skip to content
Primary navigation


USS Ward Gun

Soldiers standing around the USS Ward Gun while in serviceDedication: 1958

Location: On the west side of the Veterans Service Building.

Description: A naval 4 /50 gun that was mounted atop the USS Ward's midships deckhouse, on the starboard side. On December 7, 1941, the gun was manned by St. Paul reservists on the U.S.S. Ward. A Japanese Midget Submarine was fired upon and subsequently sank. This was the first shot by Americans at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, hours before the attack on Hawaii. The gun displayed is the actual gun and not a replica.

Action Report for Dec. 7, 1941, USS Ward

History of the USS Ward (from

USS Ward, a 1247-ton Wickes class destroyer, was built at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California. Under the pressure of urgent First World War needs for destroyers, her construction was pushed rapidly from keel-laying on 15 May 1918 to launching on 1 June and commissioning on 24 July 1918. Ward transferred to the Atlantic late in the year and helped support the trans-Atlantic flight of the NC flying boats in May 1919. She came back to the Pacific a few months later and remained there until she was decommissioned in July 1921. She had received the hull number DD-139 in July 1920.

The outbreak of World War II in Europe brought Ward back into active service. She recommissioned in January 1941. Sent to Pearl Harbor shortly thereafter, the destroyer operated on local patrol duties in Hawaiian waters over the next year. On the morning of 7 December 1941, Ward was conducting a precautionary patrol off the entrance to Pearl Harbor when she encountered a Japanese Midget Submarine, attacked and sank it, thus firing the first shots of the Pacific War a few hours before Japanese carrier aircraft formally opened the conflict with their attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet inside the harbor.

In 1942, Ward was sent to the west coast for conversion to a high speed transport. Redesignated APD-16 in February 1943, she steamed to the South Pacific to operate with U.S. forces in the Solomon Islands area. She helped fight off a heavy Japanese air attack off Tulagi on 7 April 1943 and spent most of the rest of that year on escort and transport service. In December, she participated in the Cape Gloucester invasion. During the first nine months of 1944, Ward continued her escort and patrol work and also took part in several Southwest Pacific amphibious landings, among them the assaults on Saidor, Nissan Island, Emirau, Aitape, Biak, Cape Sansapor and Morotai.

As the Pacific War moved closer to Japan, Ward was assigned to assist with operations to recover the Philippine Islands. On 17 October 1944, she put troops ashore on Dinagat Island during the opening phase of the Leyte invasion. After spending the rest of October and November escorting ships to and from Leyte, in early December Ward transported Army personnel during the landings at Ormoc Bay, Leyte. On the morning of 7 December 1944, three years to the day after her Number Three Gun fired the opening shot of the War, she was patrolling off the invasion area when she came under attack by several Japanese aircraft. One bomber made a suicide crash into her hull amidships, bringing the ship to a stop. When the resulting fires could not be controlled, Ward's crew was ordered to abandon ship and she was sunk by gunfire from USS O'Brien (DD-725), whose Commanding Officer, William W. Outerbridge, had been in command of Ward during her action off Pearl Harbor three years before.

USS Ward was named in honor of Commander James H. Ward, USN, (1806-1861), the first U.S. Navy officer to be killed in action during the Civil War.

back to top