Days of Yore - The stories of the three USS REUBEN JAMES
REUBEN JAMES (DD 245) was laid down on April 2, 1919, launched on October 4, 1919 and commissioned on September 24, 1920 with Commander Gordon W. Hines in command. DD245 was a post-World War I four stack destroyer with a crew of 101. She was capable of 35 knots and brandished a main armament of four 4-inch guns, a single 3-inch gun and twelve 21-inch torpedo tubes.
In October 1921 REUBEN JAMES escorted USS Olympic (C-6) across the Atlantic bringing the American Unknown Soldier for reburial at Arlington National Cemetery. This WWI soldier was the first Unknown to be buried at Arlington.
Assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, REUBEN JAMES saw duty in the Mediterranean from 1921 to 1922. Based then at New York, she patrolled the Nicaraguan coast to prevent the delivery of weapons to revolutionaries in early 1926. DD245 was decommissioned at Philadelphia on January 20, 1931.
Recommissioned on March 9, 1932, she again operated in the Atlantic and the Caribbean, patrolling Cuban waters during the Cuban revolution. She transferred to San Diego, California in 1934 and 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 approaches to the American coast. She was assigned to Destroyer Squadron THIRTY-ONE in 1941.
In March 1941, REUBEN JAMES, commanded by LCDR H.L. Edwards, joined the convoy escort force established to promote the safe arrival of war materials to Britain. This escort force guarded convoys as far as Iceland, where they became the responsibility of British escorts. Based at Hvalfjordur, Iceland, she sailed from Argentia, Newfoundland October 23, 1941, with four other destroyers to escort the eastbound convoy HX-56.
While escorting the convoy, at about 5:25am, October 31, 1941, REUBEN JAMES was torpedoed by German Submarine U-552. She had positioned herself between an ammunition ship in the convoy and the known position of a German U-Boat Wolfpack. Her magazine exploded and she sank quickly. Of the crew, 44 survived and 115 died. All officers including the Commanding Officer were lost. REUBEN JAMES was the first U.S. Navy ship lost during World War II.
REUBEN JAMES (DE 153) was laid down on September 7, 1942, launched on February 6, 1943 and commissioned on April 1, 1943 with LCDR Frank D. Giambattista in command. DE153 was a Buckley Class destroyer escort with a crew of 213, capable of 23.5 knots. She had a main armament of two 5-inch guns, three 3-inch guns and three 21-inch torpedo tubes.
First based at Miami, Florida, REUBEN JAMES conducted anti-submarine patrols and provided training in convoy escort and anti-submarine warfare. In March 1944, she shifted her base from Miami to Norfolk, Virginia. In June 1944, she escorted a convoy from New York to Norfolk.
Between July 13 and November 7, 1944, she escorted two convoys to the Mediterranean, returning with westbound convoys. During her first eastbound voyage, nine German bombers attacked her convoy off Algeria on August 1, 1944. REUBEN JAMES shot down one enemy bomber.
Returning to Boston, she joined an anti-submarine group operating in the North Atlantic. Operating south of Newfoundland, she was present when USS BUCKLEY (DE 51) sank German Submarine U-879 on April 19, 1945.
Arriving at Houston, Texas on July 4, 1945, she completed conversion to a radar picket ship on November 25, 1945. Subsequently, she operated in the Atlantic and the Caribbean out of Norfolk, Virginia, then was decommissioned on October 11, 1947. She remained in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet until she was struck from the Navy List on June 30, 1968. Her hulk was used as a target and sunk on March 1, 1971.
REUBEN JAMES (FFG 57) was laid down on November 19, 1983 and she was commissioned into the Fleet under the command of CDR John J. Kieley, III on March 22, 1986. Initially assigned to Surface Squadron ONE during post-commissioning trials and shakedown, REUBEN JAMES joined the Red Stallions of Destroyer Squadron THIRTY-ONE in June 1987.
Assigned to Mideast Force on her maiden deployment, REUBEN JAMES participated in twenty-two Operation ERNEST WILL convoy missions, serving as the convoy commander's flagship on ten of those missions. As a unit of the Pacific Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Readiness Squadron, she was a key participant in the continuing research and development of anti-submarine tactics and equipment, a fitting role in tribute to the men of the first REUBEN JAMES.
In August 1991, REUBEN JAMES moved from Long Beach, California to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On October 1, 1998, she joined the "Ke Koa O Ke Kai", Destroyer Squadron THIRTY- ONE.
For nine months from July 2002 to April 2003, REUBEN JAMES deployed to the Arabian Gulf and participated in Operations ENDURING and IRAQI FREEDOM. From February-April 2004, she deployed to the Eastern Pacific in support of counter-drug operations.
Between July-December 2004, REUBEN JAMES went through an extensive modernization and maintenance program, ensuring that she will always be ready to respond when the mission bell tolls.
USS REUBEN JAMES appeared in the movie "The Hunt For Red October" and was the first ship to find Soviet Submarine Captain Marko Raimius and his crew of defectors. Of course, the Soviet Sailors who stood on her foc'sle were not really Soviets - they were actually REUBEN JAMES crew members. Actor Peter Jason played the role of REUBEN JAMES' Commanding Officer. REUBEN JAMES also had a prominent role in the book Red Storm Rising.