More on "Reuben James" at
[log in to unmask]" target="_blank">http:[log in to unmask]. See also
http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/ships/DD/DD-245_ReubenJames.html, or for
a lengthy history go to http://www.reuben-james.com/.
The Reuben James was sunk by a U-Boat while helping to escort a convoy of
lend-lease materials across the Atlantic, during "Roosevelt's undeclared
war." I think I have read elsewhere that the sinking was quite a cause
celebre (the last web site named above says "Americans were so angered by
the attack, that Congress passed a bill allowing armed American merchant
ships to sail into combat zones"; but the second one says that most of the
country ignored it). It was an act of war, and it occurred several weeks
before Pearl Harbor.
Woody Guthrie was a passionate anti-Nazi - his guitar bore the inscription
"This machine fights Fascists" - and this event must have both stirred his
sympathies and provided an opportunity for propagandizing. An interesting
tidbit from the a couple of the listed web sites - particularly in the
context of recent discussion on this list - Woody started out to write a
song that named all of the 86 men who died on the Reuben James, but it
evolved into something else.