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USS Reuben James, 1919 - Ship Christening

Miss Helen Strauss, sponsor, USS Reuben James, October 4, 1919. New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey.


Reuben James was named after a sailor who served in the U. S. Navy for more than 30 years. He distinguished himself in the fighting with Barbary Pirates aboard the USS Philadelphia by defending Lt. Stephen Decatur from an enemy attacker. Although wounded himself, James was heroically willing to risk his life for his commanding officer.


The ship escorted Independence Seaport Museum’s own Olympia at the ceremonies in France marking the return the Unknown Soldier to the United States in 1921.


When the ship was sunk by a German U‑boat on October 31, 1941, it became the first U. S. Navy ship lost to hostile action in World War II. The story of the sinking inspired Woody Guthrie to write a song about it.


For more background and additional photos, visit the Ladies Who Launch - Ship Christening Photographs exhibit at Philadelphia's Independence Seaport Museum.

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Taken in October 1919