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Reuben James, song lyrics

Song: Reuben James
Lyrics: Woody Guthrie, Millard Lampell & Pete Seeger(1)

Music: to the tune of the "Wildwood Flower"
Year: 1941
Genre: Folk ballad
Country: USA

Have you heard of a ship called the good Reuben James(2),
Manned by hard fighting men both of honor and fame?
She flew the Stars and Stripes of the land of the free,
But tonight she's in her grave at the bottom of the sea.

Tell me what were their names,
tell me what were their names,
Did you have a friend on the good Reuben James?

One hundred men were drowned in that dark watery grave,
When that good ship went down only forty-four were saved.
'Twas the last day of October we saved the forty-four,
From the cold icy waters off that cold Iceland shore.
This song was originally posted on

It was there in the dark of that uncertain night,
That we watched for the U-boats and waited for a fight.
Then a whine and a rock and a great explosion roared,
And they laid the Reuben James on that cold ocean floor.


Now tonight there are lights in our country so bright,
In the farms and in the cities they are telling of the fight.
And now our mighty battleships will steam the bounding main,
And remember the name of that good Reuben James.
This song was originally posted on


1 - Woody Guthrie, Millard Lampell & Pete Seeger were all members of the Almanac Singers.

2 - The sinking of the U.S.S. Reuben James October 31, 1941, leading to the loss of 115 of the 160 crewmen; Torpedeod by a German U-boat off the coast of Iceland more than a month before Germany officially declared war on the USA and the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. The link is to the United States Archives.