Wreckage found on seafloor of the Philippines

A shot for posterity, the USS Ward’s number three gun and its crew cited for firing the first shot the day of Japan’s raid on Hawaii. Operating as part of the inshore patrol early in the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, this destroyer group spotted a submarine outside Pearl Harbor, opened fire and sank it. Photo courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command

USS Ward: WWII first shot of the Pacific

Anna General

Managing Editor, Ho’okele Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

Paul G. Allen Group

With the advancement of technology, the exploration of underwater wreckage has become an easier task for divers and expedition crews to discover secrets hidden on the ocean floor.

As Hawaii honors the 76th anniversary of the National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Commemoration on Dec. 7, Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen’s expedition crew of Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel released video footage of the wreckage of the USS Ward (Destroyer No. 139) in its final resting place at the bottom of Ormoc Bay in the Philippines, Dec. 1.

According to the Paul G. Allen Group, the R/V Petrel is a 250-foot research and exploration vessel purchased in 2016 by Allen. Petrel’s advanced underwater equipment and technology makes it one of the few ships on the planet capable of exploring 6,000 meters deep.

“We are grateful to Mr. Allen and his entire team for the dedicated efforts to search for and provide evidence of the nations’ and the Navy’s rich maritime heritage of courage, valor and determination,” said Adm. Scott Swift, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

On Dec. 7, 1941, about an hour before the attack on Pearl Harbor, USS Ward and its crew sighted and sank a Japanese midget submarine which was one of five top secret Japanese vessels each armed with torpedoes that intended to penetrate the harbor under cover of darkness before the attack began.

Three years later on Dec. 7, 1944, the USS Ward was lost after coming under attack by a kamikaze. The ship served as a high-speed transport for troops, patrolling Ormoc Bay off the island of Leyte in the Philippines. It took a direct hit at the ships waterline causing fires that could not be extinguished, resulting in the crew ordered to abandon ship.

The USS O’Brien immediately came to assist. Lt. Cmdr. William Outerbridge, O’Brien’s commanding officer had been in command of the USS Ward during the attack on Pearl Harbor three years earlier. Fortunately, only one USS Ward crew member was injured during the day’s events.

“The USS Ward found herself in the crucible of American history — at the intersection of a peacetime Navy and war footing. She took decisive, effective and unflinching action despite the uncertain waters. Now 76 years on, her example informs our naval posture,” Swift said.

To learn more about USS Ward’s history, visit the Naval History and Heritage Command at www.history.navy.mil.

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Category: News