The surprise Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941, is already etched in history whenever we talk about World War II. USS James H. Ward was one of many warships used during the war. But, there was something special about USS Ward that cemented its early popularity and its place in naval history – it fired the first shots of the United States in WWII during the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7th, 1941.

USS Ward: Defender of Pearl Harbor

The destroyer was a “Four Stacker” Destroyer hastily built for World War I at the Mare Island Navy Yard, in California. She also worked to support the trans-Atlantic flight of the NC flying boats in May 1919. The year after, she was designated the hull number DD-139.  After the war, she went into mothballs until she was recommissioned some 20 years later with the outbreak the WWII in Europe in 1939.  Obsolete in comparison to more modern destroyers in the US Navy she arrived at Pearl Harbor in 1941.


Photo from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island. This was shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor began. (Imperial Japanese Navy, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)