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At the beginning of World War II, when the Nazi Germany invasion of Polandmarker on 1 September 1939 started the hostilities in Europe, President Franklin D. Roosevelt immediately declared the United Statesmarker’ neutrality.

The Neutrality Patrol, organized in September 1939 as a response to the war in Europe, was ordered to track and report the movements of any warlike operations of belligerents in the waters of the Western Hemisphere. To augment the fleet units already engaged in the Neutrality Patrol which President Roosevelt had placed around the eastern seaboard and Gulf ports, the Navy recommissioned 77 destroyers and light minelayers which had lain in reserve at either Philadelphiamarker or San Diegomarker.

The Neutrality Patrol led to U.S. warships assisting British Royal Navy vessels in convoying merchant shipping across the Atlantic Oceanmarker. This placed U.S. naval personnel at considerable risk, as shown by the sinking of the destroyer USS Reuben Jamesmarker by the German submarine U-552 on October 31, 1941.

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