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  USS Aaron Ward DD-773 / DM-34
USN
Fletcher Class Destroyer

2,200 Tons
376' 6" x 40' 10" x 18" 10"
6 x 5"/38 guns
12 x 40mm AA guns
6 x 20mm AA guns
2 x depth charge tracks
4 x depth charge projectors
80 sea mines

Click For Enlargement
USN May 4, 1945
Ship History
Built by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation in San Pedro. Laid down December 12, 1943 as Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer with the designation DD-773 . Launched May 5, 1944 sponsored by Mrs. G. H. Ratliff. On July 19, 1944 redesignated as a Robert H. Smith-class destroyer mine layer DM-34. Commissioned October 28, 1944 into the U. S. Navy (USN) USS Aaron Ward DM-34 the third ship named in honor of Rear Admiral Aaron Ward Aaron Ward. Assigned to Commander William H. Sanders Jr. and was fitted out. During January 1945 conducted a shakedown cruise off California.

Wartime History
On February 9, 1945 departed San Pedro bound for Pearl Harbor arriving February 15, 1945 and underwent more training off Hawaii. On March 5, 1945 departed Pearl Harbor across to join the 5th Fleet at Ulithi arriving March 16, 1945.

On March 19, 1945 departed Ulithi with Task Force 52 (TF-52) as part of the mine flotilla to support the invasion of Kerama Retto and Okinawa. On March 22, 1945 arrived and encountered enemy aircraft that were repelled by anti-aircraft fire. For the next ten days, Aaron Ward supported mine sweeping operations off Kerama Retto and Okinawa and continued duty until the start of the U. S. landings. While supporting mine sweeping operations, she claimed three enemy aircraft shot down.

On April 1, 1945 at the start of the U. S. landings on Okinawa switched to screening duty for warships providing gunfire support. On April 4, 1945 departed for Saipan arriving April 10, 1945 and later that same day proceeded to Guam for minor repairs and resupply. Afterwards, departed and returned to Kerama Retto for more patrol duty and was frequently attacked by enemy aircraft.

On April 27, 1945 shot down an enemy aircraft and the next day shot down another and a probable then returned to Kerama Retto to refuel and rendered aid to USS Pinkney (APH-2) when she was hit by a kamikaze and rescued 12 survivors and attempted to extinguish the fires aboard with her hoses.

On April 30, 1945 assigned to picket duty at radar station no. 10 off Okinawa with USS Little (DD-803) plus USS LSM(R)-195 LCS(L)(3)-15, LCS(L)(3)-25, and LCS(L)(3)-83. In the evening, the group repulsed several air raids. For the next several days, bad weather meant there were fewer enemy aircraft airborne.

On May 3, 1945 at dusk radar spotted enemy aircraft 27 miles away. Two enemy aircraft targeted Aaron Ward, the first was hit by anti-aircraft fire as it approached, made a suicide dive but crashed roughly 100 yards off the starboard quarter. The second plane was also hit by anti-aircraft fire and began to break apart and crash 1,200 yards away.

A third plane dove on the stern and was also hit by anti-aircraft fire but released a bomb moments before crashing into the superstructure. The bomb penetrated the hull below the waterline and exploded in the aft engine room causing flooding and ruptured the fuel tanks, caused fires and cut steering controls to the bridge with the rudder jammed hard left and turning in a tight circle. Where the plane hit the superstructure caused fires, cut power and communications and killed and injured crew topside.

Afterwards, there was a 20 minute lull in air raids allowing damage control parties to extinguish fires, repair damage and jettison ammunition and tend to wounded. The rudder was unable to be fixed quickly. Meanwhile, USS Little (DD-803) was hit on the port side. At 6:40pm another air raid developed and within minutes three more kamikaze aircraft hit USS Little (DD-803) amidships and sank by 7:55pm. A kamikaze plane hit and sunk USS LSM(R)-195. Also, a kamikaze plane grazed LCS(L)-25 knocking off her mast.

Before 7:00pm more kamikaze planes targeted Aaron Ward and although her anti-aircraft gunners scored hits on two before they could reach the destroyer. Two more enemy planes attacked and although chased by U. S. fighters, one made an attack run aiming for the bridge and narrowly missed, impacting the smoke stack then crashing off the starboard side.

Next, another aircraft attacked from the port beam, released a bomb and crashed into the main deck. The bomb exploded off her port side scoring near miss with fragments hitting the destroyer and causing a large hole in the forward fire room and caused a loss of all power. At the same time, another enemy plane crashed into the deck house causing more fires and killing more crew, followed by two more impacts and was dead in the water.

At 7:21pm another kamikaze attacked the port quarter and without power the 5" guns were unable to track and crashed into the port side superstructure causing burning fuel to land on 40mm ammunition and caused rounds to explode and more casualties. In total, the destroyer was hit by six kamikaze planes and two bombs that killing a total of 42 crew.

As damage control parties worked to extinguish fires, the destroyer began to settle in the water and list to the port. Finally at 7:20pm another kamikaze armed with a bomb crashed at the base of the no. 2 smokestack and the explosion cause stack, searchlight, two gun mounts and plane wreckage were blown upward then landed on the deck. At 9:06 USS Shannon (DM-25) took the destroyer under tow back to Kerama Retto.

On May 4, 1945 at dawn arrived at Kerama Retto for temporary repairs. On June 11, 1945 departed eastward via Ulithi, Guam, Eniwetok, Pearl Harbor, and the Panama Canal before arriving in New York during the middle of August 1945. Because the damage sustained was so extensive and because the U. S. Navy had a surplus of destroyers, no repairs were made. On September 28, 1945 decommissioned and struck from the Navy list.

Fate
During July 1946 sold for scrap and afterwards scrapped.

Memorials
Mr. Harry Schroeder, father of crew member Seaman 2nd Class Laverne H. Schroeder from Elgin, IL learned the destroyer was being scrapped and wanted something as a memorial for his son. The USN agreed to sell him the starboard anchor for $20.00 and it was shipped by train arriving in Elgin, IL on July 17, 1946. Initially, the anchor was placed against a tree on his farm, then later he donated it to the Navy Club of Elgin on Memorial Day 1947 where it was displayed outside their building on State Street until 1971.

On Labor Day 1971 the anchor was dedicated as a memorial at Bluff City Cemetery in Elgin, IL with a memorial plaque that reads: "This ship's anchor from the U.S.S. Aaron Ward was presented to Navy Club of Elgin Ship No. 7 by Mr. & Mrs. Harry J. Schroeder in memory of their son Laverne H. Schroeder Seaman Second Class, USNR Killed in Action May 1945 off Okinawa while serving aboard this destroyer."

of The anchor of Aaron Ward DM-34 is displayed at

References
Naval History and Heritage Command - Aaron War III (DM-34)
Kamikaze Images - Anchor of U.S.S. Aaron Ward
NavSource - USS Aaron Ward DM-34

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Last Updated
May 3, 2020

 

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