Monthly Archives: October 2014

USS Reuben James

USS Reuben James (DD-245)

USS Reuben James (DD-245)

On this day in 1941, the USS Reuben James (DD-245) was sunk by the German submarine U-552 while escorting a convoy bound for the U.K. As the U.S. was not yet at war, this is an example of how history is messy. The U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard typically escorted convoys up to Iceland, which President Roosevelt had declared to be the extent of U.S. territorial waters (it’s 12 nautical miles today).

For its part, the U-552 was aiming for a merchant ship, which was certainly a lawful target in a war, and all the more so if carrying arms.

A few months later, on December 11, Germany’s declaration of war mentions the Reuben James incident as a provocation, as well as earlier battles with destroyers USS Greer (DD-145) and USS Kearny (DD-432). (The war with Japan was not mentioned.) This wasn’t America’s first engagement in the war. It’s simply the first where we lost a ship. 115 hands were lost. Only 44 survived.

Woody Guthrie wrote a song to show outrage over the sinking. Both he and Pete Seeger had been vehemently anti-war until earlier that June when Germany attacked the Soviet Union, forcing Stalin (and Guthrie and Seeger) to change sides. Prior to that, they were recording anti-war songs like “‘C’ For Conscription.” (It’s probably generally assumed that song was written to oppose the draft during the Vietnam War, but it was earlier sung to oppose entry into WWII.)

Reuben James was a sailor who fought in 1804 in the First Barbary War, serving under (and saving the life of) Lt. Stephen Decatur himself. Those were the days of swords and hand-to-hand combat. Two other ships had his name: USS Reuben James (DE-153), in service 1943 to 1947, and USS Reuben James (FFG-57), in service 1986 to 2013. I hope there will be more.

Antares rocket explosion

Stephen Clark has the story at Spaceflight Now — via Rand Simberg at Transterrestrial:

Interesting to know:

Drivers granted access to view an Atlas, Delta or Falcon rocket launch at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station are typically asked to park their cars facing a road, allowing spectators to quickly leave the scene if something goes wrong.

At Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana — where Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega rockets take off — reporters and VIPs are issued gas masks and trained how to use them before entering a restricted viewing site a few miles from the launch pad.

If you’re at Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center for a launch, expect to be handed a hard hat and arm band — for identification purposes after a catastrophe — in the final minutes of a countdown.

Most of us have already seen the video. It’s all worth reading.

About time

The U.S. Naval Observatory, that is.

The man who keeps America on time:

The U.S. Naval Observatory handles this because accurate time is critical to navigation. (On the other hand, dividing the world into time zones was done for the railroads.)

The U.S. Naval Observatory’s master clock is online here. They have a few goodies for websites, like this 1990s-era clock in an animated GIF file:  .  Way back when the web was shiny, new, and generally simple HTML, those things were a popular way to dress up websites. By now, you may have noticed that the GIF clock stops counting after it runs out of images.