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What Was the Reuben James? Why did Woodie Guthrie Write a Song About It?

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The USS Reuben James was a Clemson-class destroyer. It was torpedoed by a German U-Boat on 31 October 1941, over five weeks before Pearl Harbor, making it the first American warship sunk in World War II. It also . . .

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What Was the Reuben James? Why did Woodie Guthrie Write a Song About It?

  1. 1. “Have you heard of a ship called the good Reuben James, Manned by hard fighting men both of honor and fame?”
  2. 2. The USS Reuben James was a Clemson- class destroyer, built just after World War I in 1919. Clemson-class, also known as four stackers, were the most common destroyer ever built by the US Navy, with 156 constructed, until the Fletcher-class in World War II. The USS REUBEN JAMES
  3. 3. It was armed with 4, four-inch guns, and 12 torpedo tubes. It also carried depth charges for anti- submarine warfare. The USS Reuben James was commissioned on 24 September 1920. The USS REUBEN JAMES
  4. 4. The ship was named after Reuben James, a sailor who gained fame for stepping in front of Lieutenant Decatur during a battle in the Barbary Wars and taking a sword blow to the head that was intended for Decatur, who went on to gain great acclaim in the Navy. The USS REUBEN JAMES
  5. 5. Interestingly, it appears in retrospect, that story might be in error and another man actually took the blow. The USS REUBEN JAMES
  6. 6. In 1921, she helped escort the remains of the Unknown Soldier of World War I from Europe back to the United States. The USS REUBEN JAMES
  7. 7. The Reuben James was commanded by Lieutenant Commander Heywood L. Edwards. A 1926 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Heywood had wrestled in the 1928 Summer Olympics, placing 4th in the light heavyweight division. The USS REUBEN JAMES
  8. 8. Prior to the outbreak of World War II, she was assigned to the Neutrality Patrol, escorting convoys sailing to Great Britain. They escorted as far as Iceland, whereupon, security was taken over by British ships. The USS REUBEN JAMES
  9. 9. 23 October 1941 she was one of five destroyers escorting convoy HX 156 from Newfoundland. As they approached Iceland and the handoff, they were required to spend an extra day in order to insure the task was completed. The USS REUBEN JAMES
  10. 10. On 31 October 1941, Hallows Eve, the USS Reuben James was torpedoed by U- 552, commanded by Erich Topp. The USS REUBEN JAMES
  11. 11. The torpedo hit the port bow, detonating the forward magazine, blasting the destroyer in two. Every officer was killed. The USS REUBEN JAMES
  12. 12. The ship went down quickly. Of 144 on board, there were 44 survivors. The USS REUBEN JAMES
  13. 13. Due to the fact that the United States was not at war, the sinking caused a large outcry. However, it was not until 7 December, over 5 weeks later, that the United States entered World War II. The USS REUBEN JAMES
  14. 14. Woody Guthrie wrote a song, The Sinking of the Reuben James. The USS REUBEN JAMES
  15. 15. “Have you heard of a ship called the good Reuben James Manned by hard fighting men both of honor and 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.” Woody Guthrie
  16. 16. But what if the Reuben James encounter with U-552 turns out to be something altogether different? The USS REUBEN JAMES
  17. 17. Travel back in time to 1941, aboard the first American warship to be sunk in World War II, even before the United States was officially at war. Roland’s Mission: Hallows Eve
  18. 18. 31 October. Hallows Eve 1517 1692 1828 1941 1984 Zero Year What do they all have in common? A day when history stood in the balance.
  19. 19. Print Book Free downloadable Powerpoint slideshows on survival, history writing, and interesting information are available HERE
  20. 20. New York City. 1970s. Former Green Beret Will Kane is the lone wolf who must take down the bad wolves preying on the innocent.
  21. 21. New York Times bestselling author, graduate of West Point and former Green Beret. He’s had over 75 books published, including the #1 bestselling series Green Berets, Shadow Warriors, Time Patrol, Area 51, and Atlantis. Born in the Bronx and having traveled the world he now lives peacefully with his wife and dogs. For free eBooks, audio, slideshows and more go to: www.bobmayer.com