USS Ward

USS Ward (DD-139) was a 1,247-long-ton (1,267 t) Wickes-class destroyer in the United States Navy during World War I, later APD-16 (see High speed transport) in World War II. She caused the first American-caused casualties in World War II, when she engaged a Japanese submarine before the attack on Pearl Harbor, and successfully sank her, killing the two crew on board.

USS Ward (DD-139).jpg
United States
Name: Ward
Namesake: James H. Ward
Builder: Mare Island Navy Yard
Laid down: 15 May 1918
Launched: 1 June 1918
Commissioned: 24 July 1918
Decommissioned: 21 July 1921
Recommissioned: 15 January 1941
Reclassified: High-speed transport, APD-16, 6 February 1943
Fate: Sunk by kamikaze[1] 7 December 1944
General characteristics
Class and type: Wickes-class destroyer
Displacement: 1,247 long tons (1,267 t)
Length: 314 ft 4 in (95.8 m)
Beam: 30 ft 11 in (9.4 m)
Draft: 9 ft 10 in (3.0 m)
Speed: 35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph)
Complement: 231 officers and enlisted

Design and constructionEdit

Ward was named in honor of Commander James Harmon Ward, USN, (1806–1861), the first U.S. Navy officer to be killed in action during the American Civil War.[2] Ward was built at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California in a record of 17½ days.[3] Under the pressure of urgent World War I needs for destroyers, her construction was pushed rapidly from keel laying on 15 May 1918 to launching on 1 June and commissioning on 24 July 1918.

Service historyEdit

Ward transferred to the Atlantic late in the year and helped support the trans-Atlantic flight of the NC flying boats in May 1919. She came back to the Pacific a few months later, and remained there until she was decommissioned in July 1921. She had received the hull number DD-139 in July 1920. The outbreak of World War II in Europe brought Ward back into active service. She was recommissioned in January 1941. Sent to Pearl Harbor shortly thereafter, the destroyer operated on local patrol duties in Hawaiian waters over the next year.

Pearl HarborEdit

On the morning of 7 December 1941, under the command of LCDR William W. Outerbridge, Ward was conducting a precautionary patrol off the entrance to Pearl Harbor when she was informed at 03:57 by visual signals from the coastal minesweeper Condor of a periscope sighting, whereupon Ward began searching for the contact.[4] At about 06:37, she sighted a periscope apparently tailing the cargo ship Antares whereupon she attacked the target.[4] The target sunk was a Japanese Ko-hyoteki-class, two-man midget submarine, thus Ward caused the first American-caused casualties of World War II a few hours before Japanese carrier aircraft bombed in or near targets in Honolulu. The submarine was attempting to enter the harbor by following Antares through the antisubmarine nets at the harbor entrance. By entering territorial waters of a neutral country without signalling any intent to stop, the submarine was not entitled to "innocent passage" protections and the neutral party had a right to use whatever means to protect its territory. Ward fired several rounds from its main guns, hitting the conning tower of the submarine, and also dropped several depth charges during the attack.

A Ko-hyoteki-class two-man submarine

A minority of academics doubted whether the Ward had really sunk a Japanese mini-sub rather than some sort of false alarm incident until University of Hawaii scientists found the sunken remains of the Japanese vessel on 28 August 2002. The wreck was found in American waters 1,200 ft (366 m) beneath the sea about 3–4 mi (3–3 nmi; 5–6 km) outside Pearl Harbor.[5] The starboard side of the Japanese submarine's conning tower has one shell hole, evidence of damage from Ward's number-three gun. While her depth charges were sufficient to fully lift the 46-long-ton (47 t), 78 ft (24 m) submarine out of the water, they did no apparent structural damage to the submarine, which sank due to water flooding into the vessel from shell holes.[6]

After Pearl HarborEdit

In 1942, Ward was sent to the West Coast for conversion to a high-speed transport. Redesignated APD-16 in February 1943, she steamed to the South Pacific to operate in the Solomon Islands area. She helped fight off a heavy Japanese air attack off Tulagi on 7 April 1943, and spent most of the rest of that year on escort and transport service. In December, she participated in the Cape Gloucester invasion. During the first nine months of 1944, Ward continued her escort and patrol work and also took part in several Southwest Pacific amphibious landings, among them the assaults on Saidor, Nissan Island, Emirau, Aitape, Biak, Cape Sansapor, and Morotai.

Ward, after being hit by a kamikaze


As the Pacific War moved closer to Japan, Ward was assigned to assist with operations to recover the Philippine Islands. On 17 October 1944, she put troops ashore on Dinagat Island during the opening phase of the Leyte invasion. After spending the rest of October and November escorting ships to and from Leyte, in early December, Ward transported Army personnel during the landings at Ormoc Bay, Leyte. On the morning of 7 December, three years to the day after she fired the opening shot of the US involvement in the war, while patrolling off the invasion area, she came under attack by several Japanese kamikazes. One bomber hit her hull amidships, bringing her to a dead stop. When the resulting fires could not be controlled, Ward's crew was ordered to abandon ship, and she was sunk by gunfire from O'Brien, whose commanding officer, William W. Outerbridge, had been in command of Ward during her action off Pearl Harbor three years before.

In early December 2017, Ward's wreckage was located by RV Petrel in 686 ft (209 m) of water.[7][8]

In the movie Tora! Tora! Tora!, Ward was portrayed by USS Finch.[9]



Ward's 4-inch gun at the Minnesota State Capitol

Ward's number-three 4"/50 caliber gun was removed when she was converted to a high speed transport. In 1958, the year of the Minnesota Centennial, it was installed as a memorial at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, when the men who fired it on 7 December 1941 were members of the Minnesota Naval Reserve. A plaque containing a listing of the naval reservists from Saint Paul who served aboard Ward is now displayed in the St. Paul City Hall on the third floor between the council and mayoral offices, in an area also containing the ship's bell from the cruiser Saint Paul. The last surviving member of the gun crew from the morning of 7 December, Alan Sanford, died in January 2015.[10]

As of 2012, no other ship in the United States Navy has borne this name, although sometimes confusion occurs with the three destroyers named Aaron Ward.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Brown, p. 133
  2. ^ Klobuchar, Richard P. (2012). The USS Ward. US: McFarland. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-7864-6429-6. Archived from the original on May 9, 2012. Retrieved July 5, 2012.
  3. ^ Mare Island History. Vallejo Convention & Visitors Bureau website. Accessed 22 August 2007. DANFS states 15 days from keel laying to launch.
  4. ^ a b Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet (February 15, 1942). "Pearl Harbor Attack: 7 December 1941, Online Action Reports: Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, Serial 0479 of 15 February 1942". Naval History And Heritage Command. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
  5. ^ Lum, Curtis (August 29, 2002). "1941 Japanese mini sub found off Pearl Harbor". Honolulu Advertiser.
  6. ^ Wiltshire, John C. (December 20, 2003). "Japanese midget submarine: sunk Dec 7, 1941 – found, Aug 2002: Analysis of Hole in Conning Tower of Midget Sub". Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory.
  7. ^ Christine Hauser (December 8, 2017). "The First Photos of a Pearl Harbor Warship's Watery Grave". New York Times. Archived from the original on December 8, 2017. Retrieved December 13, 2017. It was midmorning on Dec. 1. The team, which included pilots, researchers, historians and officials from the Philippines, watched as images were beamed back to the vessel from a remotely operated submersible vehicle circling a shipwreck at the bottom of Ormoc Bay, about 650 feet below the surface.
  8. ^ "Wreckage of USS Ward Found in the Philippines". Marine Link. December 7, 2017. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  9. ^ "USS FINCH (DER 328)" (PDF). USS FINCH Website. USS FINCH Website. Retrieved December 21, 2015.
  10. ^ Phillips, Michael M. (May 21, 2015). "First to Fire: U.S. Gunner at Pearl Harbor Is Laid to Rest". Wall Street Journal.
  • Brown, David. Warship Losses of World War Two. Arms and Armour, London, Great Britain, 1990. ISBN 0-85368-802-8.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 10°51′N 124°33′E / 10.850°N 124.550°E / 10.850; 124.550