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USS Reuben James (DD-245)
USS Reuben James
USS Reuben James
Career (United States)
Name: Reuben James
Namesake: Reuben James
Builder: New York Shipbuilding
Laid down: 2 April 1919
Launched: 4 October 1919
Commissioned: 24 September 1920
In service: 24 september 1920
Out of service: 31 October 1941
Fate: Sunk by U-552, 31 October 1941
General characteristics
Class & type: Clemson-class destroyer
Displacement: 1,190 long tons (1,210 t)
Length: 314 ft 5 in (95.83 m)
Beam: 31 ft 8 in (9.65 m)
Draft: 9 ft 4 in (2.84 m)
Installed power: 26,500 shp (19,800 kW)
Propulsion: 2 × geared steam turbines
2 × shafts
Speed: 35 kn (40 mph; 65 km/h)
Range: 4,900 nmi (5,600 mi; 9,100 km) @ 15 kn (17 mph; 28 km/h)
Complement: 159 officers and enlisted
Armament: 4 × 4 in (100 mm) guns
1 × 3 in (76 mm) anti-aircraft gun
12 × 21 in (530 mm) torpedo tubes

Coordinates: 51°59′N 27°05′W / 51.983°N 27.083°W / 51.983; -27.083

USS Reuben James (DD-245)—a post-World War I, four-funnel Clemson-class destroyer—was the first United States Navy ship sunk by hostile action in World War II and the first named for Boatswain's Mate Reuben James (c.1776–1838), who distinguished himself fighting in the Barbary Wars.

Reuben James was laid down on 2 April 1919 by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation of Camden, New Jersey, launched on 4 October 1919, and commissioned on 24 September 1920, with Commander Gordon W. Hines in command. The destroyer was sunk by a torpedo attack from German submarine U-552 on 31 October 1941.

Service history

Assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, Reuben James saw duty in the Mediterranean Sea in 1921–1922. Reuben James sailed from Newport, Rhode Island, on 30 November 1920, to Zelenika, Yugoslavia, arriving on 18 December. During the spring and summer of 1921, she operated in the Adriatic and the Mediterranean out of Zelenika and Gruz, Yugoslavia, assisting refugees and participating in postwar investigations. In October 1921 at Le Havre, she joined the protected cruiser Olympia at ceremonies marking the return of the Unknown Soldier to the U.S. At Danzig, from 29 October 1921 to 3 February 1922, she assisted the American Relief Administration in its efforts to relieve hunger and misery. After duty in the Mediterranean, she departed Gibraltar on 17 July.

Based then at New York City, the ship patrolled the Nicaraguan coast to prevent the delivery of weapons to revolutionaries in early 1926. In the spring of 1929, she participated in fleet maneuvers that foreshadowed naval airpower. She was decommissioned at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 20 January 1931. Recommissioned on 9 March 1932, the ship again operated in the Atlantic and the Caribbean, patrolling Cuban waters during the coup by Fulgencio Batista. She transferred to San Diego in 1934. Following maneuvers that evaluated aircraft carriers, Reuben James returned to the Atlantic Fleet in January 1939.

World War II

Upon the outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939, she joined the Neutrality Patrol, guarding the $3 and Caribbean approaches to the American coast. In March 1941, Reuben James joined the convoy escort force established to promote the safe arrival of materiel to the United Kingdom. This escort force guarded convoys as far as Iceland, after which they became the responsibility of British escorts.

Based at Hvalfjordur, Iceland, she sailed from Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland, on 23 October, with four other destroyers to escort eastbound convoy HX 156. At about 0525 on 31 October, while escorting that convoy, Reuben James was torpedoed by U-552 commanded by Kapitänleutnant Erich Topp near Iceland. Reuben James had positioned herself between an ammunition ship in the convoy and the known position of a "wolfpack", a group of submarines that preyed on Allied shipping. Reuben James was hit forward by a torpedo and her entire bow was blown off when a magazine exploded. The bow sank immediately. The aft section floated for five minutes before going down. Of the 159-man crew, only 44 survived.

Convoys escorted

Convoy Escort Group Dates Notes
ON 20 30 Sept – 9 Oct 1941[1] from Iceland to Newfoundland prior to US declaration of war
HX 156 24–31 Oct 1941[2] from Newfoundland to Iceland prior to US declaration of war; sunk by U-552

Cultural references

Woody Guthrie wrote the song "The Sinking of the Reuben James".[3] He performed the song with Pete Seeger and the other Almanac Singers. The Guthrie song has an original tune for its chorus, but its verses are set to the tune of the song "Wildwood Flower". The song was performed by Johnny Horton on his album Johnny Horton Makes History. The Kingston Trio have released their version of the song on numerous albums; the Chad Mitchell Trio released their version on Reflecting.[4]

See also



External links

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