Stuff You Should Know
The SS John Barry was an American Liberty Ship built during World War II at the Kaiser Shipyards and launched in November 1941. In August 1944, the ship was torpedoed and sunk in the Arabian Sea near the coast of Oman by the German submarine U-859. The SS John Barry was carrying a shipment of 3 million silver coins, each valued 1 Saudi riyal, as an American payment to ARAMCO when it sank. In-depth details about the ship’s mission and cargo were top secret, but it was speculated that the vessel also had a much more valuable shipment on board, on top of the 3 million silver coins. It was rumored that the ship carried around 26 million dollars (1944 value) worth of silver bullion, meant to arrive in India. However, it was later discovered that there were no silver shipments for India missing and so, there were speculations that the silver was actually meant for the Soviet Union. As the ship sunk to 8,500 feet below sea level, the recovery of this cargo was extremely difficult. In 1989, a recovery attempt was made, but only 1.3 million silver coins of the 3 million meant for ARAMCO were recovered. The alleged silver shipment for India/Soviet Union was not found, but not all areas where it was suspected that the silver might be stored were accessed.