Tuesday, November 3, 2009

USS Ward (DD-139, later APD-16)

Figure 1: USS Ward (DD-139) off Mare Island Navy Yard, California, circa September 1918, shortly after she was commissioned. Note her disruptive camouflage scheme and small hull numbers painted in rather fancy script below her bridge. US Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2: USS Ward (DD-139) running speed trials off the California coast in September 1918, while painted in disruptive camouflage. US Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3: USS Ward (DD-139) photographed on 26 February 1919. US Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4: USS Ward (DD-139) photographed in late 1918 or early 1919, dressed with flags. Note that she still wears her hull number painted under her bridge in small numerals, as well as on her bow in large numerals. Courtesy of Jack L. Howland, 1983. US Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 5: USS Chew (DD-106) and USS Ward (DD-139) at Hilo Sugar Docks, Territory of Hawaii, 22 July 1941. Courtesy of Mr. Jesse Pond (VP-1) via Mr. Robert Varrill. US Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 6: USS Ward (DD-139), "A Shot for Posterity,” the USS Ward's number three gun and its crew-cited for firing one of the first shots the day of Japan's raid on Hawaii. Operating as part of the inshore patrol early in the morning of December 7, 1941, this destroyer group spotted a submarine outside Pearl Harbor, opened fire and sank her. Crew members are R.H. Knapp - BM2c - Gun Captain, C.W. Fenton - Sea1c - Pointer, R.B. Nolde - Sea1c - Trainer, A.A. De Demagall - Sea1c - No. 1 Loader, D.W. Gruening - Sea1c - No. 2 Loader, J.A. Paick - Sea1c - No. 3 Loader, H.P. Flanagan - Sea1c - No. 4 Loader, E.J. Bakret - GM3c - Gunners Mate, K.C.J. Lasch - Cox - Sightsetter." (quoted from the original 1942-vintage caption). This gun is a 4-inch/50 type, mounted atop the ship's amidships deckhouse, starboard side. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 7: Cape Sansapor Invasion, 1944. Army troops boarding USS Ward (APD-16) at Maffin Bay, New Guinea, en route to the Cape Sansapor landings, 30 July 1944. Boat is one of Ward's LCP(R)s. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 8: USS Ward (APD-16) burning in Ormoc Bay, Leyte, Philippine Islands, after she was hit by a Kamikaze on 7 December 1944. USS O'Brien (DD-725) is fighting fires from alongside, as landing craft circle to rescue survivors. Photographed from USS Crosby (APD-17). Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 9: USS Ward (APD-16) on fire after she was hit by a "Kamikaze" in Ormoc Bay, Leyte, on 7 December 1944. She sank later in the day. Exactly three years earlier, on the morning of 7 December 1941, while on patrol off Pearl Harbor, Ward fired the first shot of the Pacific War. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.

Named after Commander James Harmon Ward, the first officer in the Union Navy killed during the Civil War, USS Ward (DD-139) was a 1,247-ton Wickes class destroyer that was built at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, and was commissioned on 24 July 1918. The ship was approximately 314 feet long and 30 feet wide, had a top speed of 35 knots, and had a crew of 231 officers and men. Ward was armed with four 4-inch guns, two 3-inch guns, twelve 21-inch torpedo tubes, and depth charges.

After her shakedown cruise, Ward left America’s west coast on 2 December 1918 and was made flagship of Destroyer Division 18 and participated in the US Navy’s annual winter exercises at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In May 1919, Ward provided navigational assistance and lifeguard station support for the trans-Atlantic flight of the NC flying boats. In July 1919, Ward was sent back to the west coast. After transiting the Panama Canal, she visited Mexico and then steamed to California. Ward eventually made her way to Seattle, Washington, where she participated in a naval review that was attended by President Woodrow Wilson on 13 September 1919. Ward returned to San Diego and remained based there until she was placed in reserve on 21 July 1921.

For almost twenty years, Ward remained in reserve. She was re-commissioned on 15 January 1941, as America was about to enter World War II. After war engulfed Europe in September 1939, the US Navy began re-commissioning old warships, especially destroyers, for patrol duties and use as convoy escorts. Ward was one of these ships and after she was re-commissioned she left her base at San Diego and headed for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. She arrived at Pearl Harbor on 9 March 1941 and was assigned to the 14th Naval District and Destroyer Division 80. Her primary duty was to patrol the channel entrance off Pearl Harbor, an important job since the US Pacific Fleet was based there. For the next few months, Ward completed numerous antisubmarine patrols off the coast of Hawaii and was placed on high alert in late November 1941 when a “war warning” was given to commanders in Hawaii and the Philippines of a possible Japanese attack.

At 0408 on the morning of 7 December 1941, Ward, with its new commanding officer, Lieutenant William W. Outerbridge, went to general quarters after she received a signal from another ship, USS Condor (AMC-14), that there was an enemy submarine in the area. Ward continued her search for the submarine when, at 0506, lookouts spotted a thin wake following another American naval vessel, USS Antares (AKS-14). The wake was caused by the conning tower of a small submarine and Ward immediately charged into action. At 0645, Lieutenant Outerbridge ordered his number one 4-inch gun to open fire on the unidentified submarine and soon a shell flew out of the cannon and sailed over the submarine’s conning tower. Although the crew of the Ward did not know it at the time, the first shot in the new war between the United States and Japan had just been fired. Ward’s number three gun on top of the galley deckhouse also began firing. This time the destroyer scored a direct hit, with the shell passing right through the submarine’s small conning tower. As the submarine began to submerge and sink, Ward raced over to the enemy warship and quickly dropped four depth charges. The depth charges went off and sank what turned out to be a Japanese midget submarine, which was trying to enter Pearl Harbor prior to the aerial attack that was to take place later that same morning. Lieutenant Outerbridge immediately notified the Commandant at the 14th Naval District headquarters and tried to make it clear that his ship had fired on an unidentified enemy submarine. Unfortunately, the 14th Naval District headquarters wanted absolute confirmation of the attack before warning the fleet, thereby preventing Pearl Harbor from being on a high state of alert that fateful morning. Ward left the area after the incident and headed for Pearl Harbor’s entrance. At approximately 0800, the crew on board Ward heard gunfire and explosions coming from Pearl Harbor, while seeing large clouds of smoke beginning to rise from the naval base there. By the time Ward’s urgent signals finally were forwarded to Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, Pearl Harbor already was under attack by Japanese aircraft.

After 7 December 1941, Ward continued her patrol duties around the Hawaiian Islands. In 1942, older ships like Ward were rebuilt and used for different purposes. Ward was sent to the west coast and was converted into a high-speed transport. Re-designated APD-16 in February 1943, Ward was sent to the South Pacific and began operations off the Solomon Islands. She assisted in repulsing a major Japanese air attack off Tulagi on 7 April 1943 and spent the remainder of the year functioning as an escort as well as a transport. In December 1943, Ward participated in the assault on Cape Gloucester and during the first nine months of 1944 she also was part of several amphibious landings in the southwest Pacific, including the invasions of Saidor, Nissan Island, Emirau, Aitape, Biak, Cape Sansapor, and Morotai.

On 17 October 1944, Ward participated in the invasion of the Philippine Islands. She assisted in landing troops on Dinagat Island, which was part of the larger invasion of Leyte. She spent the balance of October and November escorting ships to and from Leyte and in December Ward participated in the amphibious assault at Ormoc Bay, Leyte. On 7 December 1944, three years to the day after she fired the US Navy’s first shot of the Pacific war, Ward was attacked by several Japanese aircraft while on patrol off the coast of Leyte. A “Kamikaze” bomber smashed into her hull amidships, exploded, and caused massive fires throughout the ship. Ward came to a complete stop as the crew fought the spreading fires. But it was too late. The fires were clearly out of control and soon Ward’s commanding officer, Lieutenant R.E. Farwell, ordered the crew to abandon ship. Several ships, including USS O’Brien (DD-725), USS Saunter (AM-295), and USS Scout (AM-296) came to Ward’s assistance. Miraculously, only one crewman was injured and the entire crew was evacuated to the rescue vessels surrounding Ward. However, Ward was now a burnt-out hulk and a total loss. Although still afloat, she was a hazard to navigation and it was determined that one of her escorts, USS O’Brien, had to sink her with gunfire. As the other escort ships in the small group moved away from the stricken destroyer, O’Brien opened fire on the smoldering wreck. At 1130 on 7 December 1944, USS Ward slipped beneath the waves, sinking in Ormoc Bay between Poro Island and Apali Point. Undoubtedly the captain of O’Brien was especially saddened by the loss of Ward. We know this because, in one of those incredible ironies of naval history, his name was William W. Outerbridge, now a Lieutenant Commander, and the officer who was in charge of Ward exactly three years earlier on the morning of 7 December 1941.