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Modern Mysteries

What sank the USS San Diego back in 1918 ?

By T.K. Randall
September 16, 2017 · Comment icon 27 comments

Was the ship attacked or did something else happen ? Image Credit: US Navy
Scientists have been working to solve one of the most enduring maritime mysteries of the modern age.
On July 19, 1918, the USS San Diego had been heading towards New York and was only a few miles offshore when it was suddenly hit by a huge explosion on its port side.

The damage was extensive and the ship went down within a mere 30 minutes.

Four crew members were killed by the explosion itself and a further two drowned, however remarkably the vast majority of the 1,180 men on-board survived, including the captain who was the last to leave.

Exactly what had caused the disaster would go on to remain a mystery for almost a century.
Was the ship hit by a German torpedo, did it run in to a mine in the water or, unthinkably, did a member of the ship's own crew carry out an act of sabotage ?

Now in a renewed bid to find the answer, the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command is deploying an underwater drone that will help to build up a complete 3D picture of the ship's wreckage.

If everything goes well, the data should make it possible to determine what really happened.

"We are definitely drawn to this site because of the mystery of how it sunk and our desire to set the record straight," said underwater archaeologist Alexis Catsambis. "We believe we have a unique opportunity here, combining scientific data and archival research to answering this question."

The results will be released to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the sinking next summer.

Source: San Diego Union-Tribune | Comments (27)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #18 Posted by Sir Smoke aLot 7 years ago
I mostly agree with you but you fail to understand me, there is possibility of false flag being 'on horizon'. My comment was pointing out, most importantly, that period from 1914 to 1945 was violent period with many players involved and we still do not know even half of truth about that period. Any event at time period from 1914 to 1945 could be used ( or better said, abused ) to influence public oppinion at the time ( as in terms of making greater public support for war ) and that was major factor for American interventions in European wars to be possible. Can you rule out that sinking of Am... [More]
Comment icon #19 Posted by Peter B 7 years ago
I don't doubt that there's still a fair bit about the period of the World Wars we don't know about yet. But for the time being I'm willing to accept the German Aggression theory for the outbreak of WW1 as originally developed by West German historian Fritz Fischer in the 1960s, based as it is on his examination of German government archives in the period leading up to the war. Thus my view is that the assassination of the Archduke was simply the convenient excuse used by the Austro-Hungarian and German governments to bring about a war that the leaders of the German government wanted. Regarding... [More]
Comment icon #20 Posted by Sir Smoke aLot 7 years ago
Good points. I'd love it if you would share link to report. To see headlines, purely for information as i love to go over old newspapers. That study which takes place will surely explain a lot but all in all, i have to agree with what you say about this particular case, well said.
Comment icon #21 Posted by Peter B 7 years ago
No worries. Here's the link to the main site: NLA = National Library of Australia. They've scanned literally thousands of Australian newspapers from the early 19th century until recently. Articles are shown as screenshots of the original newspaper, along with the system's attempt at Optical Character Recognition. If you you want you can register in order to correct the OCR versions, and some people have turned it into a hobby. Anyway, I searched: san diego; 1918-07-19 to 1918-08-01; New South Wales titles. The search produced 45 results. The first... [More]
Comment icon #22 Posted by Skulduggery 7 years ago
When I was in 6th grade (long ago), I went on a field trip to a navel base. We were told about this. They only told us a large explosion and fire caused the sinking. Somebody did ask what caused it, and the tour guide said he wasn't sure but it probably began as a grease fire. I'm only learning now, in this thread, it was unsolved. What the hell, school?
Comment icon #23 Posted by Peter B 7 years ago
?? First, why blame school for what the tour guide said? Second, why are you upset given that you said the guide's first answer was "he wasn't sure"? In any case, do you know where the guide found out his information? There are any number of perfectly innocuous reasons why the guide gave the answer he did: perhaps he heard/read the grease fire story about another ship and mistakenly applied it to the San Diego; perhaps someone with more certainty than knowledge told him that was the cause? And as for finding out that some things I was taught at school are actually wrong...well, sure that happe... [More]
Comment icon #24 Posted by Skulduggery 7 years ago
Who said anything about being upset? I meant everything in jest, which I thought was obvious. 
Comment icon #25 Posted by Mr.United_Nations 7 years ago
Still believe it was U Boat as it targeted a small town just down the cost around that month
Comment icon #26 Posted by Peter B 7 years ago
*shrug* Obviously I need to get my online irony detector re-calibrated.
Comment icon #27 Posted by Mike Nelson 6 years ago
The photo at the top of the article is not applicable to the text .  It is a picture of the Atlanta Class Light Cruiser, USS San Diego (CL-53) which served in WWII and was scrapped around 1960.  The text of the article concerns the Armored Cruiser USS San Diego (ACR-6) which was sunk off Long Island in 1918 during WWI.  These were two entirely different ships with the same name.  It is not uncommon for USN to reuse the name of a ship that is out of service, or even to change the name of a ship so that it can be reused for another ship.  In fact the USS San Diego (ACR-6) was originally th... [More]

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