Forum: General Commentary
Topic: USS WARD's early morning attack
started by: JL Johnson

Posted by JL Johnson on Aug. 30 2001,9:28
The destroyer USS Ward fired our first shots in the Pacific War, sinking a mini sub well before the attack, after which its captain issued a message which could have constituted a warning, had it been taken seriously at the time


< http://www.warships1.com/USdd0139_Ward_prt.jpg

I > didn't realize until recently that Ward was an old flush-decker.

I also didn't realize what had happened to Ward.

She was sunk by a kamikaze attack, off Leyte.

On December 7, 1944. . . .


Posted by David Aiken on Aug. 30 2001,10:55
Aloha JL,
Interesting, too, that the next planes to fall from George Welch's guns was on December 7, 1942...

Food for thought, eh?


Posted by JL Johnson on Aug. 31 2001,11:59
Like everything else connected with 12/7/41, it resonates with irony.  The last warning delayed by atmosphere, the radar sighting, the Ward reporting a submarine an hour before the attack coupled with earlier assessments that submarines might be used in conjunction with a naval or air assault.

My father was to have been a foreman on a construction crew at Wake on December 7th, but cancelled when he discovered his wife was pregnant with my older sister.   His best friend, for whom I am named, took his place and spent nearly 4 years in a Japanese prison camp, and was never the same.  Of course, he was more fortunate than the 98 massacred by the Japanese.


Posted by Larry Jewell on Sep. 01 2001,8:38
My impression from reading the events surrounding the Ward's attack on the midget is that things happened very quickly in response to the report, for a peacetime establishment.  An hour to get things up and running, on a peaceful Sunday morning, isn't much time.  I doubt that much would have changed inside the harbor if Outerbridge had had Kimmel's cell phone number and beeped him before the Adm. had finished his breakfast.
Posted by JL Johnson on Sep. 04 2001,11:06
My impression from reading the events surrounding the Ward's attack on the midget is that things happened very quickly in response to the report, for a peacetime establishment.  

I don't disagree, but the "peacetime" level of alertness was the whole problem.  An hour to disperse planes, ready ammunition or get a few fighters aloft might have made a huge difference -- if the commanders had their commands ready to take advantage of it.  But as it was, most ships didn't have the steam to sortie, the planes weren't ready to go aloft, etc., etc.  


Posted by Larry Jewell on Sep. 04 2001,11:44
I forget who said it during his testimony, but I remember something like, "The last thing we'd do is send the ships out into a known threat in order to avoid an unknown one."  Martin-Bellinger correctly predicted an air attack might follow a submarine attack, but didn't say how much time there would be between the two events.  [i]Ward[\i] started the shooting war (in T. H., anyway,) but nobody ever claimed that they extrapolated the submarine contact into an immediate air threat.  You are right that things might have been different if they did.
Posted by JL Johnson on Mar. 05 2002,3:32
Another tid bit on Ward's demise, also ironic.

She had been converted to an APD  (fast transport), which involved IIRC removing some superstructure, and lowering the stacks for a sort of razee effect which created a lower profile.  

She was involved in an amphibious operation lifting the 77th Infantry Division to Ormoc, to cut off Japanese supply lines and hasten the end of the Leyte campaign.  

She and 7 other APDs were escorted by several newer destroyers, including USS O'Brien.  When Ward was hit, O'Brien stood by to assist damage control, then pick up survivors.

O'Brien's captain at the time:  Commander William Outerbridge, who commanded Ward when she fired the first American shots of the Pacific war. . .
Posted by Tracy White on Mar. 05 2002,8:03
Conversion of the old flush deck destroyers involved removing half of the boilers and stacks; the emptied interior space was used to house troops and their gear. The Torpedo tubes were also removed to make way for four LCVP's. You can see some details of her as an APD < here >.

As far as her sinking, there is a picture < here > of the Ward on fire after the "Kamikaze." She had been attacked by three twin engine bombers and managed to shake the first two up enough with anti-aircraft fire that their bombs missed. The third came in very low and struck the ward just aft of her bridge above the waterline with enough velocity that one of the engines passed completely through the ship. She was sunk by US gunfire when the fires raged out of control and threatened to set off one of her magazines.

Another interesting note about the Ward: She was launched 14 days after her keel was laid in 1918. Many of the advanced shipbuilding techniques used to pump out liberty ships in WWII got their start with the Ward. Picture of her being built < here >
Posted by JL Johnson on Mar. 06 2002,9:05
Thanks for the pics, especially the close up of the APD. very nice.  The razee effect was pretty much as described.  I suppose they removed the aft guns as well.

I just read about Ward's demise in some detail.  Damage from the kamikaze prevented the crew from flooding the magazine.

Interesting 3 years for the ship, to say the least.
Posted by Ken Hackler on Aug. 05 2002,2:28
Moved to a more appropriate location in "14th Naval District," with a link located in "Midget A" under the Japanese Ships section.
Posted by Tracy White on Aug. 06 2002,12:03
Aft guns were kept aboard, although they were changed to newer 3"/50's which were more suited to anti-aircraft. It is of the opinion of many of her crew that the reason that the first shot fired missed was not that the crew was in any way inferior, but the mount was unable to compendate fast enough for the last minute course change that Captain Outerbridge ordered. The old 4" mounts were totally unsuited for anti-aircraft work.

Curiously, records I have indicate that the Ward on had three of her 3"/50's on board in March of 1944 but the pictures I have of her burning after the Kamikaze hits clearly show the #1, 2, & 4 mount in place, leaving only the #3 unaccounted for. #3's position is obscured by smoke so I don't know if she was back to her full compliment at the time she was struck by Kamikaze. While this is the same position as the gun that sank the midget submarine, it wasn't the same gun. The gun that sank the midget sub is now on display in Minnesota, home to the majority of her crew on December 7th.


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