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USS Reuben James file photo [26661]

Reuben James

CountryUnited States
Ship ClassClemson-class Destroyer
Hull NumberDD-245
BuilderBuilder New York Shipbuilding Corp., Camden, New Jersey, United States
Laid Down2 Apr 1919
Launched4 Oct 1919
Commissioned24 Sep 1920
Sunk31 Oct 1941
Displacement1,215 tons standard
Length314 feet
Beam32 feet
Draft9 feet
MachineryGeared steam turbines, two shafts
Power Output26,500 shaft horsepower
Speed35 knots
Range4,900nm at 15 knots
Armament4x 4-inch guns; 1x 3-inch anti-aircraft guns; 12x 21-inch torpedo tubes
Decommission20 Jan 1931
Recommission9 Mar 1932


ww2dbaseThe Clemson-class flush-deck, four-stack destroyer Reuben James was laid down 2 Apr 1919 at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation in Camden, New Jersey and commissioned 24 Sep 1920. The ship was named for an 1804 Naval hero from the First Barbary Wars.

ww2dbaseWorld War I had ended two years before the USS Reuben James was commissioned but several post-war operations were still continuing. Reuben James sailed in support of these operations from Nov 1920 through Jul 1922 with assignments in the Mediterranean, Baltic, and North Seas. In 1926, she patrolled the coast of Nicaragua before returning to the United States east coast. Reuben James was decommissioned on 20 Jan 1931 at Philadelphia Navy Yard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States.

ww2dbaseRecommissioned on 9 Mar 1932, Reuben James again operated in the Atlantic and the Caribbean, patrolling Cuban waters during a period of revolution. In 1934, she repositioned to the Pacific but returned to the Atlantic in early 1939. Upon the outbreak of war in Europe in Sep 1939, Reuben James was assigned to the Neutrality Patrol, guarding the Atlantic and Caribbean approaches to the American coast. In Oct 1939, Reuben James was assigned as plane guard for the carrier USS Ranger cruising the Caribbean. On 30 Nov 1939, while escorting the Ranger, Reuben James ran aground in the Old Bahama Channel off Cay Lobos, Cuba where she was hung up for 24 hours. By spring 1941, Reuben James was assigned to escorting the North Atlantic convoys bound for Britain. The Neutrality Patrols escorted the convoys as far as Iceland, where they were turned over to Royal Navy escorts.

ww2dbaseBased at Hvalfjörður, Iceland, she sailed from Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada on 23 Oct 1941 as part the escort for the eastbound convoy HX-156. Shortly before dawn on 31 Oct 1941, the escorts dropped depth charges on sound contacts before the German submarine U-552, partially aided by the light of the aurora borealis, fired two torpedoes at Reuben James. Both torpedoes struck Reuben James detonating her magazine, which caused her to sink quickly. Of the officers and men aboard, only 45 survived with 100 lost. Reuben James was the first United States Navy ship sunk by hostile action in World War II, a full five weeks before the Attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

ww2dbaseOn 1 Apr 1943, a Buckley-class destroyer escort was commissioned as the second USS Reuben James and also saw service escorting Atlantic convoys.

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

Last Major Revision: Nov 2016

Destroyer Reuben James (DD-245) Interactive Map


Profile plans for the Clemson-class flush-deck four-stack destroyersUSS Reuben James at anchor in Bar Harbor, Maine, United States, 4 Jul 1923
See all 9 photographs of Destroyer Reuben James (DD-245)

Reuben James Operational Timeline

2 Apr 1919 The keel of destroyer Reuben James was laid down by New York Shipbuilding Corp. in Camden, New Jersey, United States.
4 Oct 1919 Destroyer Reuben James was launched in Camden, New Jersey, United States.
24 Sep 1920 USS Reuben James was commissioned into service with Commander Gordon W. Hines in command.
31 Oct 1941 German submarine U-552 attacked Allied convoy HX-156 725 miles west of Iceland at 0834 hours, sinking American destroyer USS Reuben James (100 killed, 45 survived); USS Reuben James was the first American warship lost in the Atlantic Ocean in WW2.

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Event(s) Participated:
» United States Neutrality Patrol

Destroyer Reuben James (DD-245) Photo Gallery
Profile plans for the Clemson-class flush-deck four-stack destroyersUSS Reuben James at anchor in Bar Harbor, Maine, United States, 4 Jul 1923
See all 9 photographs of Destroyer Reuben James (DD-245)

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"With Germany arming at breakneck speed, England lost in a pacifist dream, France corrupt and torn by dissension, America remote and indifferent... do you not tremble for your children?"

Winston Churchill, 1935

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