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USS Reuben James (DD-245)

USS Reuben James (DD-245)

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USS Reuben James (DD-245)—a post-World War I four-funnel Clemson-class
Clemson class destroyer
The Clemson class was a series of 156 destroyers which served with the United States Navy from after World War I through World War II.The Clemson-class ships were commissioned by the United States Navy from 1919 to 1922, built by Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company, New York Shipbuilding...

 destroyer
Destroyer
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

—was the first United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 ship sunk by hostile action in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and the first named for Boatswain's Mate Reuben James
Reuben James
Reuben James was a Boatswain's Mate of the United States Navy, famous for his heroism in the Barbary Wars.-Career:...

 (c.1776–1838), who distinguished himself fighting in the Barbary Wars
Barbary Wars
The Barbary Wars were a series of wars between the United States of America and the Barbary States of North Africa in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. At issue was the Barbary pirates' demand of tribute from American merchant vessels in the Mediterranean Sea. If ships failed to pay, pirates...

.

Reuben James was laid down on 2 April 1919 by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation of Camden, New Jersey
Camden, New Jersey
The city of Camden is the county seat of Camden County, New Jersey. It is located across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city had a total population of 77,344...

, launched on 4 October 1919, and commissioned
Ship commissioning
Ship commissioning is the act or ceremony of placing a ship in active service, and may be regarded as a particular application of the general concepts and practices of project commissioning. The term is most commonly applied to the placing of a warship in active duty with its country's military...

 on 24 September 1920 with Commander Gordon W. Hines at the helm.

Service history


Assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, Reuben James saw duty in the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 in 1921–1922. Reuben James sailed from Newport, Rhode Island
Newport, Rhode Island
Newport is a city on Aquidneck Island in Newport County, Rhode Island, United States, about south of Providence. Known as a New England summer resort and for the famous Newport Mansions, it is the home of Salve Regina University and Naval Station Newport which houses the United States Naval War...

 on 30 November 1920, to Zelenika, Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

, arriving on 18 December. During the spring and summer of 1921, she operated in the Adriatic
Adriatic Sea
The Adriatic Sea is a body of water separating the Italian Peninsula from the Balkan peninsula, and the system of the Apennine Mountains from that of the Dinaric Alps and adjacent ranges...

 and the Mediterranean out of Zelenika and Gruz
Gruž
Gruž is modern day neighborhood in the greater city of Dubrovnik, Croatia. The main port for Dubrovnik is in Gruž as well as its largest market and the main bus station "Libertas". Around 15,000 people currently live in Gruž...

, Yugoslavia, assisting refugees and participating in postwar investigations. In October 1921 at Le Havre
Le Havre
Le Havre is a city in the Seine-Maritime department of the Haute-Normandie region in France. It is situated in north-western France, on the right bank of the mouth of the river Seine on the English Channel. Le Havre is the most populous commune in the Haute-Normandie region, although the total...

, she joined the protected cruiser
Protected cruiser
The protected cruiser is a type of naval cruiser of the late 19th century, so known because its armoured deck offered protection for vital machine spaces from shrapnel caused by exploding shells above...

  at ceremonies marking the return of the Unknown Soldier to the U.S. At Danzig, from 29 October 1921 – 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
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

 on 17 July.

Based then at New York City, the ship patrolled the Nicaragua
Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the largest country in the Central American American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The country is situated between 11 and 14 degrees north of the Equator in the Northern Hemisphere, which places it entirely within the tropics. The Pacific Ocean...

n 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
Caribbean Sea
The Caribbean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean located in the tropics of the Western hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico and Central America to the west and southwest, to the north by the Greater Antilles, and to the east by the Lesser Antilles....

, patrolling Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

n waters during the coup by Fulgencio Batista
Fulgencio Batista
Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar was the United States-aligned Cuban President, dictator and military leader who served as the leader of Cuba from 1933 to 1944 and from 1952 to 1959, before being overthrown as a result of the Cuban Revolution....

. She transferred to San Diego in 1934. Following maneuvers that evaluated aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

s, 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
Neutrality Patrol
At the beginning of World War II, when Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939 started the hostilities in Europe, President Franklin D...

, and guarded the Atlantic
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 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
Materiel
Materiel is a term used in English to refer to the equipment and supplies in military and commercial supply chain management....

 to the United Kingdom. This escort force guarded convoys as far as Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

, after which they became the responsibility of British escorts.

Based at Hvalfjordur, Iceland, she sailed from Naval Station Argentia
Naval Station Argentia
Naval Station Argentia is a former base of the United States Navy that operated from 1941-1994. It was established in the community of Argentia in what was then the Dominion of Newfoundland, which later became the tenth Canadian province .-Construction:Established under the British-U.S...

, Newfoundland
Dominion of Newfoundland
The Dominion of Newfoundland was a British Dominion from 1907 to 1949 . The Dominion of Newfoundland was situated in northeastern North America along the Atlantic coast and comprised the island of Newfoundland and Labrador on the continental mainland...

 on 23 October, with four other destroyers to escort eastbound convoy HX 156. At about 05:25 on 31 October, while escorting that convoy, Reuben James was torpedoed by commanded by Kapitänleutnant Erich Topp
Erich Topp
Rear Admiral Erich Topp was the third most successful of German U-Boot Experten commanders of World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords...

 near Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

. 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
ON convoys
The ON convoys were a series of North Atlantic trade convoys running Outbound from the British Isles to North America during the Battle of the Atlantic .-History:...

30 Sept – 9 Oct 1941 from Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

 to Newfoundland
Dominion of Newfoundland
The Dominion of Newfoundland was a British Dominion from 1907 to 1949 . The Dominion of Newfoundland was situated in northeastern North America along the Atlantic coast and comprised the island of Newfoundland and Labrador on the continental mainland...

 prior to US declaration of war
HX 156 24–31 Oct 1941 from Newfoundland to Iceland prior to US declaration of war; sunk by U-552

Cultural references


Woody Guthrie
Woody Guthrie
Woodrow Wilson "Woody" Guthrie is best known as an American singer-songwriter and folk musician, whose musical legacy includes hundreds of political, traditional and children's songs, ballads and improvised works. He frequently performed with the slogan This Machine Kills Fascists displayed on his...

 wrote the song "The Sinking of the Reuben James". He performed the song with Pete Seeger
Pete Seeger
Peter "Pete" Seeger is an American folk singer and was an iconic figure in the mid-twentieth century American folk music revival. A fixture on nationwide radio in the 1940s, he also had a string of hit records during the early 1950s as a member of The Weavers, most notably their recording of Lead...

 and the other Almanac Singers
Almanac Singers
The Almanac Singers were a group of folk musicians who, as their name indicates, specialized in topical songs, especially songs connected with the labor movement...

. The Guthrie song has an original tune for its chorus, but its verses are set to the tune of the song "Wildwood Flower
Wildwood Flower
"Wildwood Flower" is an American song, best known through performances and recordings by the Carter Family. However, the song predates them. The original title was "I'll Twine 'Mid the Ringlets"...

".
Also the name of a song by the Kingston Trio and featured on numerous albums of their collection.

Tom Clancy used a modern version of Reuben James as a location in his novel "Red Storm Rising."

External links