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Hull Number: DD-260

Launch Date: 05/29/2019

Commissioned Date: 09/03/2019

Decommissioned Date: 10/15/1945

Other Designations: AVD-12





Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (Published 1980)

Born on 25 September 1806, at Hartford, Conn., James Harmon Ward 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 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, Conn.

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 comand 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 engineering, 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., 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, Comdr. 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.


Stricken 11/1/1945. Sold 1/29/1946

USS GILLIS DD-260 Ship History

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (Published 1968)

Gillis (DD-260) was launched 29 May 1919 by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., Quincy, MA; sponsored by Miss Helen Irvine Murray, granddaughter of Admiral Gillis; and Mrs. Josephine T. Smith, niece of Commodore Gillis; commissioned 3 September 1919, Lt. Comdr. Webb Trammell in command.

Gillis sailed from Newport, RI, 17 December 1919 and moored at San Diego 20 January 1920. She joined the Pacific Fleet Destroyer Force in tactics and maneuvers along the West Coast until decommissioned at San Diego 26 May 1922. Recommissioned in ordinary 28 June 1940, she was reclassified 2 August as seaplane tender destroyer AVD-12. Following conversion she was placed in full commission at San Francisco, 25 March 1941.

Gillis was assigned as tender to Patrol Wing 4, Aircraft Scouting Force, US Pacific Fleet. In the following months she performed plane guard patrol between San Diego and Seattle with time out for aircraft tending duties at Sitka, Alaska (14-17 June); Dutch Harbor and Kodiak (15-31 July). After overhaul in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard she returned to Kodiak 16 October 1941 to resume tending of amphibious patrol planes in Alaskan waters. She was serving at Kodiak when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and returned to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard 9 February 1942 for overhaul.

Gillis resumed tender duties at Kodiak 26 May 1942. She was stationed at Atka (11-13 June) tending amphibious patrol aircraft bombing the Japanese on Kiska Island. On air-sea rescue patrol 6 June 1942, she made three depth charge runs on an underwater sound contact. A Japanese submarine violently broached the surface revealing its conning tower and propeller, then disappeared. Gillis was unable to regain contact. She was credited with damaging this underseas raider in the combat area off Umak Island. She was attacked by three Japanese patrol bombers while at Adak 20 July. One bomb, fortunately a dud, splashed within 10 feet alongside. Other bombs rained about her ahead and astern. She was drenched by water thrown up by the explosions but escaped damage or casualties.

Gillis continued her varied duties as aircraft tender and air-sea rescue patrol ship throughout the Aleutian Campaign. Brief intervals of repair were accomplished in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. She terminated this service 19 April 1944 when she departed Dutch Harbor for overhaul in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. She arrived at San Diego 13 June and spent the following months as plane guard for aircraft carriers training along the California coast. She was then routed on to Pearl Harbor, arriving 8 December 1944. She operated in Hawaiian waters as plane guard for escort carrier Makassar Strait (CVE-91) until 20 February 1945. She then sailed with Rear Admiral M. L. Deyo’s Gunfire and Covering Force, enroute via the Marshalls, Marianas and Ulithi for the Invasion of Okinawa.

Gillis arrived off Kerama Retto 25 March 1945. She guarded minesweepers to the west, then stood by underwater demolition teams clearing approaches to the western beaches of Okinawa. After invasion forces stormed ashore 1 April, she tended observation and patrol planes at Kerama Retto and performed air-sea rescue patrol. On 28 April she departed Okinawa in the screen of Makassar Strait, bound via Guam to San Pedro Bay Philippine Islands. She returned by the same route in the escort screen of Wake Island (CVE-65). That carrier launched planes 29 June to land bases on Okinawa and Gillis helped escort her back to Guam 3 July 1945.

Gillis departed Guam for home 8 July 1945. She arrived at San Pedro, CA, 28 July and decommissioned there 15 October 1945. Her name was struck from the Navy List 1 November 1945 She was sold for scrapping 29 January 1946.

Gillis received two battle stars for service in World War II.