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More on "Reuben James" at
http://www.geocities.com/Nashville/3448/reuben.html and
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.

George Somerville
Richmond, VA