The wreck of America’s first ever naval ship has been discovered off the coast of Yorkshire.
Historians say it is the “ultimate find” after experts used satellite technology to solve the mystery of the famous ship’s last resting place.
And now divers have recovered 40 pieces of evidence, including burnt wooden timbers and mast sections from the historic wreck.
The USS Bonhomme Richard defeated the British Navy in home waters during the American War of Independence in 1779.
The incredible discovery, just off the coast near Filey, North Yorkshire, could bring in millions of pounds for the UK’s tourist industry.
Experts believe Americans will flock to the Yorkshire coast to visit the birthplace of their navy.
Their first ever American sea captain John Paul Jones took on the might of the English Royal Navy in the 20-gun ship, which was a gift from the French.
Captain Jones had been sent to stop supplies reaching the English in America.
But on September 23, a vicious four-hour battle erupted after the US raider was intercepted by the 50-gun HMS Serapis, which had been escorting a convoy of supplies.
The ships became locked together just off Flamborough Head.
It was the bloodiest battle in naval record, with 250 men lost between them.
Despite facing defeat, when Cpt Jones was asked to surrender by his British counterpart, he uttered the immortal line: “Sir, I have not yet begun to fight.”
He eventually won the fight, even though his ship was burning and sinking. He boarded the Serapis, took it over and used it for the rest of the war.
Now, a British specialist satellite firm from Harrogate, in North Yorks, claims to have found the ship. CEO of Merlin Burrows, Bruce Blackburn, 55, described it as the “ultimate find”.
He said the US Navy had sent out at least 13 expeditions, including a nuclear submarine, to try to track down the wreck themselves.
Mr Blackburn said: “We think they’ve spent in excess of $200million, but have been looking in the wrong place.
"They have relied on their own experts, who think the wreck is six miles off the coast.
"But Captain Jones says in his log the cannonballs were striking the cliff as people stood witnessing the battle. You can’t do that six miles away.
“We are 100% sure it is the Bonhomme Richard. The timbers we’ve recovered are burnt and it was the only ship that went down in flames.”
Mr Blackburn also told how they had scans of two unusual bells which belonged to the ship.
“This will cause a pilgrimage of American tourists to the Yorkshire coastline for the rest of time, so the Americans can get in touch with their naval heritage,” he said.
“It’s the birth of their navy. This was their first ever naval vessel and he was their first ever naval captain.
“He was virtually a God as far as the Americans were concerned. He is on the curriculum in their schools.”
He said the find has been registered with the Receiver of Wreck and US authorities have been contacted.
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