Guard Mail and the last time aboard USS Reuben James
by Harold Manwaring TM2/c, USS Benson DD421, October 22, 1941


USS Reuben James

Guard mail is official, confidential mail addressed to the commanding officers of ships within a division or squadron. Mail cannot be transmitted by radio transmission.

The U.S.S. Benson was anchored off the Point, Argentia, Newfoundland, October,22, 1941, in company with other destroyer units that would make up the destroyer escorts of the merchant convoy of 57 vessels just getting underway, destination Iceland and Britain. Convoy H.X. 156.

On that date the Benson had been assigned the guard duty of the escort group which included special communication duties, radio and guard mail.

Being in the duty section, I was ordered to act as guard mail petty officer to deliver mail to specific ships in the group. The motor whale boat was manned and brought to the starboard gangway. I buckled on a webbed duty belt, received the guard mail pouch from Denny, ships Yeoman 1/c, and clambered down into the whale boat. The O.D. had instructed me to make all possible speed as the escort group was scheduled to get underway.

We shoved off and made good time to two of the three ships receiving mail. The last of the three was the U.S.S. Reuben James DD-245. We came alongside. Their gangway had been rigged in preparation for getting underway so I had to clamber up a sea ladder to the quarterdeck where the ship's yeoman signed for and received the mail. I then clambered down into the whale boat and we shoved off. The coxswain instructed the motor mech to make maximum revs and we sped back to Benson, mission completed.

The Benson was already underway, making about two or three knots. We approached the ship, came about, and came under the starboard, trained out boat davits. The coxswain and bowman hooked on the davit falls and we were hoisted aboard. The O.D. was unhappy that we hadn't made a faster trip, but that wasn't our fault. We had made all possible speed.

It seems like a small thing, but i realized later that I was the last person, not of the Reuben James complement to go aboard, then leave this ill-fated ship before her destruction nine days hence. The loss of Reuben James sealed into my memory this guard mail trip.





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