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Wickes class destroyer
314' 4" x 30' 11" x 9' 10"
4 x 4" guns
2 x 3" guns
4 x 21" torpedo tubes
USN December 7, 1944
Justin Taylan 2006
Built by Mare Island Navy Yard at Mare Island. Laid down May 15, 1918. Launched June 1, 1918 in only 17½ days, a shipbuilding record that has never been broken. Commissioned July 24, 1918 into the U. S. Navy (USN) as USS Ward No. 139 in honor of James Harmon Ward, the first USN officer killed in action during the Civil War.
By August 1918, painted in a dazzle camouflage scheme for World War I service. During late 1918, assigned to the Atlantic Ocean. During 1919 painted in overall gray and during May 1919 supported the trans Atlantic flights of Curtiss Navy Curtiss (NC) flying boats as a tender. Afterwards, assigned to the Pacific. In July 1920 assigned hull number DD-139. On July 21, 1921 decommissioned and became part of the reserve fleet at San Diego.
On January 15, 1941 recommissioned and placed under the command of LCDR William W. Outerbridge and departed San Diego and was based at Pearl Harbor to patrol off Hawaii.
On December 7, 1941 Ward was patrolling off Oahu. At at 3:57am contacted by coastal minesweeper Condor of a periscope sighting and the destroyer began searching. At roughly 6:37am lookouts aboard Ward spotted a periscope apparently following behind cargo ship Antares that was about to enter Pearl Harbor. At 6:45am Ward opened fire with her 4" Gun No. 3 at HA-20 Japanese Type A Midget Submarine (Midget A) with a shell penetrating the conning tower This was the first shots fired by American forces, an hour before the first wave of aircraft. Next, the destroyer made a depth charge attack and saw the submarine lifted out of th water by the explosions and confirmed the sinking the submarine at 6:55am roughly 3-4 miles south of Pearl Harbor. Afterwards, the 4"/50 Caliber Gun No. 3 was removed and preserved by the Navy because it fired the first shots of the Pacific War.
Afterwards, Ward was converted into a high speed transport and painted in a camouflage scheme. On February 6, 1943 reclassified as APD-16. Afterwards, departed for the South Pacific and operated as an escort and transport operating in the Solomon Islands. On April 7, 1943 while at Tulagi attacked by Japanese aircraft during Operation I-Go Sakusen A firing her anti-aircraft guns in defense.
On December 26, 1943 participated in the U. S. landing at Cape Gloucester. During 1944, Ward performed patrols, served as a escort and participated in U. S. amphibious landings including January 2, 1944 at Saidor, February 15, 1944 at Nissan, March 20, 1944 at Emirau, April 22, 1944 at Aitape, May 27, 1944 at Biak, July 31, 1944 at Sansapor and September 15, 1944 at Morotai. On October 17, 1944 Ward landed the U. S. Army 6th Ranger Battalion at the northern tip of Dinagat Island.
On December 7, 1944 during the Battle of Ormoc Bay transported U. S. Army 77th Division and landed them at Ormoc Bay. Later that same morning, came under attack by Japanese kamikaze aircraft. At 9:30am Ward was hit by a kamikaze aircraft amidships causing a loss of power and fires. When the fires could not be contained, the crew were ordered to abandon ship and the burning destroyer was scuttled by gunfire from USS O'Brien (DD-725) and sank into Ormoc Bay off western Leyte.
Fates of the Crew
The surviving crew were rescued by destroyers and landing craft.
On December 1, 2017, the expedition crew of Paul Allen’s Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel sent its Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to explore and document the shipwreck of the USS Ward with their dive footage released on December 5, 2017.
The 4"/50 Caliber Gun No. 3 from USS Ward that fired the first shots at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 is displayed as a monument with plaques at the Minnesota State Capitol grounds at St. Paul, MN.
Attached to the side of the gun is a brass plaque that reads: "This gun became an historic chapter in military history on December 7, 1941, when it fired the first shot in the defense of the United States of America in the war with Japan, sinking an enemy submarine off Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The gun was mounted on the destroyer U. S. S. Ward and was manned by a crew of Minnesota Naval Reservists. On May 10 of statehood week in the centennial year of 1958, this gun was presented to the state by the U. S. Navy and dedicated to all Minnesotans who have served in the defense of our country."
Attached to the rear of the gun is another brass plaque that reads: "Honor Gun - U. S. S. Ward 4in 50 Cal Gun No. 3 by sinking Japanese submarine on the morning of 7 December 1841 off Pearl Harbor this gun has the distinction of being the first Naval gun to speak America's reply in World War II as such the Pearl ordnance men considered it deserving of special respect and care throughout its life. Gun crew, name, rate position [names of gun crew].
Another stone plaque include a list of names of men from St. Paul MN that were in the USNR that were activated on January 21, 1941 and that served on USS Ward and were aboard on December 7, 1941.
The gun sight from the Ward is displayed at the National Museum of the Pacific War (Nimitz Museum).
Naval History and Heritage Command - USS Ward (DD 139, later APD-16)
Navy History and Heritage Command - Antiaircraft Action Summary COMINCH P-009 pages 2-7, 5-5
NavSource - USS WARD (DD-139 / APD-16)
Preludes to Victory: The Battle of Ormoc Bay (1997) by William Griggs
Paul Allen "R/V Petrel Explores Wreck of USS Ward; Fired First American Shot of WWII" December 5, 2017
YouTube "Paul G. Allen's R/V Petrel Explores USS Ward" December 5, 2017
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