Thursday, December 31, 2009

#044: The Crew Of The Good Reuben James



A Forgotten Vanguard: The Good Reuben James, October 31, 1940

What were their names, tell me
What were their names?
Did you have a friend on the good
Reuben James?
- Woodie Guthrie, November 1941.

As I have written, this blog has tried to avoid honoring military heroes for the simple reason that they receive many honors already--and this blog is about the unnoticed.

For this occasion I will breach the rule.

Seventy years ago today, as I write this, in the cold and dark waters of the North Atlantic, the first American warship was sunk in World War II.

She was the destroyer Reuben James, and she sank before there was war between the United States and Germany.

The Second World War was not going well for the Allies at this point. In North Africa, the Germans were within striking distance of the cities of the Nile; British preparations for a counteroffensive had not yet borne fruit. In Russia, the forces of the Barbarossa invasion were at their maximum extent; they were tantalizingly close to Moscow and the Kremlin could even be seen by scouts through binoculars. And Britain was slowly starving to death as her ships sank almost as fast as they could be built.

Reuben James was part of the North Atlantic protection ordered by President Roosevelt, nominally to guard our shipping with Britain–but intended, in fact, to provoke the Nazis to making a blunder, much as they did in World War I when the passenger liner Lusitania was sunk by the German Imperial Navy.

A small destroyer, with a crew of 159, the James was an older craft, keel first laid at the end of the First World War and then mothballed for almost ten years. She was reactivated and eventually stood guard over Convoy HX-156, a group of several score ships loaded with goods to help the British in their stand against the Nazis.

A German U-boat, U-552, spotted the James as it guarded an ammunition ship, and launched torpedoes. Reuben James took a single hit to the bow; an ammo magazine exploded and the ship was shattered into two pieces. Of her crew, 115 died; 44 survived.

It is generally forgotten today that prior to Pearl Harbor the people of the United States wanted very little to do with another war in Europe, as the First World War was seen as many to have served the purposes of the power elite far more than the people. Many among the interventionists who wanted immediate American involvement in the war tried to use the sinking of the James as a causus belli. Woodie Guthrie (little remembered today, but whose son Arlo eventually would write about littering on Thanksgiving) wrote a famous ballad about the sinking. Unfortunately, from an American P.R. point of view, it did not work.

The 115 who were lost were the first American casualties of the war. Woodie Guthrie or no, however, their deaths did not have the effect of mobilizing American involvement. A movement might have coalesced around the sinking, but history had other ideas. The incident that would mark the world forever would not come for another five weeks, when the Japanese struck at Pearl Harbor. And in the smoke of Pearl Harbor, the sinking of the James was eventually forgotten in the United States.

But their deaths were not in vain.

In the two days following the Pearl Harbor attack, America was still divided. We were keen to avenge the horrors of Pearl Harbor, but we still were reluctant to get involved in Europe: that was still seen as a European problem, not our own. In Washington, those who had strained at the leash to lead us into war against the Nazis were at their wits end to get us to liberate Europe.

But then, three days after Pearl Harbor, Hitler solved all of our strategic dilemmas by mindlessly declaring war on us--citing American operations in the Atlantic as being the cause. In a long, ranting speech to the German Reichstag meeting in the Kroll Opera House on December 10, Hitler shrieked that American aggression in the Atlantic had become "intolerable." Invoking the Axis Treaty, he then declared war--and in so doing guaranteed his own doom.

In short, the Reuben James (and other US Navy ships involved in the Battle of the Atlantic) jabbed Hitler into a fury--and into making a decision that killed him. And his regime.

So today, take a moment and remember these forgotten men, who lost their lives for our freedom seventy years ago today.

What were their names, tell me
What were their names?
Did you have a friend on the good
Reuben James?






LIST OF PERSONNEL LOST WHEN THE USS REUBEN JAMES WAS TORPEDOED AND SUNK ON OCTOBER 31, 1941.

Source: http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/ships/logs/DD/dd245-cas.html

Lieutenant Commander Heywood Lane Edwards, U.S. Navy (Commanding)
Lieutenant Benjamin Ghetzler, U.S. Navy.
Lieutenant Dewey George Johnston, U.S. Navy
Lieutenant (J.G.) John Justus Daub, U.S. Navy.
Lieutenant James Mead Belden, D-V (G), U.S. Naval Reserve.
Ensign Craig Spowers, U.S. Navy.
Ensign Howard Voyer Wade, D-V (G), U.S. Naval Reserve.

BAUER, John Francis, Jr., Chief Radioman (AA) Class V-3, U.S. Naval Reserve.
BEASLEY, Harold Hamner, Seaman first class, U.S. Navy.
BENSON, James Franklin, Machinist's Mate second class, U.S. Navy.
BIEHL, Joseph Peter, Seaman second class, U.S. Navy.
BOYNTON, Paul Rogers, Yeomman first class, U.S. Navy.
BRITT, Harold Lelie, Coxswain, U.S. Navy.
BURRELL, Herbert Ralph, Seaman second class, U.S. Navy.
BYRD, Hartwell Lee, Seaman first class, U.S. Navy.
CARBAUGH, Leftwich Erastus, Jr., Fireman first class, U.S. Navy.
VARUSO, Joseph James, Radioman second class, U.S. Navy.
CLARK, James Brantley, Fire Controlman second class, U.S. Navy.
COOK, Raymond, Mess Attendant first class, U.S. Navy.
COOPERRIDER, Carl Eugene, Gunner's Mate third class, U.S. Navy.
COSGROVE, Lawrence Randall, Gunner's Mate second class, U.S. Navy.
COUSINS, Alton Adelbert, Cheif Machinist's Mate (PA), U.S.N.R., Class F-4-C
COX, Charles Beacon, Chief Torpedoman (AA), U.S. Navy.
DANIEL, Dennis Howard, Yeoman third class, U.S. Navy.
DEVEREAU, Lawrence Delaney, Chief Boatswain's Mate (PA), U.S.N.R., Class F-4-D
DICKERSON, Leonidas Camden, Jr., Storekeeper third class, U.S. Navy.
DOIRON, GIlbert Joseph, Water Tender first class, U.S. Navy.
DRINKWATER, Karl Lee, Seaman first class, U.S. Navy.
DUNSTON, Nebraska, Mess Attennndant third class, U.S. Navy.
DYSON, Corbon, Radioman third class, U.S. Navy.
EVANS, Gene Guy, Boilermaker second class, U.S. Navy.
EVANS, Linn Stewart, Fire Controlman third class, U.S. Navy.
EVERETT, Carlyle Chester, Fireman second class, U.S. Navy.
FARLEY, Edwin Louis, Seaman first class, U.S. Navy.
FITZGERALD, John Joseph, Quartermaster third class, U.S. Navy.
FLYNN, William Aloysius, Torpedoman second class, U.S. Navy.
FRANKS, Hartley Hardy, Ship's Cook second class, U.S. Navy.
FRENCH, Ralph George, Chief Commissary Steward, U.S. Navy.
GASKINS, Lester Carson, Machinist's Mate first class, U.S. Navy.
GREER, John Calvin, Chief Electrician's Mate (PA), U.S. Navy.
GREY, Ernest Dwane, Jr., Seaman second class, U.S. Navy.
GRIFFIN, Arthur Raymond, Signalman second class, U.S. Navy.
HARRIS, Charles Waldon, Seaman second class, U.S. Navy.
HAYES, Charles Chester, Seaman second class, U.S. Navy.
HENNIGER, William Henry, Gunner's Mate first class, U.S. Navy.
HOGAN, Francis Robert, Gunners' Mate third class, U.S. Navy.
HOUSE, Hugh, Gunner's Mate third class, U.S. Navy.
HUDLIN, Maurice Woodrow, Fireman first class, U.S. Navy.
JOHNSON, Joseph, Mess Attendant first class, U.S. Navy.
JONES, Glen W., Chief Quartermaster (PA), U.S. Navy.
KALANTA, ANthony J., Boatswain's Mate second class, U.S. Navy.
KAPP, Donald, Seaman second class, U.S. Navy.
[sic: should be "GUNN, Donald Knapp, Seaman second class, U.S. Navy" -HyperWar]
KEEVER, Leonard A., Chief Machinist's Mate (PA), U.S. Naval Reserve, F-4-C
KLOEPPER, Ralph W.H., Signalman third class, Class V-3, U.S. Naval Reserve.
LITTLE, Joseph Gustave, Seaman first class, U.S. Navy.
MAGARIS, Paul L., Radioman first class, U.S. Navy.
MC KEEVER, William James, Sean second class, U.S. Navy.
MERRELL, Windell Harmon, Fireman second class, U.S. Navy.
MERRITT, Auburn F., Seaman second class, U.S. Navy.
MILLS, Gerald Edward, Seaman second class, Class V-1, U.S. Naval Reserve.
MONDOUK, Albert J., Chief Water Tender (PA), U.S. Naval Reserve, Class F-4-C.
MUSSLEWHITE, Edgar W., Machinist's Mate first class, U.S. Navy.
NEELY, Kenneth Cecil, Seaman second class, U.S. Navy.
NEPTUNE, Aldon W., Seaman first class, U.S. Navy.
NEWTON, William Harding, Yeoman third class, U.S. Navy.
ORANGE, Harold J., Seaman second class, U.S. Navy.
ORTIZUELA, Pedro, Officer's Cook first class, U.S. Navy.
OWEN, Benjamin T., Seaman first class, U.S. Navy.
PAINTER, William H., Seaman first class, U.S. Navy.
PARKIN, Joseph J., Chief Water Tender (PA), U.S. Navy.
PATERSON, William N., Coxswain, U.S. Navy.
PENNINGTON, BUrl G., Quartermaster second class, U.S. Navy.
POLIZZI, Joseph C., Seaman first class, U.S. Navy.
PORTER, Corwin D., Seaman first class, U.S. Navy.
POST, Frederick R., Boatswain's Mate first class, U.S. Navy.
POWELL, Lee P., Pharmacist's Mate first class, U.S. Navy.
RAYHILL, Elmer R., Seaman second class, U.S. Navy.
REID, Lee Louis N., Torpedoman first class, Class V-6, U.S. Naval Reserve.
RESS, John R., Seaman first class, U.S. Navy.
ROGERS, James W., Seaman first class, U.S. Navy.
RYAN, John J., Jr., Coxswain, U.S. Navy.
RYGWELSKI, Clarence, Seaman second class, U.S. Navy.
SALTIS, Edward Peter, Boatswain's Mate first class, U.S. Navy.
SCHLOTTHAUER, Eugene, Chief Water Tender (AA), U.S. Navy.
SETTLE, Sunny J., Seaman first class, U.S. Navy.
SORENSEN, Walter, Gunner's Mate third class, U.S. Navy.
SOWERS, Wallace L., Seaman second class, U.S. Navy.
STANKUS, Anthony Gedminus, Seaman second class, U.S. Navy.
STELMACH, Jerome, Seaman first class, U.S. Navy.
TAYLOR, Wilton L., Fireman first class, U.S. Navy.
TOWERS, George F., Chief Gunner's Mate (AA), U.S. Navy.
TURNER, Lewis Aubrey, Signalman third class, U.S. Navy.
VOILES, Loyd Z., Seaman first class, U.S. Navy.
VORE, Harold M., Fireman first class, U.S. Navy.
WEAVER, Jesse, Seaman first class, U.S. Navy.
WELCH, Chester L., Fireman second class, U.S. Navy.
WHARTON, Kenneth R., Fire Controlman first class, U.S. Naval Reserve, Class F-4-C.
WOODY, George, Jr., Seaman first class, U.S. Navy.
WRAY, Edwin E., Seaman first class, U.S. Navy.

Survivors:
APPLETON, Chrlie Edward, Jr. Fireman 2c, US Navy.
APPLETON, Parmie Glendon, Fireman 2c, US Navy.
BEASLEY, George Napoleon, Jr., Machinist's Mate 2c, US Navy.
BEGLEY, Claborn, Machinist's Mate 2c, US Navy.
BERGSTRESSER, William Henry, Chief Machinist's Mate (AA), US Navy.
BOYD, Solon Gescovy, Machinist's Mate 1c, US Navy.
BRIDGES, Brent Neil, Radioman 3rd class, US Navy.
BUSH, Roy Virgil, Fireman 2c, US Navy.
CARR, Robert James, Fireman 2c, US Navy.
COYLE, Floyd Bob, Fireman 1c, US Navy.
DEL GROSSO, Daniel Joseph, Seaman 1c, US Navy.
DELISLE, Gerald Joseph, Coxswain, US Navy.
ELNITSKY, Joseph Fedenich, Fireman 1c, US Navy.
GIEHR, George Frederick, Fireman 2c, US Navy.
GORZIZA, Arthur Emil, Machinist's Mate 1c, US Navy.
GRAHAM, Guy Shipp, Machinist's Mate 2c, US Navy.
HAJOWY, Joseph, Machinist's Mate 2c, US Navy.
HINGULA, Norman Francis, Fireman 1c, US Navy.
HOWARD, Robert Joseph, Torpedoman 3c, US Navy.
JACQUETTE, Charles Samuel, Jr., Fireman 1c, US Navy.
JAEGGI, Earl William, Shipfitter 2c, US Navy.
JAMES, Vance Turner, Metalsmith 1c, US Navy.
KAPECZ, Rudolph T., Gunner's Mate 1c, US Navy.
LONG, Gordon H., Watertender 1c, US Navy.
MOLNAR, Joseph, Fireman 1c, US Navy.
NAGLE, Earl G., Seaman 2c, US Navy.
NIECE, Delos, Seaman 2c, US Navy.
OAKS, Kenneth Courtland, Radioman 3c, US Navy.
OLEXA, Steve, Seaman 2c, US Navy.
PHALEN, Charles W., Fireman 2c, US Navy.
RICHARDSON, Lester E. Fireman 1c, US Navy.
ROBINSON, Clarence F., Seaman 1c, US Navy.
SILLS, Lawrence, Jr., Seaman 1c, US Navy.
SIMS, Lloyd E., Watertender 1c, US Navy.
STENCEL, Julius, Machinist's Mate 2c, F4D, US Navy.
STEWART, Aaron H., Gunner's Mate 3c, US Navy.
STEWART, Robert S., Seaman 2c, US Navy.
TATE, Cleophas, Electrician's Mate 3c, US Navy.
THOMPSON, James C., Seaman 2c, US Navy.
TURNBULL, Thomas P., Electrician's Mate 2c, US Navy.
TYGER, Leland E., Fireman 3c, US Navy.
WESTBURY, William C., Machinist's Mate 1c, US Navy.
ZAPASNIK, Fred F., Shipfitter 1c, US Navy.

For more:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Reuben_James_(DD-245)
http://www.woodyguthrie.org/Lyrics/Sinking_Of_The_Reuben_James.htm
http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/2008/10/31/uss-reuben-james-sunk-october-31-1941/

9 comments:

  1. Thank you for honoring all those lost at sea on October 31, 1941 with the sinking of the USS Reuben James DD 245.
    My grandfather was an immigrant from Greece (under last name of Margaris); MAGARIS, Paul L., Radioman first class, U.S. Navy; who lost his life that morning serving our country aboard the "Rube".
    Though I never met him as my mother was only ten years old when they lost their "Daddy", he is not forgotten. He is my HERO!
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart,
    Roberta Brady
    San Dimas, CA

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  2. My great great uncle was Chief Gunner's Mate George F. (Frank) Towers. As a history junky whose education has focused on military history, I used to love to talk my grandfather about his uncle Frank. My grandfather was 13 when Uncle Frank died, and he admired him very much. Now that my grandfather has also passed on, I find myself wanting to meet some of the men who served with my great great uncle Frank. Do you have any information regarding current survivors or any survivor reunions? Thanks for honoring the brave men who lost their lives over a month before World War 2 started. These men deserve to be honored fully for their sacrifice.

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  3. To Anonymous 12/16/13: There was a survivors group with which my mother attended a number of their reunions. Sadly, she has passed and I don't know of any survivors still around.
    Roberta Brady
    San Dimas, CA

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  4. I am trying to research SM Roselle Hewitt who was aboard the Rueben James when she sank. He is not on the only list posted on the web. I understand the Navy revised the list five times. I am hitting allot of walls. I have his photo. Any help?

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  5. Thank you for remembering these men! The one I am familiar with is young Ens. Craig Spowers, who had graduated from the US Naval Academy, only months before, with the class of 1941. He was known for his ardent love of sailing, which he had plenty of opportunity to do, on the Severn.
    He was, of course, the first of his class to be lost, just over a month before his classmate, Ens. L. Bailey Pride, who was on the USS Oklahoma. His name appears on a memorial at the Naval Academy, in Annapolis, under the heading "Here We Remember Our Shipmates Whose Resting Places Are Known Only to God".

    For more about Craig, including a very handsome photo, look here: https://archive.org/stream/luckyba1941unse#page/n296/mode/1up/search/spowers

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  6. Richard L. Kent, Esq.,
    Thank you for your remembering the sinking of the Reuben James in your Richard L. Kent, Esq., The Tattered Remnant: The Unknown Heroes Who Make Our World, Thursday, December 31, 2009, #044: The Crew Of The Good Reuben James, http://tatteredremnants.blogspot.com/2009/12/045-lost-vanguard-uss-reuben-james.html. I lost an uncle (Lt. Benjamin Ghetzler, its executive officer) when it was torpedoed. The Homepage of my primary website (http://lawofficeofronalddavidgreenberg.com/) a dedication to the ship. Ron

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  7. Correction to ending sentence: "The Home page of my primary website (http://lawofficeofronalddavidgreenberg.com/) contains a dedication to the ship, its men, and also all those lost before and after the sinking in protecting our nation. Ron"

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  8. Just celebrated the 97th birthday of survivor Earl Jaeggi. He is truly a fine representative of America's greatest generation.

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  9. Just celebrated the 97th birthday of survivor Earl Jaeggi. He is truly a fine representative of America's greatest generation.

    ReplyDelete