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USS Reuben James (DD-245)

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USS Reuben James (DD-245), still afloat after fatal torpedoing

USS Reuben James (DD-245) was an 1920-vintage Clemson-class destroyer, which was the first U.S. destroyer sunk as a result of the Second World War. She was on a "neutrality patrol", escorting Lend-Lease convoy HX-156 to Britain, when she was sunk, on 31 October 1941 by the German submarine U-552.

The name Reuben James has a long tradition in the U.S. Navy, beginning with Boatswain's Mate Reuben James in the Barbary Wars. Already wounded on 1804, he deliberately took a cutlass blow aimed for his captain, Stephen Decatur. [1]

today's Reuben James

In 1941, DD-245 was in a blocking position between ammunition ship in the convoy and the known position of a German U-Boat Wolfpack. Of the crew, 44 survived and 115 died. All officers including the Commanding Officer, LCDR H.L. Edwards, were lost. The sinking was immortalized in a Woody Guthrie ballad:[2]

First verse
Have you heard of a ship called the good Reuben James,
Manned by hard-fighting men, both of honor and of fame?
She flew the stars and stripes of the land of the free,
But tonight she's in her grave at the bottom of the sea.
Chorus
Tell me, what were their names, tell me, what were their names?
Did you have a friend on the good Reuben James?
What were their names, tell me, what were their names?
Did you have a friend on the good Reuben James?

Today, the name is worn proudly by USS Reuben James (FFG-57) , an Oliver Hazard Perry-class "frigate" or light destroyer/ocean escort.

References

  1. USS Reuben James (FFG-57), Ship's Namesake, USS Reuben James Official Website
  2. Woody Guthrie (1941), Lyrics to "The Sinking of Reuben James"