Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Today in Naval History
October 31
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1941 - German submarine U-562 sinks USS Reuben James (DD 245) as she escorted Convoy HX 156. Reuben James is the first U.S. ship lost to enemy action in World War II.
On This Day

1803

The frigate Philadelphia runs aground near Tripoli while pursuing an enemy vessel in shallow water. As a result, the Tripolitans send a large gunboat force and attack Philadelphia. Stuck fast and listing, she is defenseless and Capt. William Bainbridge surrenders. Under Commodore Edward Prebles orders, Lt. Stephen Decatur leads a mission to burn Philadelphia early the following year.

1941

German submarine U-562 sinks USS Reuben James (DD 245) as she escorted Convoy HX 156, killing 115 of her crew. Reuben James is the first U.S. ship lost to enemy action in World War II.

1956

The U.S. Navy lands seven men in an R4D Skytrain on the ice at the South Pole. They are the first men to stand on the South Pole since Capt. Robert F. Scott in 1912.

1966

While serving as boat captain and patrol officer on board River Patrol Boat (PBR) 105 in Vietnam, Boatswains Mate 1st Class James E. Williams and his crew are taken under fire, facing a superior number of enemy vessels. Williams leads his men to sink 65 enemy craft and inflict numerous casualties among the enemy. He is awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. USS James E. Williams (DDG 95) is named in his honor.

1972

While participating in a daring operation against enemy forces in the Republic of Vietnam, Engineman 1st Class Michael E. Thornton and Lt. Thomas R. Norris come under fire from a numerically superior force. Calling in for support and engaging the enemy, Norris is wounded by enemy fire. Learning that his lieutenant is down, Thornton bravely rushes through a hail of fire, fights off two enemy soldiers, and succeeds in removing Norris. Inflating Norris lifejacket, Thornton then tows him seaward for approximately two hours until they are picked up by support craft. Thornton is later awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.