Personal Diary of Harold Manwaring, TM2/c, written aboard USS Benson DD421
Neutrality Patrol Convoy--- HX-156.


USS Reuben James

October 31, 1941--Underway at Sea, Friday

Rough Sea.
Felt an explosion and loud concussion, ship went to general quarters (Time:0450).
I ran up to battle station on bridge. Asked a signalman "the dope". He said a ship on the port quarter of the convoy had been torpedoed. The U.S.S. Reuben James has that station.
Bridge tried to "raise" Reuben James on TBS withut success. The Niblack and H.P. Jones dropped out of convoy escort formation to pick up survivors.
It was the Reuben James that was torpedoed and sunk! Rescue work made difficult due to oil on surface, rough seas, and semi-darkness.
Almost dawn. More reports on TBS from Niblack and H.P. Jones. Everyone tense. Quite a few lives lost. At general quarters about two hours. Secured from general quarters.
Seven minutes after Reuben James went down we sent a radio transmission to Washington , D.C., URGENT PRIORITY! Anything can happen now.
Chow 0800. Have 0800-1000 wheel watch. More reports on TBS. Niblack picked up 36 survivors, Jones about 8, including a body. Division doctor needed on Niblack as soon as possible, some men pretty bad off. This will raise quite a stink in States.



Condensed version of report sent to Washington by Commodore, COMDESDIV 13, USS Benson DD421 Flag.

Reuben James (DD-245) 10/31/41

Torpedoing and sinking by German submarine

She (Reuben James) was hit by a torpedo between the bridge and #1 stack on the port side, breaking the ship into two pieces. The explosion from the torpedo is believed to have exploded the forward magazine. The helmsman and boatswain's mate of the watch were the only ones saved from the forward part of the ship. The forward part sank almost immediately , the after section followed in about five minutes.
It is believed some of the depth charges exploded when the after part submerged. This is blamed for the killing of some of the crew. Rescue was hampered by the great amount of fuel oil in the water, the lack of light because of the danger to the convoy, the lack of boats to use for rescueing and danger of submarines in the vicinity.
Torpedoed and sank in 2095 ft of water 0530-1time, 31 October, 1941. Convoy HX 156- 42 ships in Lat. 51 degrees-59' North, Long. 27 degrees-05' West.



November 1, 1941--At Sea with convoy, Saturday



Chow. Sea calming down
More data coming in on Reuben James. Crew of 141 aboard including officers. No commissioned officer among survivors.
Everyone tense. Plenty of voluntary lookouts. Bridge and deckhouses crowded with them. Everyone rather touchy about sleeping below decks. Chow eaten hurriedly in mess compartment, then everyone up on deck in a hurry again. Life jackets were issued to everyone with orders to sleep with them on or have them close at hand at all times. This was unnecessary because everyone did so anyhow.
Sea calm now. USS Kearny must be up in Iceland. Want to get a look at her. (If we get in OK) Any ship may be next. Wish we had a few of those Washington politicians out here for a few trips.
Moon out bright. Good weather for subs to operate in. These Germans aren't fooling around.
Had 1800-2400 watch. Just before getting relieved Niblack thought she spotted a sub on the surface and fired seven or eight star shells. We went to general quarters. False alarm. Secured in 15 min. Relieved by Fisher. Turned in.
Latest tabulation:: 94 men went down with the Reuben James. No officers saved, only one CPO., two gunner's mates, one radiomen, no topedomen. Most saved were engineers. She went down in 2095 feet of water, position Lat. 51 degrees-59' North, Long. 27 degrees-05' West.



November 2, 1941--At Sea with convoy, Sunday



Sea calm. Bright sunshiny day, fairly warm.
I now sleep with my life jacket on, eat with it on, etc.
Five or six British destroyers and corvettes relieved us of convoy duty and we headed north for Iceland with one of our own supply ships and the Russian ship bound Archangel, Russia.
Someone aboard the Russian ship has turned out to be a traitor. She would drop back of the convoy everynight and send out sound signals thus allowing submarines to take a bearing on the convoy and chart our position.
It was by the grace of GOD or something that we didn't take the "fish" the Reuben James took. We usually draw that position on a convoy. The fact that we had COMDESDIV 13 flag aboard the Benson put us in a different position.

HQM

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