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Benson-Gleaves Class Destroyer
348 x 36 x 13
4 x 5" cal 38 guns
7 x 20mm
2 x dual 40mm
5 x 21 Torpedoes
2 Depth Charge Racks
USN August 17, 1942
Justin Taylan 2006
Laid down February 11, 1941 at Federal Shipbuilding and Dry dock Company in Kearney, NJ. Launched November 22, 1941. Commissioned March 4, 1942 into the U. S. Navy (USN) as USS Aaron Ward (DD-483) the second ship named in honor of Rear Admiral Aaron Ward. Her shakedown cruise was off Maine with outfitting completed at New York Naval Yard.
On May 20, 1942, Aaron Ward departed New York via Panama Canal to San Diego to the Pacific Fleet and briefly operated off the west coast. On June 30, 1942 departed for Hawaii then onward to Tonga. During the voyage, Aaron Ward made two sound contacts and dropped depth charges without results.
Afterwards, assigned to screening duties for convoys operating in the South Pacific (SOPAC). On August 17, 1942 photographed at sea in the Solomon Islands with USS Wasp (CV-7). The destroyer was painted in a camouflage pattern and the port anchor was removed possibly to save weight.
On September 15, 1942 the destroyer was in the vicinity of USS Wasp (CV-7) when the carrier was torpedoed and sank by Japanese submarine I-19. At 7:24 attacked by B5N1 Kates and A6M2 Zeros at 0724 with three bombs exploding astern only 100-300 yards away and was delayed an hour due to a Japanese air raid.
On October 17, 1942 Aaron Ward and USS Lardner shelled Kokumbona on Guadalcanal with U. S. Marines and Coastwatcher Martin Clemens aboard to spot targets. On October 20, 1942 aided USS Chester CA-27 after it was hit by a torpedo from I-76 and released depth charges on the submarine then escorted the damaged ship southward to Espirito Santo.
On October 30, 1942 Aaron Ward returned to Guadalcanal to preformed another shore bombardment. On November 11-12, 1942 Aaron Ward guarded troops landing and claimed a plane shot down and damaged two others.
Naval Battle off Guadalcanal
On November 12-13, 1942 participated in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in Iron Bottom Sound. During the action, Aaron Ward led three destroyers in the rear of the column USS Barton (DD-599), USS Monssen (DD-436), and USS Fletcher (DD-445). During the battle, two torpedoes pass beneath USS Aaron Ward, and she engaged targets with gunfire. Hit by a shell in her direction finder and suffered eight direct hits, suffering 15 killed and 57 wounded. She lost steering control on November 13, 1942 at 2:25am and was dead in the water ten minutes later and called for a tug. When tug Bobolink ATO-131 arrived to take her under tow, Japanese battlecruiser Hiei spotted her and fired four salvos before distracted by U. S. planes.
Afterwards, towed by Bobolink ATO-131 to Tulagi arriving at 8:30am and temporarily repaired before departing for Pearl Harbor arriving on December 20, 1942. Repaired, she rejoined the fleet on February 6, 1943, and preformed escort duties again, including repelling an air attack on March 20, 1943.
On April 7, 1943, the USS Aaron Ward escorted USS Ward plus three LSTs were moving from Russell Islands to Savo Island. Notified of an impending Japanese air raid (Operation I-Go), Aaron Ward was to cover LST 449 off Togoma Point on Guadalcanal arriving at 2:19pm.
Dogfights erupted in the sky and three planes attacked the Aaron Ward, which returned fire with her 20mm, 40mm and 5" guns. Three bombs struck near the ship: one near miss tore holes in the side, second hit the engine room, third hit near port side causing more holes, 20 were KIA, 7 MIA and 59 WIA. The crew struggled to control the damage, and the crew attempted to beach the damaged ship but instead sank at 9:35pm near Tinete Point on Nggela Pile (Small Gela) to the south of Florida Island (Nggela Sule, Big Gela) and Tulagi Island.
During 1995, discovered by the join efforts of Ewan Stevenson (researcher) and Brian Bayley (first to SCUBA dive the shipwrec) plus the crew of Solomon Sea. The shipwreck of Aaron Ward is the only U. S. Navy warship at SCUBA diveable depths, aside from Bikini Atoll.
Because of the depth of this wreck, all dives are decompression dives which require the appropriate training and experience in extended range diving. For safety reasons, twin tanks with a separate regulator and gauge on each tank, and a dive computer are required for this dive, and extended range protocols are enforced. In order to stay within the maximum depth for air diving, it is recommended that divers not descend below the deck level.
The shipwreck is upright on a sandy bottom at about 240' / 70m off Tinete Point on Florida Island near Tulagi Island. The two forward 5" guns and the bow are at a depth of rougly 200' / 60m. Both turrets are facing forward with the gun barrels elevated to roughly 45 degrees. The bridge with 20mm cannons and the gun director are at a depth of 165' / 50m. Further aft is the torpedo tubes, rear funnel searchlight and Bofors 40mm anti-aircraft gun. Beyond is the aft 5" gun and the stern with severe damage. The depth charge racks, rudder and one propeller can be seen at a depth of 215' / 65m.
Ewan Stevenson adds:
"I have heard that the Aaron Ward has been intensively stripped for souvenirs now with a band of divers from Sydney particularly thorough. I sincerely regret that I won't have a chance to view some of these artifacts on the wreck. A diver from Aussie phoned me on the weekend and said divers were using crow bars to break into areas on the wreck."
NavSource - USS Aaron Ward DD-483
X Attack of I-Operation by Richard Dunn
Thanks to Ewan Stevenson and Neil Yates/ Dive Tulagi for additional information
240' / 70m
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