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Thu Oct 31, 2019, 07:30 AM

78 Years Ago Today; Destroyer USS Reuben James sunk by U-Boat; 1st US Navy ship sunk in WW2

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Reuben_James_(DD-245)


USS Reuben James on 29 April 1939

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 the European theater of World War II and the first named for Boatswain's Mate Reuben James (c.1776–1838), who distinguished himself fighting in the First Barbary War.

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 near Iceland on 31 October 1941, before the U.S. had officially entered the war.

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World War II
Upon the outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939, she joined the Neutrality Patrol, guarding the Atlantic and Caribbean approaches to the American coast. In March 1941, Reuben James joined the force established to escort convoys sailing to Great Britain. This force escorted convoys as far as Iceland, after which the convoys became the responsibility of British escorts. She was based at Hvalfjordur, Iceland, under command of Lieutenant Commander Heywood Lane Edwards.

On 23 October, she sailed from Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland with four other destroyers, escorting eastbound Convoy HX 156. At daybreak on 31 October, she was torpedoed near Iceland by U-552 commanded by Kapitänleutnant Erich Topp. Reuben James had positioned herself between an ammunition ship in the convoy and the known position of a German "wolfpack", a group of submarines poised to attack the convoy. Reuben James was hit forward by a torpedo meant for a merchant ship 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 a crew of seven officers and 136 enlisted men plus one enlisted passenger, 100 were killed, leaving only 44 enlisted men and no officers who survived the attack.

<snip>

In popular culture
Woody Guthrie wrote the song, "The Sinking of the Reuben James", and performed it 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". Seeger later also performed the song with The Weavers.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Thu Oct 31, 2019, 07:34 AM

1. I was going to post the Guthrie tune

but I scrolled down and there it was.

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Response to panader0 (Reply #1)

Thu Oct 31, 2019, 07:58 AM

2. I think more people remember the tune than the actual incident

...which shows you how powerful Guthrie's song was.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Reply #2)

Thu Oct 31, 2019, 08:24 AM

3. Those who lived learning about it and never forgot have been

dying off for decades, of course, and are now almost gone.

This is reminding me of the decades when people traded stories of where they were when they heard Kennedy had been assassinated. Now most people learned about it in school, like we did this tragedy.

Speaking of powerful, we still listen to songs that came out of the Vietnam War era.

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Response to Hortensis (Reply #3)

Thu Oct 31, 2019, 08:32 AM

4. That's a point of sadness for me. Everyone of my parent's generation are dying or already dead

Dad was born in 1923, Mom in 1929. All of my uncles and aunts, and my parent's friends, are gone, save one uncle (born 1935) and his wife.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Reply #4)

Thu Oct 31, 2019, 08:44 AM

5. Yes, ours from before WWII also. What they saw and lived through!

I was speaking with one unforgettable person last spring who survived WWII in Europe. She married an American soldier who brought her out and to her new home. I met her as she was finally closing the knitting shop she'd opened decades ago, sharp and healthy, wearing an exquisite pink suit she'd knitted herself.

In 2019 she was a passionate, committed, and very positive patriot of America and democracy of the best sort. An open minded liberal with no delusions at all, just one hell of a long set of memories and grim and good comparisons that made Churchill's declaration live strong for her still in her mid 90s. She was a big admirer of the America that had developed under it also and believed with its principles we'd bring ourselves through this bad era. Not the first one she's seen.

"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others." Winston Churchill, House of Commons, 11 November 1947, quoting an unknown predecessor.

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Response to Hortensis (Reply #5)

Thu Oct 31, 2019, 10:47 AM

6. Great Churchill quote!

I think those who have lived thru times of danger and uncertainty tend to have a more liberal outlook than those who have never experienced such things.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Reply #6)

Thu Oct 31, 2019, 10:53 AM

8. That isn't how vets and the military vote, it seems to be the opposite.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Reply #6)

Thu Oct 31, 2019, 12:48 PM

13. Maybe those inclined to political silliness whose world

falls in on their heads have at least a little more reality and perspective driven in?

She was never one of those, though. Wish everyone could meet her and others like her. She's spreading her own message while she's still here, though, and doing a very good job of it.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Thu Oct 31, 2019, 10:50 AM

7. My dad's ship was reported sunk by the Japanese about 3.5 months later.

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Response to braddy (Reply #7)

Thu Oct 31, 2019, 10:54 AM

9. What ship was he on?

There's a great website that features photos of (almost) every ship in the USN:
http://navsource.org/

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Reply #9)

Thu Oct 31, 2019, 11:07 AM

10. The Marblehead, FDR later mentioned it in one of his fireside chats.

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Response to braddy (Reply #10)

Thu Oct 31, 2019, 11:12 AM

11. Ah!

She was an Omaha-class cruiser - fought hard at the beginning of the Pacific conflict. to your father!

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Reply #11)

Thu Oct 31, 2019, 11:29 AM

12. His ship was later at Operation Dragoon, fighting Germans, I thought about that when I was

parachuting out of Luftwaffe C-160s earning my German wings, also the time when I was touring an active duty Japanese destroyer. Life, war, the times, nations, alliances, sometimes it is weird stuff.

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