US Warship Sunk in 1944 Yields Treasure

A treasure-trove of more than a million silver coins, recovered from an American warship torpedoed in World War II, is up for sale. The coins, weighing almost 16 tons, are expected to fetch at least $20 million when they are auctioned Nov. 16, according to the Sotheby's auction house.

''They are being sold in one lot because of the historical aspect,'' said David Bennett, a European director of Sotheby's. Journalists were allowed to view the coins Wednesday.

The Saudi Arabian silver riyals were recovered a year ago from the wreck of the SS John Barry, an American warship sliced in two in November 1944 by torpedoes fired by a German submarine off the coast of Oman. Nearly all the ship's crew of some 70 men were rescued by passing boats in the Arabian Sea. Two perished.

The John Barry was carrying a total of 3 million silver coins, minted in Philadelphia on orders from the late Saudi King Abdel-Aziz ibn Saud. The kingdom planned to use the coins to pay oil workers. The operation was so secret that not even the crew knew about the cargo. Details emerged only when United States documents were declassified 40 years later.

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