. The plate from the hole had been peeled forward, outward and downward. There was a man in the water holding himself afloat by this plate. He was in a dazed condition and had a head wound from which he was bleeding badly. He was picked up by one of the small boats. During all of this time small explosions were occurring continuously in forward part of TURNER. She was then on approximately even keel. When no further men could be seen in the water on starboard side, SWASEY was backed down so her searchlights could bear on TURNER'S port side. Both rescuing boats then pulled away from TURNER'S stern end. SWASEY was maneuvered so as to come alongside TURNER'S port side again. Before this could be effected however there was a violent explosion just forward of amidships (0650) and
ENCLOSURE "A" 10.
TURNER took a sharp list to starboard ( about 15 degrees) and fuel oil began pour out of the rupture on port side. SWASEY ordered all small boats to immediately clear the vicinity over the "bull horn". The explosion showered SWASEY'S decks with flaming debris which was immediately extinguished. The oil flowing from the port side promptly became ignited and was carried aft by the wind. The paint along her entire side caught fire, running across the decks and up her after deck housing. Depth charges along the side in "K" gun racks began to burn. The starboard depth charge racks appeared to be empty but the port racks appeared to contain about five charges. The after one was the first one to ignite. No depth charges are believed to have exploded. Explosions were being heard in various parts of the ship now that are believed to have been 5 inch ammunition. The smaller explosions of 20 MM and 40 MM were constant at this stage of the fire. This explosion at 0650 cleared the entire forward housing which toppled over the starboard side.
5. At 0750 a terrific explosion occurred aft of #2 smokestack and TURNER immediately capsized to starboard and sank except for a small portion of her bow which remained floating about three feet above water. Her sound head appeared to be lowered. At about fifty feet from the stem, slightly to port of the keel, there was a mass of twisted steel about five feet in diameter that appeared to have been forced bodily through the bottom, ex- tending about three feet beyond the plating. TURNER floated in this condition until 0827 when she disappeared completely below the surface. SWASEY dropped a marker buoy where TURNER went down.
6. At 1440 a buoy tender entered the area and was directed to the wreck by SWASEY. A buoy was dropped 50 yards 215 true from TURNER. SWASEY continued patrolling the area until relieved at 1558 by SC 1323, and orders from CTF64 to proceed to Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York.
Note: Those days represented by 0800, 1200, and 2400 positions only represent days when only routine operations took place - patrolling station, maintaining continuous SL radar and HF/DF, and sound search. Material condition of this vessel was normal and moral of personnel excellent. Full war cruising condition of readiness was maintained throughout voyage and return, except when actually at battle stations or when secured in Casa Blanco Harbor.
ENCLOSURE A 11.
The USS TURNER GOES DOWN
By Lawrence Principato
Commander Henry Sollett Wygand Jr. of the U.S.S. TURNER never had a chance. Without warning a mysterious explosion ripped open the main deck sending it sky-high, toppling the mast onto the deckhouse and smashing the ship's only link with the world, destroying the ship's nerve center and the emergency transmission radio system. Commander Wygand along with many of his officers were killed immediately. Sailors were blown to the deck. Their bleeding bodies were scattered everywhere. Fire erupted instantly while the engine room quickly filled with hot poisonous smoke and fumes.
As the wheelhouse collapsed it was accompanied by an unbearable screech of grinding steel. Many more seaman were blown over the side into the freezing water. The engineers feverishly worked to maintain power in subdued darkness waiting for orders from the bridge. Orders never came.
It was 3:30 A.M., January 3, 1944 when the Turner quietly maneuvered through the wind, rain and sleet in darkness, and dropped anchor, after completing nine months of active sea duty in the North Atlantic. Here she was 4 miles SE of Rockaway Point, Long Island in 60 ft of water awaiting new official orders.
This Bristol Class Navy Destroyer ( designated DD648 ) was one of 56 that were built in Federal Shipyards' facility in New Jersey. It was named in honor of Captain Daniel Turner, a hero of the war of 1812. It took five months to build, a record time even with today's automated shipbuilding techniques. This fortress could make in excess of 33 knots with her twin-screw machinery.
Chief Machinist Mate Rene H. Pincet was getting the engine room tuned up so that the Turner could weigh anchor at 7AM sharp. He was lighting off the boiler and getting ready to start up on time when suddenly and without warning a thunderous explosion violently shook the destroyer. "The concussion threw me across the engine room against the bulkhead", he recalled.
All communications were now useless and he couldn't talk to the bridge. The engine room quickly filled with smoke and toxic gases. "I secured the blowers hoping that would slow the smoke from coming down. We were busy. At the time there were six of us in the engine room, " he explained.
Dave Merrill, the radioman tried to send an SOS through the emergency transmitter but found the main radio room useless and in shambles. Later he said that what bothered him most was, "The loss of a brand new suit of tailor made blues ... They cost me $49."
The first blast ripped the 5 inch guns out of their mounts like they were toys. Sailors watched in awe and disbelief as the cannons turned end over end. Flames belched suddenly from another gun mount. Coxswain Raymond 0. Pomp said that his crew immediately broke out the C02 extinguishers to put out the flames erupting from #3 mount. When that extinguisher emptied they hooked up the hose. "We were especially concerned in preventing the gun's ammunition nearby from exploding, " he explained. "All hands were either fighting fire or taking care of some of the guys that got hurt. I heard three blasts in all. There was no confusion, no panic, even when the fuel oil flared up and lit up the stormy winter sky. The way the flames reflected on the rolling waves was weird. It was real scary with the artillery shells exploding around us."
Luckily the crew left the forward mess room a few minutes before the initial blast. That's where without any warning whatsoever the explosion tore open a gigantic hole. As with most meals of the day, the 200 crewmen were always fed in shifts and the engineers had just finished when it all happened. The engineers worked continuously to maintain enough pressure to operate the ship's fire water main. It was difficult groping in the semi-darkness, choking and trying to see through blood-shot eyes. The crew heroically remained at their posts attending to stricken buddies in the brightness of the burning fuel oil.
Coxswain Williams on duty at the Coast Guard look-out station on Sandy Hook luckily happened to see the destroyer explode through the haze. A general quarters alarm dispatched a sub-chaser and a 77 foot launch to the scene. The need for assistance spread quickly. Immediately upon arrival the Cutter rescued a man bobbing about on a torn mattress while another clung desperately to the ship's mascot, a little mongrel terrier called "Turn To."
Survivors were certain the order to 'abandon ship' came from the Cutter's Captain at 7AM. The 83 foot sub-chaser, the larger of the vessels, pushed her bow athwart the burning destroyer and lashed in to receive the stranded seamen. The bright flames of burning oil made the operation easier to see, while other Coast Guard units continued to cruise the area in search of missing Sailors.
Officially the cause of the mysterious explosion was blamed on defective ammunition. This explanation doesn't ring true simply because the experienced and well disciplined crew would have been alerted to any sensitive munitions problem during the previous nine months they worked together. A more popular theory attributed the blast to U-boat activity. It was a well known fact that Germans had sunk dozens of ships in and about New York harbor. The heavy blustery weather that blanketed the morning of January 3, 1944 could have provided enough cover for a sub to prowl in releasing numerous torpedoes to create the havoc witnessed on the Turner.
A normal compliment on destroyers of this class consisted of approximately 200 men. Of that number 163 were actually rescued. Its logical to presume that 37 men joined Commander Wygand on the "missing-in-action" list.
Ashore, reports later revealed, That the explosion affected people in a variety of ways. Besides the concussion and spooky whistling, gusts were accompanied by unexplainable rumbles that mysteriously rattled and shattered windows. Some thought it was an earthquake. Directly west of where the Turner exploded, covering the entire length of Staten Island's 15 miles, the countryside residents were bewildered and confused. In the Bay Ridge section along the waterfront, a woman was sure that "The heavy woman upstairs fell out of bed." Suburban dwellers thought their oil burners exploded. Up and down the New Jersey and Long Island shores and as far away as Bellville, New Jersey, folks reported strange happenings. Even in Bayshore and Babylon on Long Island, reports came in that people felt the explosion's vibration too.
Before everyone left the Turner Coxswain Ray Pomp went below decks, closed some hatches and checked to see that every one was out. "The next explosion I heard split her in two. That's when she busted-up after 7AM. Slowly the Turner slid to the bottom 55 ft down, " he sadly remembered. Just as the whirlpool of the sinking ship leveled off, the final and worst detonation occurred. Water flew high in the sky as if to say farewell. With daylight the ocean resumed its repetitive earthly pattern. The U.S.S. Turner is no longer a hazard to navigation since an oil tanker rubbed her bottom on the wreck. This prompted some salvage and the Turner now rests broken up in 50 to 58 ft of water. Although the Navy Department did not officially say so, German U-boats had been lurking around Coney Island area looking to decimate more tonnage as freighters left New York harbor for Europe. There is no doubt that German U-boats torpedoed the Turner not once but twice. Now she is an excellent in-shore search area, within easy reach for both divers and anglers. Bonito, albacore and weakfish have made the Turner their territory and roam about the old girl's slowly rusting remains. On a good day fishermen can be seen trawling for the big ones while nearby the red orange flag with the diagonal white stripe floats triumphantly nearby signifying ...Caution Diver Below.
Thursday October 21, 1943 collision with tanker Bulkoil (8071 tons) - 38 casualties
Murphy (DD-603) was laid down 19 May 1941 by Bethlehem Steel Corp., Staten Island, N.Y., launched 29 April 1942, sponsored by Miss M. Elsie Murphy, daughter of Acting Lieutenant Murphy; and commissioned 23 July 1942, Comdr. Leonard W. Bailey in command.
Following shakedown to Casco Bay, Maine, and escort duty off Halifax, Nova Scotia, Murphy Joined the Center Attack Group, Western Naval Task Force, at Norfolk, sailing in late October for Fedhala, Morocco, to participate in operation "Torch, " the invasion of North Africa. Arriving off the landing beaches 7 November, the destroyer regulated the waves of landing craft hitting the beach the nest day, then gave fire support off Point Blondin at which time the ship was hit in the after engine room during a furious exchange Of fire with the Sherkhi battery, losing three men killed and 26 wounded. Immediate damage control measures prevented any serious damage and Murphy's crew was able to effect repairs in time to Join other fire support ships in silencing the Cape Blondin guns. The plucky warship remained off Fedhala, driving off an enemy air attack 9 November, until sailing for Boston to complete repairs, arriving on the 24th.
The destroyer next escorted convoys between New York and Panama, and Norfolk and Casablanca, until Joining the "Dime" attack force screen for the invasion of Gela, Sicily, In July 1943. On 10 July, while engaged in patrolling the beachhead, Murphy was straddled by near misses from a night air attack, puncturing her stern and wounding one man. She was again attacked two nights later, being missed by 100 yards by a German dive bomber, but continued her fire support off Sicily Into August. Then, while escorting a group of transports to Palermo, she was once again attacked by dive bombers; but this time she splashed two enemy planes.
Murphy returned to the United States following the end of the Sicily invasion nest escorting United Kingdom bound convoys. Standing out of New York Harbor 21 October, the destroyer was struck on the portside between the bridge and forward stack by tanker Bulkoil, the forward half of the ship, sheared off slowly sank, taking 38 officers and men with It. The after section was kept afloat and was towed into New York Navy Yard where, following a 7-month repair Job and replacement of the entire bow, the veteran warship rejoined the fleet in time for the Normandy invasion. On 5 June 1944, Murphy departed Portland, England, assigned to the assault area off Vierville, France, better known as Omaha Beach. She remained there, giving fire support and conducting screen duty for the transports through mid-June, engaging in a gun duel with enemy shore batteries 8 June, and repelling numerous German E - boat and torpedo attacks.
In July, Murphy steamed south to the Mediterranean operating with TF 88, the Aircraft Carrier Force in operation "Dragoon, " the invasion of southern France. She conducted fire support, plane guard, and screening duties during the landings and then departed for New York for overhaul in early September. The destroyer resumed operations in late 1944, Joining cruiser Quincy at Norfolk to escort that ship carrying President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Malta and Great Bitter Lake, Egypt, Conferences. Upon arrival at Great Bitter Lake, Murphy was detached and ordered to Jidda, Arabia, to transport King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia and his party to the Conference. Transiting the Suez Canal, she anchored off Jidda 11 February, taking on board the royal party the next day. The destroyer got underway immediately with her valuable cargo settled in a tent on her forecastle and arrived Great Bitter Lake on the 15th. With her passengers disembarked, the warship then sailed for New York for a minor yard period, Joined an antisubmarine "killer" group on duty off New England and Nova Scotia, and then in May escorted one of the last convoys to Oran, Algeria, and back. On 2 June 1945, with war in the Atlantic won, Murphy entered the Boston Navy Yard for refit prior to assignment to the Pacific Fleet.
The veteran warship departed Boston 10 July, steamed via the Panama Canal to the west coast, and then on the Okinawa, arriving 9 September. Being assigned to the 5th Fleet on occupation duty in southern Japanese waters she visited Nagasaki, Yokosuka, Wakayama, and Nagoya until departing Okinawa 21 November for the United States. She steamed via Saipan, Pearl Harbor, San Diego, and the Panama Canal, arriving at Charleston to prepare for inactivation. She decommissioned there 9 March 1946, and Joined the Charleston Group, Atlantic Reserve Fleet where she remains into 1969.
Murphy received tour battle stars for World War II service.
-- from Navy historical records
As she lies on the sea floor today.
The Murphy did several years of wartime service before being sliced in two just behind the bridge in a collision. The forward part of the destroyer sank, while the aft part was towed back to its birthplace and repaired. The Murphy went on to serve its country again, and remained in the reserve fleet until 1970. Thus it does not appear in any list of wartime casualties, although fully 1/3 of the vessel lies on the sandy bottom, on it's port side rising up almost 40 ft and surprisingly intact.
A diver swims over nets on the bridge
The Wreck of the USS Murphy - Dive Sites & Shipwrecks - New Jersey Scuba DivingThe shipwreck that never happened. The destroyer USS Murphy was sliced in two in a collision. The front half went to the bottom, and the rest of the ship was rebuilt. So the ship was never lost, and the Navy kind of covered it up. Video by Dan Crowell of this deep and enigmatic wreck.
FE330SS/89 -- OPR-C147-HE-89; CONTACT #1 FROM SURVEY H-10284; DIVER INVESTIGATION FOUND A LARGE MASS OF WOOD AND STEEL WRECKAGE OF UNDETERMINED TYPE; BADLY DETERIORATED AND RISING 10 FT OFF THE BOTTOM; EVALUATOR FOR H-10284/88 SPECULATED THAT THIS MIGHT BE
AWOIS ITEM 1570, HOWEVER, DIVERS FROM THIS SURVEY REPORTED THAT THE WRECKAGE DID NOT RESEMBLE A TUG; LORAN C RATES: 9960-W 15491.8, 9960-X 26937.5, 9960-Y 43654.5, 9960-Z 59840.0; LORAN POSITION IS CLOSE TO LORAN RATES PROVIDED BELOW BY RICHARD TARACKA FOR WRECK HE IDENTIFIED AS SUB CHASER; THE WRECKAGE FOUND DURING THIS SURVEY HAS BEEN ENTERED INTO AWOIS AS ITEM 8071 PENDING ADDITIONAL INFORMATION TO VERIFY IDENTITY. (UPDATED MSD 7/91)
Tuesday August 27, 1918
friendly fire from freighter SS Felix Taussig - 18 casualties
The SC-209 was mistakenly attacked under foggy conditions by one of the ships it was escorting. A single hit demolished the light wooden hull and killed most of the crew. Parents of the victims organized a search for the wreckage two years later, but found nothing. It is unlikely anything will ever be found - the largest surviving components would be the three gasoline engines.
( 112 x 18 ft ) 99 gross tons, 19 crew, including passengers
Saturday December 20, 1989
foundered after structural failure of aft hull caused by improper modifications - 2 casualties
This wood hulled fishing boat was cruising off Breezy Point on December 2nd, 1989, when suddenly the Captain heard a loud thump. Within 15 minutes the boat had sunk, leaving 19 people floundering in bitter cold water. The Coast Guard responded quickly to the distress call and was able to retrieve all passengers and crew from the water within two hours. Unfortunately, two of the victims died later in the hospital, one from exposure and the other from a heart attack.
The Bronx Queen was the converted submarine chaser SC- 635. She was 110 feet long, had a 15 foot beam and was built by Mantis Yacht Building Co, Camden, NJ. The SC-635 was launched on October 12, 1942, and commissioned on October 23. She displaced 116 tons and had a top speed of 18 knots. Subchasers were not in service when America entered World War II, and U-Boats were making numerous sinkings of American vessels along the east coast. Once operational, sub chasers contributed as a deterrent. These sleek fast vessels would patrol the coast forcing U-Boats to spend much more of their time beneath the surface, thus exhausting their batteries and reducing their effectiveness. Although as a group the United States fleet of over 400 subchasers was credited with only one verified U-Boat sinking, it is accepted that they were effective in helping to curb the U-Boats' menacing effect on our vessels. On October 19, 1945, the SC-635 was transferred to the Coast Guard. She was later sold, converted into a fishing charter vessel and renamed the "Bronx Queen".
Divers will now find the scattered, low lying, remains of the Bronx Queen sitting in 37 feet of water only a half mile from the Ambrose Channel 2A buoy. Her bow section is separated from the rest of the wreck and sits on its port side. Her huge diesel engines remain upright and provide the highest relief on the wreck. The engines are also where divers will find the greatest concentration of fish. All that remains of her stern are some ribs and planking. Divers have recovered all types of interesting and unique artifacts from this wreck including rectangular brass portholes, cage lamps, anchors, brass valves, the brass letters off her stern, and her starboard running lantern. Artifacts can still be found on the Bronx Queen by carefully searching through her stern section or by digging in the debris field off her port side.
Remember, this is not the wreck to go wondering off on. Each diver should know exactly where the dive boat's anchor is located and should be able to return and ascend up that anchor at the end of the dive. If you were to come up away from the dive boat, it would be impossible to swim against the current back to the dive boat.
FE00434/97 -- OPR-C399-RU; COMPLETE INVESTIGATION RESTRICTED BY SHOAL WATER. EVALUATOR RECOMMENDS RETAINING SUBMERGED DANGEROUS WRECK (7 FT REP) PA AS CHARTED. (UP 12/17/98, SJV)
**** TELCON. STEVE VERRY (N/CS31) AND DAN BERG (AQUA EXPLORERS, INC), 6/19/97, (516) 868-2658; DOVE ON "BRONX QUEEN" IN MAY, 1997 AND OBSERVED REMAINS OF WRECK TO BE LARGELY SILTED OVER. 4 ENGINES ARE VISIBLE EXTENDING APPROX. 5 FEET ABOVE BOTTOM SURROUNDED BY A SCOUR DEPRESSION. PROPELLER SHAFTS EXTEND INTO THE BOTTOM AND DISAPPEAR. ESTIMATES REMAINS ARE COVERED BY AT LEAST 25 FEET IN 35 FEET OF WATER. WRECK APPEARED TO HAVE BEEN WIRE-DRAGGED AT ONE TIME (COE) AS PORTHOLES WERE OBSERVED TO BE DISTORTED (PULLED AND STRETCHED). STATES THIS WAS A SUBCHASER (SC-635) CONVERTED TO A "HEAD BOAT" THAT WAS BASED IN SHEEPSHEAD BAY. WOODEN PLANK CONSTRUCTION.
**** TELCON. STEVE VERRY (N/CS31) AND CHRIS MALLERY (COE, CRAVEN POINT), 6/19/97, (212 264-9055; STATED VESSEL SANK IN A DEC., 1989 STORM AND AT THAT TIME WAS BROKEN UP INTO 5 OR 6 SECTIONS. 1 OR 2 PERSONS DIED. APPROX. 6 FEET OFF THE BOTTOM. (UP 6/19/97, SJV)
The Ida K was another subchaser turned fishing boat.
In flight over the Goodyear plant in Akron Ohio, where she was built.
shipwreck, dirigible ( rigid airship ) , U.S. Navy
1931, Akron OH USA
( 785 ft ) 200 tons, 76 passengers & crew
Tuesday April 4, 1933
atmospheric storm - 3 survivors
The Akron, like many other large dirigibles, was overcome by a wind shear too powerful for its relatively weak maneuvering controls, and crashed. This is a problem inherent in this sort of craft that has never been solved.
The Akron and her sister the Macon were actually built as aircraft carriers. Each carried 5 small fighter planes, which were launched and recovered from a trapeze in the belly of the airship. The idea was that they would act as advance scouts for the fleet, but they were shown to be too vulnerable to attack from carrier-based aircraft. In any case, both ships were lost in accidents, and the airship program folded.
I don't know what kind of a dive this would be - much of the lightweight structure has probably dissolved completely by now. This is, however, one of the more unusual things sunk off the New Jersey coast. There are reports of a debris field of twisted girders.
USS Akron emerging from one of the huge airship hangars at Lakehurst Naval Air Station. The hangars are still there, and can be seen for miles from the air.
The hangar complex at NAS Lakehurst. The large hangar in the foreground also housed the Hindenburg before it was destroyed in flames at this site.
Wednesday July 6, 1960
unknown cause - 18 casualties
ZPG-3W was not a name or an identification number, but a class of aircraft. Four of these, the last and largest of the Navy's airborne radar picket blimps, were built in the late 1950s. The rotating radar aerial was contained inside the gas envelope. They were among the largest non-rigid airships ever constructed. The entire program was discontinued in 1961. Today this mission is performed by fixed-wing aircraft.
The gondola and other hard parts were probably salvaged for investigation into the cause of the crash. I doubt there is anything left in the water.
The boat-like gondola car of a ZPG-3W airship
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