Navy to Study Wreck­age of WWI Ship that Sank Near LI

Just weeks af­ter the 99th an­niver­sary of the sink­ing of the World War I USS San Diego, the Navy has an­nounced that it will sur­vey the wreck­age

The Jewish Voice - - NEW YORK - By Ilana Siyance

Just weeks af­ter the 99th an­niver­sary of the sink­ing of the World War I USS San Diego, the Navy has an­nounced that it will sur­vey the wreck­age. The study, which is sched­uled for Sept. 11-15, is timed to en­able re­searchers to con­duct an ex­haus­tive ex­am­i­na­tion of the site and pre­pare to re­lease their find­ings on time for the 100th an­niver­sary of the U.S.'s en­try into WWI.

The 15,000-ton ar­mored cruiser lies only a few miles south of Long Is­land, south­east of Fire Is­land, N.Y., 110 feet be­low the sur­face. On July 19, 1918, leav­ing from Portsmouth, N.H. head­ing for New York, USS San Diego is thought to have been sunk by a tor­pedo fired by the Ger­man sub­ma­rine, U-156. The US ship sank in 28 min­utes lead­ing to the loss of six lives. It was the only ma­jor war­ship lost by the United States in WWI.

The 503-foot-long cruiser's guns and dis­tin­guish­ing fea­tures are largely in­tact, due to its ar­mored ex­te­rior. It is one of the most pop­u­lar sites for recre­ational divers on Long Is­land, de­spite be­ing up­side down. The site is a pro­tected area, un­der the Sunken Mil­i­tary Craft Act of 2004. Es­pe­cially since it is an un­der­wa­ter war grave, unau­tho­rized sal­vaging of ar­ti­facts or dis­tur­bance is il­le­gal.

As re­ported by the NY Times, un­der­wa­ter ro­bot­ics and sen­sors along with an au­ton­o­mous un­der­wa­ter ve­hi­cle will be used to ex­plore the bat­tle dam­age to the ship to de­ter­mine what type of weapon caused the ex­plo­sion at 11:05 a.m. The San Diego was zigzag­ging at 15 knots through sub­ma­rine-in­fested wa­ters, on its way to es­cort a con­voy from France. The ex­plo­sion on the port side warped the bulk­head, se­verely dam­aged both en­gines and crip­pled ra­dio com­mu­ni­ca­tion, pre­vent­ing a dis­tress call. Un­der the di­rec­tion of Capt. Har­ley H. Christy, nearly 1,200 sur­vivors aban­doned the ship, en­ter­ing lifeboats and were seen two hours later by a gun­nery of­fi­cer, who called for res­cue ships.

The sur­vey led by the Naval His­tory and Her­itage Com­mand will be per­formed in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Univer­sity of Delaware's Col­lege of Earth, Ocean and En­vi­ron­ment, the Naval Sur­face War­fare Cen­ter, the of­fice of Naval In­tel­li­gence, and the Fire Is­land sta­tion of the U.S. Coast Guard.

“Although ships and weapons are much dif­fer­ent now than they were 100 years ago, study­ing the wreck may still teach us some­thing we didn't know about anti-sub­ma­rine war­fare,” said Paul Tay­lor, the head of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions at the Naval His­tory and Her­itage Com­mand. “This in­for­ma­tion may prove use­ful to

mod­ern ship de­sign­ers, naval tac­ti­cian, and peo­ple who de­velop ship­board dam­age con­trol tech­niques.” “It's an added bonus that solv­ing this mys­tery more fully ac­counts for the ship's story, which is a way for us to honor the ser­vice and sac­ri­fice of six Amer­i­can sailors who lost their lives in de­fense of the na­tion,” said Mr. Tay­lor.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the re­search will de­cide if the wreck­age presents any en­dur­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal haz­ard or dan­gers to ma­rine life or nav­i­ga­tion from leak­ing fuel, live weapon­ries or the likes.

The 15,000-ton ar­mored cruiser lies only a few miles south of

Long Is­land, south­east of Fire Is­land, N.Y., 110 feet be­low the sur­face. On July 19, 1918, leav­ing from Portsmouth, N.H. head­ing for New York, USS San Diego is thought to have been sunk by a tor­pedo fired by the Ger­man sub­ma­rine, U-156.

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