|Eric Tidwell on left decompressing after diving the Jacob Jones
photo by Steve Gatto
|RP Resor sinking off Barnegat Light
Numerous U-boats were deployed to sink allied ships transporting supplies to England. After the sinking, the Jones was quickly dispatched from New York. The destroyer was assigned to patrol the area from Barnegat to Cape May hunting for German invaders. In the early morning of February 28th, 1942, the U-578 attacked the Jones. Two or three torpedoes struck midship killing most of the crew and officers. As the stern sank to depth, the detonation of the ship's own depth charges killed nearly all the crew on the surface.
|torpedo on the Jacob Jones
photo by Steve Gatto
|Eric's day job is protecting our country.
Meeting a real super hornet commander pilot was indeed a cherished thrill. On the way back from the quarry, Sam and I got caught in traffic just outside Philadelphia for a few hours.
|Joseph Paul Tidwell at Observation Tower in Cape May with his family, a true legacy.
This day remains an unforgettable memory for both of us. It was nice for Sam to participate. Giving Eric the opportunity to pay tribute to his heroic grandfather was an honor for all that partook in the event. That week, I deliberated over the weather with Rusty Cassway and Brian Sullivan, owners of the RV Explorer. We were trying to select the best prospective day to dive. We corresponded frequently and made the decision that Friday would be ideal for a trip to Jacob Jones. A light southwest wind was predicted; the rest of the weekend was questionable. We needed practical conditions for a safe dive considering all the factors. We were under pressure to pay tribute safely and honorably to a living icon. Joseph Tidwell’s family was counting on this event. The local region understood this dedication was taking place and the media would be analyzing the event. There were many risks involved to make this dedication a success. I had planned the details to safely execute this event with a veteran team of first-class wreck divers devoted to accomplishing the task. Everyone was eager and supportive, moving the event date on short notice was anticipated.
Friday July 22, 2011
|Eric on the bottom
The decision to step-up
the dive was made. These seasoned wreck
divers were accustomed to weather issues and understood the magnitude of this
dive. At nine that morning, we met Eric,
and his dad Jim at Utch’s Marina in Cape May. Loaded and already on board the
RV Explorer were the diving team including Rusty Cassway, Brian Sullivan, John
Copeland, Steve LaGreca, Bart Malone, and underwater photographer Steve Gatto. Additionally,
local newspaper writers were onboard and at the dock to document the event. Departing
the inlet with the Tidwell’s and a loaded boat of crew, cameras, and gear, we
sailed to the Jones followed by a light southwest breeze. As predicted, the
weather was cooperating, and our plans were falling into place. Excited to be a part of such a historic dive,
each of us shared our convictions with Eric and Jim.
On the way out, I laid out a strategy for the dive. Brian Sullivan and John Copeland would tie us to the wreck, assuring a fixed tether to the hull. Then they would run a navigation line so that Eric and I could easily traverse the site without any preoccupation. This way I could fully focus on Eric, guiding him throughout the dive. After a predetermined signal from John and Brian that all was secured and the navigation lines were set, Eric and I would enter. Steve Gatto would follow to record the dive. Steve LaGreca, Bart Malone, and Rusty Cassway would help prepare Eric on the boat. After Eric’s tribute dive, they would recover the navigation lines and pull the hook.
Some good story telling was
made on the way out to the site. We listened attentively, as Eric explained
what is like to land a supersonic jet on a moving aircraft carrier. We gathered
around the table as Jim Tidwell told us how he was an eyewitness to Jimmy
Hendrix's first time playing of the national anthem in a small Jacksonville
night club. Our time spent together was too short to get the full appreciation
of this fascinating family. They had unique and remarkable life stories of a
World War II shipwreck survivor, a rock n roll insider, and a super hornet
Pacific fleet pilot / commander.
|Joseph Paul Tidwell