R/V Petrel Explores Wreck of USS Ward; Fired First American Shot of WWII

On December 1, 2017, the expedition crew of Paul Allen’s Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel sent its Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to explore and document the remains of the USS Ward.

The USS Ward, a Wickes-class destroyer serving the U.S. Navy, had been patrolling the Pearl Harbor entrance on the morning of December 7, 1941, when the Officer-of-the-Deck spotted an 80-foot-long, midget submarine, trailing the USS Antares into the harbor. The USS Ward accelerated to bear down on the submarine. Just three minutes after first sight of the submarine, the USS Ward fired the first American shot in World War II.

“We have attacked, fired upon, and dropped depth charges on a [Japanese] submarine operating in defensive sea areas,” Lieutenant William Outerbridge reported briskly into the dispatch to the Commandant of the Fourteenth Naval District in Pearl Harbor.

It was 6:45 a.m. on Sunday, December 7, 1941 – “A date which will live in infamy.

The second shot successfully struck and sank the Japanese midget submarine. It was a small win, among thousands lost on a tragic day for the U.S.

Many of the brave crew members of the USS Ward remained on board the ship to serve throughout World War II.

On December 7, 1944, three years to the day of the Pearl Harbor attack, the USS Ward was lost after being struck by a kamikaze. She had been patrolling Ormoc Bay, Leyte serving as a high-speed transport for troops. A direct hit to her hull caused fires that could not be contained, and the crew was ordered to abandon ship. The USS Ward was sunk by gunfire from the USS O’Brien, whose commanding officer, LT William Outerbridge, had been in command of the Ward during her action off Pearl Harbor three years earlier.

While the wreck rests at the bottom of Ormoc Bay, the USS Ward’s historical significance will not be forgotten. It has been 76 years since she fired that first shot, and in memory of the thousands of people lost in the attack on Pearl Harbor, the USS Ward can be honored once more.

For media information and assets on the USS Ward expedition, click here >>

R/V Petrel is a 250-foot research and exploration vessel purchased in 2016 by Mr. Allen. R/V Petrel’s advanced underwater equipment and technology makes it one of the few ships in the world capable of exploring to 6,000 meters deep (more than 3.5 miles). Following a 2017 retrofit, R/V Petrel and its crew use state-of-the-art underwater technology for deep-sea search and exploration expeditions.

“The Petrel and its capabilities, the technology it has and the research we’ve done, are the culmination of years of dedication and hard work,” said Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Mr. Allen. “We’ve assembled and integrated this technology, assets and unique capability into an operating platform which is now one among very few on the planet.”

Allen-led expeditions have also resulted in the discovery of the USS Indianapolis (August 2017), Japanese battleship Musashi (March 2015) and the Italian WWII destroyer Artigliere (March 2017). His team was also responsible for retrieving and restoring the ship’s bell from the HMS Hood for presentation to the British Navy in honor of its heroic service. Mr. Allen’s expedition team and R/V Petrel are dedicated to continuing exploration, marine archaeology and oceanographic research.

On Pearl Harbor Day, Paul Allen and the expedition crew aboard the R/V Petrel are honoring the USS Ward, its crew members and those lost in the attack at Pearl Harbor. His continuing expeditions honor all who served our country and contributed to our history.

USS Ward - U.S Navy Photo
Multibeam sonar image of USS Ward wreckage
USS Ward Bow
USS Ward wheelhouse
China on the USS Ward wreck
A gun on the deck of the USS Ward