Tuesday, November 13, 2007
USS Aaron Ward (DD-773/DM-34)
Named after a famous US Navy Rear Admiral, the USS Aaron Ward was designed as an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer (DD-773) and was launched on 5 May 1944 at the Bethlehem Steel Co. in San Pedro, California. She was reclassified as a “destroyer-minelayer” (DM-34) on 19 July 1944 and was commissioned on 28 October 1944. The 2,200-ton Aaron Ward was approximately 376 feet long, 40 feet wide, had a crew of 363 officers and men, and had a top speed of over 34 knots. She was armed with six 5-inch guns, eight 40mm antiaircraft guns, 12 20mm antiaircraft guns, and 80 mines. The Aaron Ward was assigned to the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet and, after conducting several shakedown and training cruises off California and Hawaii, was sent on 5 March 1945 to Ulithi atoll in the Caroline Islands in the Western Pacific.
The Aaron Ward arrived at Ulithi on 16 March 1945 and was added to the giant naval task force that was being created for the invasion of Okinawa. By 25 March the Aaron Ward began the dangerous assignment of picket duty off the coast of Okinawa. On 28 April she shot down several attacking Japanese planes and drove off others. During this attack, the USS Pinkney (APH-2) was hit by a Japanese “Kamikaze” suicide plane and the Aaron Ward rescued 12 of its survivors and assisted in bringing the Pinkney’s fires under control.
While on picket duty, the Aaron Ward successfully fought off numerous air attacks, but her luck ran out on 3 May 1945. That day the ship was attacked by a large number of Japanese suicide planes. Although the gunners on board the Aaron Ward managed to shoot down two of them, a third one smashed into the ship’s port side and the bomb the plane was carrying went through the ship and exploded in the forward fireroom. As a result of the explosions, the Aaron Ward eventually came to a stop. Damage control parties worked heroically to fight the fires and stop the flooding, but soon the ship was under attack by even more Japanese warplanes. The gunners on board the Aaron Ward shot down two attacking Kamikaze aircraft, but another two suicide planes managed to get through the antiaircraft fire and both smashed into the ship. The Aaron Ward was also hit by a bomb from one of the planes which exploded and blew a large hole in the port side of the ship. Most of the crew were either killed or wounded because of these attacks.
Remarkably, after sustaining all of this punishment, the Aaron Ward was still afloat. Initially assisted by LCSL’s 14 and 83, the Aaron Ward was taken in tow by the USS Shannon (DM-25) and brought to Kerama Retto for initial repairs. The ships arrived there on 4 May. After making sure that the ship was seaworthy, what was left of the Aaron Ward then went on a remarkable journey that took it across the Pacific, through the Panama Canal and north to the New York Navy Yard. The Aaron Ward arrived at the New York Navy Yard in August 1945, but the war was almost over and the US Navy didn’t think it was worth the expense to rebuild the ship. The Aaron Ward was decommissioned in late September 1945 and was sold for scrapping in July 1946. For her amazing conduct during the battle for Okinawa, the Aaron Ward received the Presidential Unit Citation and one battle star. The courage and dedication of the crew of the Aaron Ward kept the ship afloat and this destroyer-minelayer proved that a small ship could take a tremendous amount of punishment and still make it back home.
Figure 1 (Top): USS Aaron Ward (DM-34) photographed on 17 November 1944. The ship is painted in Camouflage Measure 32, Design 11a. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1975. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2 (Middle, Top): USS Aaron Ward in the Kerama Retto anchorage, 5 May 1945, showing damage received when she was hit by several Japanese suicide planes off Okinawa on 3 May. Note three-bladed aircraft propeller lodged in her superstructure, just forward of the after 5"/38 twin gun mount. Collection of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3 (Middle, Bottom): USS Aaron Ward in the Kerama Retto anchorage, 5 May 1945, showing damage received when she was hit by several Kamikazes off Okinawa on 3 May. Collection of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4 (Bottom): Damage amidships received during Kamikaze attacks off Okinawa on 3 May 1945. View looks down and aft from Aaron Ward's foremast, with her greatly distorted forward smokestack in the lower center. Photographed while the ship was in the Kerama Retto on 5 May 1945. A mine is visible at left on the ship's starboard mine rails. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Posted by Remo at 8:24 AM