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USS Reuben James (DD-245)

The first USS Reuben James (DD-245), a post-World War I four-stack Clemson-class[?] destroyer, was the first ship of the United States Navy named for a Boatswain's Mate who distinguished himself fighting the Barbary pirates[?]. Her keel was laid down on 2 April 1919, launched on 4 October 1919, and commissioned on 24 September 1920 with Commander Gordon W. Hines in command. She was had a crew of 101, was capable of 35 knots, and carried a main armament of four four-inch guns, a single three-inch gun, and twelve 21-inch torpedo tubes. Assigned to the Atlantic fleet, Reuben James saw duty in the Mediterranean Sea from 1921 to 1922. Based then at New York City, she patrolled the Nicaraguan coast to prevent the delivery of weapons to revolutionaries in early 1926. DD-245 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 water during the Cuban revolution[?]. She transferred to San Diego, California in 1934. Following maneuvers that evaluated aircraft carriers, Reuben James returned to the Atlantic Fleet in January 1939.

Upon the outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939, she joined the Neutrality Patrol[?], and guarded the Atlantic and Caribbean Sea approaches the American coast. In March 1941, Reuben James joined the convoy escort force established to promote the safe arrival of war material to Great Britain. This escort force guarded convoys as far as Iceland, where they became responsibility of British escorts. Based at Hvalfjordur, Iceland[?], she sailed from Argentia, Newfoundland[?] on 23 October 1941, with four other destroyers to escort eastbound convoy HX-156. While escorting that convoy at about 0525, 31 October 1941, Reuben James was torpedoed by German submarine U-552. Reuben James had postured herself between an ammunition ship in the convoy and the known position of a "wolfpack." 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 crew, 44 survived, and 100 died. Reuben James was the first US Navy ship sunk by hostile action in World War II.

Woody Guthrie wrote "The Sinking of the Reuben James," set to the tune of the folk song "Wildwood Flower," which he performed with Pete Seeger.

General Characteristics

  • Displacement: 1190 tons
  • Length: 95.8 meters (314'5")
  • Beam: 9.65 meters (31'8")
  • Draft: 4.3 meters (14'1")
  • Speed: 35 knots
  • Complement: 144
  • Armament: four four-inch/50-caliber guns, one three-inch/23-caliber gun, 12 21-inch torpedo tubes

For other ships of this name, see USS Reuben James.

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