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Hull Number: DD-139

Launch Date: 06/01/1918

Commissioned Date: 07/24/1918

Decommissioned Date: 06/21/1921

Call Sign: NAGS

Other Designations: APD-16





Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, December 2017

James Harmon Ward, born on 25 September 1806, at Hartford, Conn., received his early educational training in Connecticut common schools before attending the American Literary Scientific and Military Academy at Norwich, Vermont. After graduating in 1823, Ward accepted an appointment as a midshipman in the U.S. Navy on 4 March 1823. Subsequently, he sailed in frigate Constitution on a four-year Mediterranean cruise and then received a year’s leave of absence for scientific studies at Washington College, Hartford, Connecticut.

When Ward returned to sea, he served once more in the Mediterranean and then saw duty off the African coast in interdicting the slave trade. He next served in the West Indies helping to prevent a resurgence of piracy.

Upon his return to the United States, he taught courses in ordnance and gunnery at the Naval School at Philadelphia, Pa. These popular courses were later published as An Elementary Course of Instruction in Ordnance and Gunnery.

On 10 October 1845, the new Naval Academy opened at Annapolis, Md.; and Lt. Ward was a member of the faculty, one of the first line officers to pass along the benefits of his own experience to young midshipmen. One of the most scholarly officers of the Navy of his day, Ward held the office of executive officer (a post which later became that of the Commandant of Midshipmen), with collateral duties as instructor of gunnery and steam engineering.

The advent of the war with Mexico prompted many naval officers and men to seek assignment to ships serving in Mexican waters. Detached from the Academy, Ward took command of Cumberland in 1847 and served in that capacity for the duration of the war. After a period spent waiting for orders, he was given command of steamer Vixen in 1848 and remained in her through 1850.

After intermittent periods awaiting orders and serving at the Washington and Philadelphia Navy Yards, Ward took command of Jamestown and took her to the African coast to hunt down slave ships trafficking in human flesh. During this time, in his off-duty hours, he proceeded to work on another textbook, A Manual of Naval Tactics, a scholarly work which one day would run into four editions after its initial publication in 1859.

In 1860, as war clouds gathered over the United States, Ward served at the New York Navy Yard, where he wrote a popular treatise on steam egineering, entitled Steam for the Million. In the spring of 1861, with the Southern states leaving the Union and Confederate forces mounting a siege at Fort Sumter, S.C., Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles summoned Ward to Washington to plan for a relief expedition for Sumter. Ward volunteered to lead it but opposition, notably from General Winfield Scott (who perceived it as being futile), forced cancellation of the plans.

Ward pressed for front line service, proposing that a “flying squadron” be established in the Chesapeake Bay for use against Confederate naval and land forces threatening that area south of the Union capital. The idea proved acceptable, and the squadron took shape. With steamer Thomas Freeborn serving as Ward’s flagship, the steamers Freelance, Alliance, and three coast survey ships made up the flotilla.

The newly composed unit, later known as the Potomac Flotilla, saw its first action on 1 June, when guns from Ward’s ships silenced Confederate shore batteries at Aquia Creek. On 27 June, Ward sent a landing party ashore to dislodge Southern forces from another battery at Matthias Point, in St. Mary’s County, but encountered heavy resistance. The Federals gave up the attack and retired, under heavy sniper and cannon fire, to their ships. Sizing up the situation, Ward brought his flotilla in close to the shoreline to provide gunfire support for the returning Union forces. As he sighted the bow gun in his flagship, Thomas Freeborn, Cmdr. James Harmon Ward took a bullet in his abdomen and fell to the deck, mortally wounded. He died within the hour, the first officer of the United States Navy killed during the tragic Civil War.


Sunk by Japanese suicide planes off Leyte 12/7/1944.

USS WARD DD-139 Ship History

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, December 2017

Ward (Destroyer No. 139) was laid down on 15 May 1918 at Vallejo, Calif., by the Mare Island Navy Yard; launched, in a record 15 days, on 1 June 1918; sponsored by Miss Dorothy Hall Ward; and commissioned on 24 July 1918, Cmdr. Milton S. Davis in command.

Following shakedown and training, Ward cleared the west coast on 2 December 1918. As flagship of Destroyer Division (DesDiv) 18, the ship took part in the annual winter maneuvers in the Guantanamo Bay area. In May 1919, Ward provided navigational aids and lifeguard station services as NC-1NC-3, and NC-4 set out on their transatlantic flight. Ward served on station off Newfoundland and supported the first leg of the passage from Newfoundland to the Azores, while stationed 50 miles from sister ships, Boggs (Destroyer No. 136) and Palmer (Destroyer No. 161).

In July 1919, Ward was among the first “nest” of destroyers which passed through the Panama Canal locks as the Fleet took passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Following this canal transit, Ward proceeded north and called at Acapulco, Mexico. For the remainder of July and into August, she visited such California ports as San Diego, San Pedro, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, San Francisco, and Eureka, before heading north to Portland, Oregon. On 13 September 1919, Ward was among the ships of the Fleet reviewed by President Woodrow Wilson at Seattle, Washington.

The destroyer then returned south to San Diego to operate off the west coast for the remainder of 1919 and into 1920. On 17 July 1920, during the sweeping Navy-wide assignment of identification numbers, Ward was assigned the designation DD-139. With DesDiv 18 through the late spring of 1921, Ward subsequently joined many of her sisters in reserve when she was decommissioned on 21 July 1921 and placed in “Red Lead Row” at San Diego.

As the Axis challenge of Germany, Italy, and Japan threatened peace and the security of the democratic nations in the latter half of the 1930’s, the U.S. Navy began to rearm. While new ships joined the fleet, a number of older ones, Ward among them, were recommissioned. Some went to the Atlantic to take part in the de facto war with German U-boats as the year 1941 progressed. Others went to local district defense duties, and the latter role was Ward’s new assignment.

Ward was recommissioned on 15 January 1941 at the Naval Destroyer Base, San Diego, Lt. Cmdr. Hunter Wood, Jr., in command. After provisioning and fueling, the warship set out into the Pacific, bound for Hawaii, and rolled and pitched heavily as soon as she hit the open sea on 28 February. She managed to struggle through and arrived off Oahu late in the first watch on 8 March and stood into Pearl Harbor during the forenoon watch on 9 March, joining the Fourteenth Naval District local defense forces and DesDiv 80. Consisting of four destroyers, two of Ward’s sisters and a World War I veteran, Allen (DD-66), DesDiv 80’s job was to patrol the channel entrance off Pearl Harbor, a large job for such a small and antiquated force and an important one since the Pacific Fleet was to base at Pearl Harbor as a deterrent to the rising imperialistic ambitions of Japan in the Far East.

Throughout 1941, Ward conducted routine antisubmarine patrols in the Hawaiian area, as did Chew (DD-106), Schley (DD-103), and Allen, and the three Coast Guard cutters and a handful of coastal minecraft that made up the rest of Cmdr. John B. Wooley’s Inshore Patrol command. As tensions with Japan increased following the oil embargo in July 1941 and again at the accession of the Tojo cabinet in October, Washington, late in November 1941, dispatched a “war warning” to the force commanders in the Hawaiian and Philippine Island areas to be on the alert for possible Japanese hostile action.

Accordingly, Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, ordered his inshore patrol to depth-charge suspicious submarine contacts operating in the defensive sea areas. Given orders, in effect to “shoot to kill,” Ward and her consorts continued as before, with the exception that they were now to be on a wartime footing. Equipped with listening gear, Ward continued vigilant patrols in the inshore operating zones, cutting routine figure-eights back and forth within a two-mile radius of the channel-entrance buoys.

One of the old four-pipers had the duty each weekend. Soon it came to be Ward’s turn-but she went to sea this particular weekend with a new commanding officer. Lt. William W. Outerbridge took command from Lt. Cmdr. Wood on 5 December; and, at 0628 on the 6th, Outerbridge took his first sea command out for a routine entrance patrol.

At 0408 on 7 December 1941, the old destroyer went to general quarters to search for a suspected submarine detected by the coastal minesweeper Condor (AMc-14), but came up with nothing.

Meanwhile, the general stores issue ship Antares (AKS-3), flagship of Train Squadron 8, plodded back from Palmyra Island with the 410-ton Hawaiian Dredging Company lighter H.D.S. 2. riding astern in tow. She anchored off the harbor entrance to await a favorable tide and the opening of the boom-net defenses, and exchanged calls with Ward. Later, Antares signalled Ward about a “suspicious object.” Eventually, the destroyer’s  lookouts noticed a small feather wake astern of the auxiliary.

Within moments, at 0640 Ward was a ship alive, the general quarters alarm rousted the men from their bunks and sent them on the double to their action stations. Outerbridge, who had retired to a makeshift bunk rigged up in the charthouse, was on the bridge in seconds, pulling a life jacket on over a kimono and pajamas, and a World War I style steel helmet on his head.

Ward charged at the submarine like a terrier; and, for a moment, Outerbridge thought it looked like his ship was going to run down the intruder. Number one four-inch mount trained around, and her gunners tried to draw a bead on the elusive target. The first shot of the Pacific war barked from Ward’s gun at 0645 and splashed harmlessly beyond the small conning tower. As Ward pounded past at 25 knots, number three gun atop the galley deckhouse amidships commenced fire, its round passed squarely through the submersible’s conning tower. As the Japanese midget wallowed lower in the water and started to sink, the destroyer swiftly dropped four depth charges, signalled by four blasts on the ship’s whistle. Black water gushed upwards in the ship’s boiling wake as the charges went off, sealing the submarine’s doom.

Outerbridge radioed a terse action report to Commandant, Fourteenth Naval District headquarters, and to distinguish this attack from the numerous sightings that had plagued local patrol forces, then added that his ship had sighted and fired upon an unidentified submarine in the defensive sea area. Delays in seeking  confirmation resulted in the message’s  transmission through tortuously slow communication channels. Ward echo-ranged for further contacts, and soon latched on to another one, dropping depth charges but not coming up with concrete results. Monaghan (DD-354), the ready duty destroyer moored in Pearl Harbor proper, received orders to get underway and assist Ward.

Subsequently, as the day dawned upon the hillsides of Oahu, Ward spotted a fishing sampan, one of many that was a familiar sight in the waters in the Hawaiian archipelago. A fisherman suddently started waving a white flag as perhaps he had seen the determined depth-charge attacks. Ward slowed and closed to investigate and took the small craft in tow to turn her over to the Coast Guard for disposition.

Nearing the harbor entrance around 0800, those on deck heard the sound of gunfire and explosions, as smoke began to boil into the skies over Pearl Harbor. Soon a strafing Japanese plane convinced the doubters that there indeed was a war on, as aircraft from six aircraft carriers, in two waves, attacked the ships of the Pacific Fleet as well as nearby naval, military, and air bases in a devastating surprise blow.

On that Sunday morning, Ward had the distinction of firing the first American gun in anger during the Pacific war. For the remainder of the year, the venerable destroyer continued her routine district patrols and, for a time, anything that moved beneath the waters was fair game. As newer and more modern destroyers began joining the fleet, however, as well as built-for-the purpose submarine-chasing vessels, some of the old “flush-deckers” began to be assigned to other duties: tending seaplanes, laying or sweeping mines, or, for a newer innovation in modern warfare, carrying fully equipped troops for assault landings as high speed transports.

Accordingly, Ward steamed to Bremerton, Wash., for conversion to a high speed transport at the Puget Sound Navy Yard. During the ensuing months, the old “flush decker” began to take on an altered appearance. Her forward funnels were removed, as the forward boiler and fire rooms were converted to accommodate troops. Antiaircraft guns, 3-inch/50s and 20-millimeter Oerlikons, replaced the antiquated “iron-sighted” single-purpose 4-inch guns and the .50-caliber machine guns, and she acquired four sets of davits and four 36-foot landing craft to put her embarked troops ashore. Thus outfitted, Ward was redesignated APD-16 and got underway for the South Pacific on 6 February 1943.

Based at Espirito Santo, in  the New Hebrides, Ward performed a variety of duties (antisubmarine patrols, escort duties, and transport service) while she worked up as a high speed transport. Soon after completing a run to the Russell Islands, Ward neared Tulagi on the afternoon of 7 April 1943, as Japanese aircraft swept overhead in Adm.l Yamamoto Isoroku’s last planned Operation “I,” the air strike designed to cripple American seapower in the Solomons in the wake of Japan’s evacuation from Guadalcanal.

At 1510, Ward went to general quarters and opened fire, charging out of the harbor. In the confused melee of gunfire, the ship helped splash two Japanese planes. When the final score was tallied on the American side, the Navy had lost the destroyer Aaron Ward (DD-483) and oiler Kanawha (AO-1), while the cargo ship Adhara (AK-71) and oiler Tappahannock (AO-43) had suffered damage.

The following day, Ward headed for Espiritu Santo, as escort for five merchantmen and in company with destroyers Taylor (DD-468), Farenholt (DD-491), and Sterett (DD-407), and arrived there on 10 April 1943. The high speed transport then underwent a tender overhaul through the 17th. She then embarked men of the Fourth Marine Battalion, First Marine Raider Regiment, for a practice landing at Powell Point, New Hebrides, and for night landing exercises. Upon the conclusion of these maneuvers, she reembarked troops and conducted antisubmarine screening.

Continuing her escort and transport operations into June 1943, Ward helped to beat off a Japanese air attack in the Guadalcanal area on the 16th, her gunners claiming four attacking aircraft. Seven days later, on 23 June, Ward steamed in the screen of a convoy on escort duty. On that day, Japanese submarine RO-103, commanded by Lt. Ichimura Rikinosuke, slipped past the screen and torpedoed and sank the cargo ships Aludra (AK-72) and Deimos (AK-78), which proved to be Ichimura’s only “kills” of the war.

Ward arrived at Milne Bay, New Guinea, on 17 December 1943 for duty with Task Force (TF) 76. She engaged in practice exercises off Cape Sudest, British New Guinea, with Companies “I” and “L” of the Third Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment, from 22 to 23 December. On the 24th, she embarked 140 officers and men of Companies “I” and “M” of the Third Battalion, Seventh Regiment, and set out for Cape Gloucester, New Britain, as part of TU 76.1.21 with the eight-ship formation in double column order.

The group approached the landing area on the 26th, in a single column and at a speed of five knots. At 0600, a cruiser bombardment heralded the Americans’ approach; and Ward disembarked her marines at 0653, launching her Higgins boats off beach “Yellow One” and then retiring to wait the return of her brood. Army heavy bombers droned over enemy positions at 0705, and Army medium bombers then commenced both bombing and strafing enemy defenses some 19 minutes later. Ward’s boats returned by 0845; and, an hour later, the ship got underway for Buna, British New Guinea. After what her war diary termed an “uneventful return trip,” Ward dropped anchor off Buna at 2259 on 26 December.

Two days later, at 1140, Ward embarked 200 officers and men of Company “B,” First Battalion, Fifth Marines, bound for Cape Gloucester as a part of TU 76.1.21. Underway at 1427, the ship went to general quarters at 1933 as numerous planes were reported in the vicinity. However, none came near; and the ship stood down from quarters at 2018 that night.

The following day, 29 December 1943, Ward and her sister high speed transports approached the landing area at 15 knots and disembarked marines at 0655, standing put to await the return of her boats. During the landings, Army medium bombers pounded the airfield and other targets of opportunity while the destroyer transports stood out to sea to recover landing craft later. All Ward’s boats had returned by 0815, and all the other transports except Noa (APD-24) had recovered theirs by 0900. Soon thereafter, the warships returned to Buna.

Operating as part of Transport Division 22, Ward got underway at 0601 on 1 January 1944 for Cape Sudest. That afternoon, she joined up with the Western Assault Group bound for Saidor, New Guinea, and got underway for British New Guinea. At 0615 the following day, Ward approached the transport area, while escorting destroyers opened fire on beach targets and enemy defenses 30 minutes later. Disembarking Company “L,” 126th Army Infantry Regiment, 32nd Division, Ward stood by off shore. Destroyer bombardment ceased at 0717; and, one minute later, the landing craft approaching the beach strafed the beach-front jungle with machine guns and automatic weapons fire. Those off shore in Ward were unable to see the actual landing due to the heavy pall of smoke and dust caused by the bombardment.

After returning from the Cape Sudest landings to Buna, Ward conducted local operations out of Espiritu Santo into February 1944. She then carried out practice landing exercises with embarked Marines and New Zealand troops off Juno River, Vella Lavella, Solomon Islands, before getting underway late on 14 February to take part in the Nissan Island landings.

Screened by Fullam (DD-474), Halford (DD-480), in which Commander, Task Unit (CTU) 31.1.4 rode, Guest (DD-472), Hudson (DD-475), and Bennett (DD-473), Ward arrived in the vicinity of Nissan Island as several enemy aircraft were reported flying nearby. Approaching the transport area at 0512, she disembarked her landing craft at beach “Blue One” and soon noted Japanese aircraft attacking LCI and LST formations. During the melee, Ward counted six Japanese aircraft, but friendly fighters took care of the enemy formations, downing two, while “heavy and moderately accurate” gunfire from the surface ships below helped to drive away the others. Ashore, the troops encountered no opposition and soon took their objective. Ward, her job completed, headed for the Russell Islands to embark men of the 33rd Navy Construction Battalion on the 20th for passage to Nissan Island.

Upon landing her embarked Seabees on “Beach Red,” Ward patrolled offshore, screening a dozen LST’s as they got underway for Guadalcanal, before she headed for Espiritu Santo to dock in ARD-5 to repair sound gear damaged during the second phase of the ship’s Nissan Island operations.

The following month, the durable high speed transport took part in the landings at Emirau Island, with Company “B,”  First Battalion, Fourth Marines, embarked. She disembarked 208 men and 22 tons of stores in four hours and subsequently joined the antisubmarine screen protecting the still-unloading transports and dock landing ships. Refuelling soon thereafter en route to Purvis Bay, Ward anchored at her destination on 23 February to undergo a needed upkeep period for the remainder of the month.

Conducting practice landings at Cape Cretin, with officers and men of the 163rd Army Regimental Combat Team in early April 1944, Ward embarked these troops for transportation to Aitape, New Guinea, and got underway at 1617 on 18 April with TG 77.1. Going to general quarters at 0430 on 22 April, the transport lay to at 0537 off the landing area and, after disembarking her troops, proceeded to a fire support station off Tumleo Island. For one-half hour, Ward conducted a shore bombardment with her 3-inch battery before shifting gunfire to what initially appeared to be a beached Japanese landing craft, but which later investigation proved to be a small reef.

Subsequently screening off the transport area, Ward transferred a wounded man from a landing craft to Kilty (APD-15) for evacuation and medical treatment. After picking up her landing boats, Ward later escorted reinforcements to Aitape on the 22nd. The following day saw a continuation of her troop-carrying and fire-support duties, as her boats embarked troops from the attack transport Ormsby (APA-49) to transport them to the beach, while Ward’s 3-inch gunfire again aided the troops ashore.

Shifting to Cape Cretin on the 25th and to Buna on the 26th, Ward conducted antisubmarine screening duties with transports headed to Saidor, New Guinea, before returning to Aitape. She screened and patrolled near the unloading transports and, after refuelling, escorted Henry T. Allen (AP-30) and Australian transports Kanimbla, Manoora, and Westralia to Humboldt Bay where they unloaded their embarked troops. Steaming back to Cape Sudest and Cape Cretin, Ward provisioned ship on 10 May 1944 and underwent a tender overhaul alongside Dobbin (AD-3) at Port Harvey, British New Guinea, on the 14th. Subsequently returning to Humboldt Bay in company with Herbert (APD-22), Ward anchored at Humboldt Bay on 24 May and embarked troops of the Army 186th Infantry Regiment for transport to Bosnik, Biak Island, in the Schoetens. The operation, commencing on the 27th, went off without a hitch; and all troops landed without opposition on the beaches. Forming up in open column order, Ward and her sister high speed transports sailed for Hollandia and Humboldt Bay.

Ward conducted routine antisubmarine patrol operations off Humboldt Bay and in the New Guinea area into late June. She underwent a tender overhaul with Dobbin at Manus, in the Admiralties, from 24 June to 4 July 1944, before proceeding to Cape Cretin where she exchanged her landing boats with those from Schley (APD-14). Sailing later for Milne Bay, the ship conducted local transport duties in the New Guinea area through July. Ward subsequently served as picket ship and navigational guide for a Humboldt Bay-to-Maffin Bay convoy, in local New Guinean waters, before conducting a practice landing east of Toem, New Guinea.

Embarking troops of Companies “E” and “F” of the First Army Infantry Regiment, Sixth Division, as well as a combat photographic unit and three Australian war correspondents, Ward got underway on 27 July 1944 for Cape Sansapor. She arrived at the transport area off Warsai at 0626 on the 30th and immediately commenced disembarkation. The first wave of troops to land encountered no opposition, and the ships returned to Humboldt Bay.

During August 1944, Ward conducted local transport operations and then sailed to Australia for an overhaul. En route, on the morning of 9 August, heavy seas ripped a 3-inch ready-use locker from the deck forward and tore a small hole in the main deck. After completing temporary repairs later that day, Ward arrived at Port Jackson, Sydney, on the 12th and remained there for ten days. While steaming for Milne Bay, the ship and her companions, Herbert, Schley, Crosby, and Kilty, reduced speed to five knots due to an emergency appendectomy being performed in Schley but eventually resumed their normal speed and made Milne Bay at 0800 on 27 August.

Ward conducted transport and practice landing exercises early in September 1944 before getting underway on 10 September for Morotai, as part of TU 77.3.2. She landed six officers and 151 enlisted men from Company “A,” 124th Infantry Regiment, 31st Division, 6th Army, United States Army, and then recovered all of her landing craft and screened a flotilla of infantry landing craft (LCI) before commencing antisubmarine patrol.

The high speed transport anchored off Cape Sanrapor on the 16th and, three days later, got underway for Humboldt Bay as part of the screen for LCI Flotilla 8. At 1143 that day, she observed an USAAF Lockheed P-38 Lightning crash and sent a landing boat to rescue the pilot, 1st Lt. Edgar B. Scott. Ward arrived at Humboldt Bay at 0512 on the 22nd and immediately commenced repairs alongside Dobbin to correct a defective reduction gear.

With that work completed by 1 October 1944, Ward shifted to Cape Cretin where she loaded stores, ammunition, and seven officers and 140 enlisted men of the Companies “E” and “F” of the Sixth [U.S.] Army Ranger Battalion for transportation to the Philippines. She got underway on the 12th with British minelayer-transport HMS Ariadne as fleet guide; proceeded via Humboldt Bay; and, as they approached Dinagat Island on the 17th, went to general quarters at 0558, when a Japanese aircraft dropped a white flare, which vividly outlined every ship in the formation in the ghostly white glare. Commencing evasive action, the high speed transport headed for the troop disembarkation points while  destroyerLang (DD-399) and frigate Bisbee (PF-46) commenced shore bombardment.

Once they had been launched, the boats encountered difficulties. High winds and seas and dangerous coral reefs all presented obstacles for their crews, as there was no lee behind which to lie and the winds blew directly towards the beach. After landing, all boats from Ward returned to Ariadne to embark troops, while Schley’s boats came alongside to be filled with Ranger Company “F” from Ward. Meanwhile, Ward was having difficulty remaining in the swept channel, as strong tidal currents, with high winds and seas, frequently almost caused the ship to drag anchor.

All but one of Ward’s boats then became stranded on the beach. One of these three was pulled off by boats from Schley; but the others remained there overnight. The fourth of Ward’s boat group, unable to get back to her own ship, was hoisted on board Schley before night retirement; and Schley’s boat, which had helped to refloat one of Ward’s boats, was taken on board Ward. Returning to the troop transport area the next morning, Ward continued unloading supplies for Army rangers. While engaged in this task, the ship sighted two Japanese Aichi D3A Type 99 carrier bombers [Val] coming over the hills of Dinagat Island. The ship quickly went to general quarters and commenced firing. One plane made a strafing run on the transports but was driven off, while the second remained at 3,000 feet and, upon seeing his comrade’s failure, soon withdrew without making an attack.

While proceeding to Kossol Roads, in the Palaus, tragedy struck Ward when a lifeline gave way, and two men fell overboard. Turning to starboard, Ward heeled about to make the rescue, as men on deck threw life jackets to the men in the water. Herbert, steaming in company, drew near, and one of her men dove over the side and rescued one of the Ward sailors. The other Ward bluejacket vanished. As Ward’s war diary noted omninously: “sharks were seen in the vicinity.” Giving up the search at 1645, Ward sailed on, listing the man as “presumed lost.”

While refueling at Kossol Roads, Ward was assigned to join Kilty in escorting three LST’s to the Philippines. Proceeding via Morotai, Ward, her sister ship, and their charges arrived in Leyte Gulf at 0045 on 12 November 1944. The ship went to general quarters at 0454, detached the LST’s which proceeded to Dulag Bay anchorage, and observed antiaircraft fire over San Pedro Bay, as a Japanese air attack swept in upon the invading American fleet.

As yet disengaged, Ward watched as a Japanese plane was hit by antiaircraft fire from an LST and, trailing a column of smoke, plunged into the sea, nearly in the path of the recently detached and now beach-bound LST’s. The retaliatory strikes tapered off for a time; but Ward, in response to a report that 50 to 60 Japanese aircraft were winging their way towards the transport area, returned to general quarters from 0708 to 0750. After an “all clear” sounded, Ward stood down from general quarters but returned to that condition at 1335, as several Japanese aircraft returned to attack American shipping. Intense antiaircraft fire downed two enemy planes almost instantly; two more crashed landing craft repair ships Egeria (ARL-8) and Achilles (ARL-41). That evening, Ward was ordered to escort a convoy to Hollandia, and she left the area.

Returning to San Pedro Bay in a five-column, 15-ship convoy on 28 November 1944, Ward remained at anchor on the 29th and 30th of the month in Leyte Gulf preparing to take part in the scheduled landings at Mindoro. Although there were numerous air raid alerts signalled, Ward’s log records that she saw no enemy planes.

Continual air raid alerts during this period made life difficult for men of the Fleet engaged in the landing operations, with nearly round-the-clock watches. Ward embarked four officers and 104 enlisted men of the Army’s 77th Division on 6 December and sortied for Ormoc Bay, Leyte Island, at 1237 with TG 78.3 (Rear Adm. Arthur D. Struble). Since enemy aircraft had been reported in the area, Ward went to general quarters while en route to Ormoc Bay.

At 0153, the ship observed a large group of flares west of Himuquitan Island on the west coast of Leyte. At 0445, they sighted another flare, ahead of the convoy. Antiaircraft fire criss-crossed the sky as what appeared to be a Japanese floatplane passed down the starboard side of the group and emerged unscathed despite heavy fire. More flares which were dropped around the convoy just before sunrise pointed to the possibility of an attack, but no Japanese planes came over. At 0630, the escorting destroyers left the screen to commence shore bombardment; and, 12 minutes later, Ward began disembarking her troops for the beach into her LCP(R)’s.

On screening patrol between Pomson Island and Leyte from 0825, Ward sighted a formation of what observers identified as nine twin-engined Mitsubishi G4M Type 1 land attack planes [Betty] coming in from the north over Leyte at an altitude between 4,000 and 5,000 feet. Commencing high-speed evasive maneuvers, the ship went into action with guns blazing but did not score any observable hits. Shortly before 1000, Mahan (DD-364) came under attack from another group of planes; and Ward’s lookouts noted that the unfortunate destroyer was emitting large quantities of grey and black smoke.

Ward now came under a concentrated attack by Bettys and Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusas [Oscar], and both Mahan and the high speed transport fought for their lives against the onslaught. Army Air Force P-38s and Curtiss P-40s streaked over to intercept the attackers and engaged the Japanese over the unfortunate Mahan. The formation of nine Bettys, again flying over the destroyer, soon broke, as three headed for Ward in a loose vee formation. Ward’s gunners opened fire with 3-inch and 20-millimeter batteries, hitting the center plane that wavered and crashed the ship at the waterline at 0956, entering the forward part of the boiler room and the after part of the lower troop space. One of the plane’s two engines continued on through the ship, exiting at the waterline on the starboard side. An instant later, a Betty passed low over Ward’s forecastle, strafing the ship en route, and plunged into the water 200 yards off the starboard bow, slapped into the sea by Ward’s gunfire.

The third attacker which had singled the transport out also joined her partners, splashing 600 yards off the starboard quarter. In the meantime, the bomber which had crashed the ship had blown up, starting uncontrollable fires in the troop spaces, fortunately unoccupied at the time, and in the fireroom. Boiler fires flared back and the forced draft blower, dislodged from its mounting, fell into the fireroom.

Ceasing fire at 0957, all hands started to fight the fires as the air attack abruptly ended. In the distance, Mahan, too, burned fiercely, the victim of a heavy and devastating attack. Men in the forward part of Ward could not contact those in the aft, since the fires amidships had severed all communications. Thick smoke boiled out of the mortal wound in the high speed transport amidships.

Several minutes after the explosion, water pressure dropped to below 100 pounds, making it nearly impossible to train water on the fires to attempt to put them out. The ship soon lost way as the fire amidships burned fiercely. The thick smoke boiling from the damaged troopspace and fireroom area made the suction hoses for the gasoline-driyen handy billies as well as asbestos suit stowage, located amidships, inaccessible. In an effort to dissipate the smoke, the awning over the well-deck was cut away. This reduced the density of the smoke but did not make the area amidships any more accessible. Two boats were lowered in an attempt to fight the fires through the holes in the hull made by the entrance and exit of the Betty on its death run. The handy billies carried in the LCP(R)’s unfortunately proved inadequate to deal with the raging gasoline-fed fires.

At 1015, O’Brien (DD-725), Saunter (AM-295), Scout (AM-296), and Crosby stood towards Ward. Scout and Crosby lowered boats to pick up survivors. In the meantime, with main communications systems out of commission, a report was made via battery-powered radio to the other ships.  Lt. Raymond F. Farwell, Jr.,USNR, Ward’s commanding officer, announced the intention of abandoning if the fires could not be brought under control. O’Brien, commanded by Lt. Cmdr. Outerbridge, the same man who had commanded Ward during her historic encounter with the Japanese midget submarine three years to the day before, moved close aboard to port and commenced fire fighting operations 1018.

By this time, however, fires raged in the troop spaces, igniting both fuel tanks and the diesel oil storage; the fireroom filled with black smoke, and it proved impossible to regain steam pressure to get underway. Flames rose and extended along the main deck in the vicinity of the 20-millimeter ready use ammunition lockers. The danger posed by the explosion of fuel tanks, ready-use ammunition and magazines, at 1024 caused Farwell to order “abandon ship,” less than one-half hour after the Japanese plane had crashed into the ship. Almost miraculously, only one man had been injured, and all hands left the ship to board other vessels.

Saunter joined O’Brien in trying to put out the blaze, but the fire defied all attempts to extinguish it. Commander, TG 78.3, ordered O’Brien to sink the blazing high speed transport with gunfire. Accordingly, the ships stood away, and O’Brien commenced firing. From the bridge of O’Brien, Lt. Cmdr. Outerbridge watched as that destroyer’s guns sank Ward, his first sea command. Years later, he recalled that there was little emotion involved in the task: “it just was somehing that had to be done.” Ward sank at 1130 on 7 December 1944, in Ormoc Bay between Poro Island and Apali Point. Her name was stricken from the Navy Register on 20 January 1945.

Ward received one battle star for World War II service as a destroyer and eight as a high speed transport.

A Tin Can Sailors Destroyer History


The Tin Can Sailor, January 1992

From the Collection of Robert A. Varrill
Submitted by member William G. Parker

Commander James Harmon Ward was the first officer of the US Navy to be killed in action in the Civil War.

The keel for the USS WARD (DD-139) went down at 0730 on 15 May 1918 at the Mare Island Navy Yard. Seventeen and one half days later and 84% completed, WARD slid down the ways at 2030 on 1 June. She was christened by 11 year old Dorothy Hall Ward, great-granddaughter of Commander Ward. The launching date cut 9 1/2 days off the world’s record. Seventy days later, USS WARD was commissioned.

Clearing the yard on 2 December 1918, WARD became the flagship of Destroyer Division 18. In May 1919 she formed one of the links of the patrol for the Trans-Atlantic flight of the NC-4 flying boats.

In July 1919, WARD spearheaded the movement of the United States Fleet through the Panama Canal to the Pacific. Upon arrival in the Pacific, the destroyer division made calls at Acapulco, San Diego, San Pedro, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, San Francisco, Eureka, Portland and Port Angeles. On 13 September, WARD led the line of destroyers as they passed in review before President Woodrow Wilson in Seattle. Until the latter part of the year, the ship operated in Southern California waters, with San Diego as her base. She then became the nucleus of the destroyer reserve tied up at San Diego. She was placed out of commission on 21 July 1921.

When the emergency preceding the entry of the United States into World War II became acute in 1940, the ship was recommissioned. She was assigned patrol and screening activities for the fleet operating in Hawaiian waters.

“We have attacked, fired upon and dropped depth charges upon submarine operating in defensive sea area.” With this terse message, Lieutenant Commander W.W. Outerbridge, Commanding Officer of USS WARD, signaled the beginning of the United Sta rtes participation in World War II. USS WARD sighted and sank a midget Japanese submarine tracking the target ship USS ANTARES off the channel entrance an hour before the first Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor. On 13 December 1942, WARD left the Hawaiian Islands, and proceeded to San Francisco and Seattle, where she entered the Puget Sound Navy Yard on 24 December for conversion to a high speed transport. The conversion work was completed on 6 February 1943, and WARD was redesignated APD 16, high-speed transport. Sent to the southwest Pacific, she operated from the New Hebrides in a variety of jobs performing anti-submarine patrols, escort ty and transport service.

On Christmas Day 1943, WARD got underway as a part of Task Unit 76, 1.21 to take part in the landing operations on Cape Gloucester, New Britain. Coming second in the single column of APD’S, WARD disembarked four companies of Marines and stood off for two hours awaiting the return of her boats. All returned safely and WARD returned to Buna, British New Guinea for another load. There, combat troops were also delivered with no casualties to the ship’s boats, and WARD wound up the year 1943 by conducting landing exercises with Company 1, 126th Regiment, US Army.

On 2 January 1944, WARD landed Company I near Saui Point, British New Guinea. On 20 February the ship participated in landings on Nissan Island. After this operation she put into ARD 5 for repair to propellers and her sound gear which had been damaged by collision with a submerged object.

A month after the Nissan landings, WARD hit Emirau Island. After disembarking a company of Marines and 22 tons of stores in four hours, the ship joined the anti-submarine screen protecting the attack transports and LSD’S.

On 22 April, WARD was in the thick of it again, landing troops on Aitape, British New Guinea. After disembarking her troops, she joined the fire support group and later the anti-submarine screen. Then rendezvousing with Task Unit 77.4.3, WARD escorted the reinforcements to Tumelo Island, reaching the transport area on 23 April. She then joined the fire support ship until the transports got underway, when she again served in the screen for Task Unit 77.4.3.

WARD drew an anti-submarine screening task in the next operation, transporting troops to Saidor, British New Guinea on 29 April 1944. She patrolled during the entire operation without incident. On 3 May she screened off Aitape.

Again, during the Humboldt Bay, Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea operations, WARD successfully patrolled in an anti-sub screen while the transports unloaded. On 27 May WARD participated in the Bosnik, Biak Island, Schouten Islands invasion, transporting eight army officers and 119 enlisted men.

Her next engagement was at Warsai, Cape Sansapor, Dutch New Guinea. Here she disembarked two infantry companies, combat photographers and war correspondents. On 15 September WARD participated in the landings on Morotai Island, forming an antisubmarine screen after disembarking her troops.

On 17 October, WARD was enroute to Dinagat Island with Task Unit 78.4.1. At 0635 Task Group 77.5 formed up and streamed sweep gear. An hour later Task Unit 78.41 proceeded toward Dinagat in Column formation astern of minesweepers from Task Group 77.5. WARD disembarked troops in four LCP(R)’s in the face of high winds, seas and coral reefs. No lee was present, and the wind blew directly toward the beach. By 1143, the WARD was forced to raise her anchor because the strong tidal current and s eas made r emaining in the swept channel difficult. Boats 1, 2 and 4 were reported stranded on the beach. Boat 1 was finally towed off by boat 3. Boat 1 returned to WARD, while boat 3 was taken aboard USS SCHLEY. Since it seemed impossible to recover the remaining boats, the crews were ordered to stay on the beach. The transports then armed in column astern of MS Ariadne and executed their night retirement plan. The group returned the next morning with troop stores for the beach. A salvage party was sent ashore to recover the two boats, and boat 4 was towed back to the ship in a badly damaged condition. Boat 2 was floated, returning to the ship under its own power with only slight damage. Before dawn the unit formed a column and proceeded to the assigned transport area. At 1102 WARD got underway with SCHLEY to rendezvous with the Northern Attack Force, Task Force 78. Upon rendezvousing, the ship proceeded to Kossol Roads. While holding collision drill enroute on 20 October, WARD lost two men overboard when a top life-line gave away. The man overboard detail was called away immediately. One man was rescued, but the other was observed to sink in the shark-infested waters and was not seen again. After an hour the missing man was presumed lost and the ship proceeded to Kossol Roads. During the next day, WARD received superficial damage on the port side as a result of scraping the starboard side of the tanker USS CHEPT when pulled in by the screw current and beset adversely by wind and sea while fueling.

After escorting Task Group 78.6 to Humboldt Bay, WARD anchored in the bay where, on 28 October 1944, Lieutenant Richard E. Farwell relieved Lieutenant Commander F.W. Lemly as commanding officer. Lieutenant Farwell had served with USS WARD since 29 October 1941, having previously served as the ship’s executive officer.

WARD’s biggest and final action was the Leyte and Ormoco Bay landings. She arrived in Leyte Gulf on 12 November 1944, conveying LST’S. Air attacks were the heaviest yet suffered by the WARD, but she remained unscathed throughout the day, and was ordered to escort a convoy to Hollandia that evening.

On 28 November she arrived back in Leyte Gulf and anchored in San Pedro Bay. Here she remained until 6 December when she was ordered to Tarraguna, Leyte Island to board officers and men of the 77th division, US Army. After embarking the 104 men and 4 officers, WARD anchored in Leyte Gulf north of Point Taytay, Leyte Island. At noon she got underway to Ormoc Bay, Leyte Island.

Flares were dropped all around the Convoy to which WARD was attached before sunrise 7 December. However, no Japanese planes attacked. At 0630 destroyers in the screen left the formation and commenced bombardment in the vicinity of the landing beach. At 0712, the beaches were bombarded by rockets. WARD then assumed a picket patrol station between Pomson Island and the nearest point on Leyte at 0825.

Nine Japanese twin-engined bombers were sighted coming in from the north over Leyte at 0940. WARD commenced high-speed evasive maneuvers and opened fire with all her guns. No hits were observed, and no bombs were dropped. Other enemy aircraft were seen attacking the destroyer USS MAHAN at this time, and she evidently suffered a hit.

Army fighter planes including two or three P-40’s and three or four P-38’s streaked overhead to the West. Several Jap fighter planes were then observed coming in over USS MAHAN from the Camotes Sea. United States fighters immediately engaged the enemy planes.

The formation of nine Jap planes was seen once more flying over USS MAHAN pursued by friendly fighters. Presently three bombers from the Japanese formation broke off and headed in the direction of WARD. They were now 4000 to 5000 yards distant, and came in on a slight glide in close formation.

At least one Army pursuit plane attempted to intercept the attackers and all the ships opened fire. The middle plane was hit repeatedly and the others probably sustained some damage. At 0956 one of the bombers struck the ship just above the waterline on the portside, entering the forward part of the boiler room and the after part of the lower troop space. One of the plane’s engines passed completely through the ship, coming out at the waterline on the starboard side.

An instant later, another bomber passed low over the forecastle while strafing and crashed in the water about 200 yards off the starboard bow. The third bomber crashed in the sea about 600 yards off the starboard quarter. After the first bomber penetrated the hull, it exploded, started fires in the troop spaces and fireroom.

The assistant engineer, who was in the fireroom at the time of the explosion, reported that the boiler fires flared back and the force draft blower was dislodged from its mounting, falling into the fireroom. At 0957 the order was given to cease firing and all hands tried to extinguish the flames. The after part of the ship was completely isolated by flames and smoke emitting from the lower troop spaces and the fireroom. The inter- communication system was disrupted except for the JP circuit.

Several minutes after the explosion, the steam pressure, having dropped continuously, registered below 100 pounds, and the ship commenced to loose headway. No water was available in the fire mains. The leading gunner’s mate on the forecastle went below and turned on the magazine valve, but it is believed that no water entered the magazines.

Suction hoses, rescue breathing apparatus and asbestos suits were all stored in the portion of the ship cut off by fire. An effort was made to dissipate the smoke by cutting away the canvas awning covering the well deck. While partly successful, this did not make the rest of the ship accessible.

At 1005 boats 1 and 2 were lowered to fight the fire through the holes in the hull. Unfortunately, the handybillies which were available could not be kept running for any length of time. At 1015, USS O’BRIEN, SAUNDERS, SCOUT and CROSBY stood in toward the stricken WARD. USS CROSBY and SCOUT lowered boats to assist in picking up survivors.

A report was made to Commander Task Group 78.3 by battery powered radio, all electrical power having been lost, stating the predicament of the ship and the intention to abandon ship if the fires could not be brought under control. At 1018 O’BRIEN came close aboard on the portside and commenced fire fighting operations. By this time the fire was raging in the troop spaces, and both fuel tanks and the diesel oil tanks had apparently ignited.

The fireroom was filled with black smoke and it was impossible to regain steam pressure. Flames were rising from the troop spaces and spreading along the main deck in the vicinity of the 20 mm ready ammunition.

Because of the danger of explosion from the ready ammunition, the fuel tanks and magazines, all hands were ordered to abandon ship at 1024.

Depth charges were locked on safe. Ready ammunition in the vicinity of the guns was thrown overboard, and secret and confidential publications on the bridge and in the radio shack were either removed and preserved, or were thrown over the side. All hands were saved and only one man was seriously injured.

O’BRIEN and SAUNDERS came alongside and made strenuous efforts to fight the fires. After it became evident that the ship could not be saved, Commander Task Group 78.3 ordered USS O’BRIEN to sink her.

WARD sank at 1130 7 December 1944, three years to the day after firing the first shot of World War II and 26 1/2 years after her first commissioning.

USS WARD received 9 battle stars for her wartime service in the Pacific.