U-Boat Attack off New Jersey Coast
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 completel y 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 a bove 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 explos ion 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.