U.S.S. Ward (APD16) c/o Fleet Post Office,
San Francisco, Calif.
16 January 1945
From: The Former Commanding Officer. To: The Commander in Chief, United States Fleet. Via: 1. COmmander Transport Division - 100.
2. Commander Task Unit 78.3.2.
3. Commander Task Group 78.3.
4. Commander Task Force 78.
5. Commander SEVENTH Amphibious Force.
6. Commander SEVENTH Fleet.
Subject: Report of Action -- Ormoc Bay Amphibious Operation, 7 December 1944. Reference: (a) Pac Flt Confidential Ltr. 2C/L-44.
(b) Cominch Rest. Ser. 7152 of 29 October 1943.
NARRATIVE Zone time -- 9
The USS Ward (APD16) departed Leyte Gulf at 1330 6 December 1944 as part of The Ormoc Attack Group, Task Group 78.3, under command of Rear Admiral A.D. STRUBLE (CTG78.3) in the USS Hughes. The mission was to land elements of the 77 Division (Less one RCT), U. S. Army at Ormoc Bay in order to form a "Wedge" between the enemy forces in that area. Ward took station as leader of the starboard column in accordance with ComPhibGroup Nine Op-Plan 5.44. Embarked were 4 officers and 104 enlisted men of the 77 Division, U. S. Army. The trip to Ormoc Bay was uneventful except for the presence of enemy "snoopers" who dropped many flares during the night. The initial landing was accomplished as per plan, the first wave meeting no opposition on the beaches. After recovering her boats the Ward proceeded to her assigned anti-submarine patrol station area "ABLE" between Ponson Island and the Western tip of Leyte Island. The USS Mahan, USS Scout, and USS Saunders were also patrolling in this area. After patrolling a little more than an hour the sighted and fired upon a formation of nine Japanese twin engined bombers which passed overhead. No hits were observed and no bombs released by the aircraft. Shortly thereafter this same formation was observed in the vicinity of the USS Mahan. Numerous Japanese fighter planes were also sighted. The Mahan was attacked and hit, in the meantime US Army P-40's and P-38's were engaging in a dog fight with the Jap fighters and also attacking the bomber formation. The bombers made a wide circle to the right and when the formation was bearing approximately 295° at distance 3 miles P-38's again attacked the formation. At this time three bombers broke away from the formation and commenced a dive towards the Ward. The leading plane appeared to have been hit as it was trailing smoke. The Ward commenced firing at these planes with both 3"50 cal. and 20MM batteries. The 20MM appeared to be hitting but the leading plane continued to close the ship leveling off somewhat just before striking the port side of the Ward in the vicinity of the troopspace and the boilerroom. Serious fires immediately broke out in the Ward, fuel tanks under the troopspace having been ruptured and ignited. All power was lost, making firefighting very difficult. When it became evident that the fires could not be controlled with the available equipment aboard, orders were given to abandon ship because of the danger from unflooded magazines. Four ships in the vicinity came to the aid of the Ward, picking up survivors and attempting to fight the fire. All efforts to save the ship were in vain and orders were received by the USS O'Brien, from the Task Group Commander, to destroy the USS Ward by gunfire. The Ward was sunk by gunfire in 119 fathoms of water at 1130 Item 7 December 1944. Latitude 10°-50'42" N, Longitude 124°-32'30" E. Condition of seas calm; wind direction 300°, force 3; water temperature 84°; clouds altocumulus and altostratus covering approximately 7 tenths of the sky. Visibility excellent.
Chronological Order of Events Zone time -- 9
The USS Ward (APD16) embarked 4 officers and 104 enlisted men of the 77 Division U. S. Army at Tarraguna, Leyte Island P.I. at 1000 6 December 1944 in compliance with CTG 78.3 Secret Dispatch 041839 of December 1944. The troops were immediately exercised in a disembarkation drill and at 1330 the Ward took station as leader of the starboard column in Task Group 78.3 in accordance with ComPhibGroup Nine Op-Plan 5-44 enroute Ormoc Bay, Leyte Island P.I. SOPA and OTC is CTG 78.3 (Rear Admiral A. D. STRUBLE) in USS Hughes. Standard interval 600 yards, standard distance 500 yards, USS Hughes fleet guide. At 1810 the ship was called to general quarters as enemy aircraft were in the vicinity. 1900 secured from general quarters set material condition "Baker", condition of readiness III.
At 0153 on 7 December 1944 a group of flares was observed on the horizon bearing 345°. The ship was called to general quarters with orders to hold fire unless directly attacked. Set material condition "Able". 0200 Observed second group of flares bearing 335°. 0216 Observed third group of flares at 005°. 0230 another group of flares observed bearing 337°. 0315 observed anti-aircraft fire at 290° coming from one of the screening destroyers. 0350 observed flare bearing 010°. The air search radar (SC) aboard the Ward was not able to track these enemy "snoopers" because of the surrounding land masses. 0400 Observed anti-aircraft fire bearing 280°. 0410 Flares sighted bearing 004°. 0420 Sighted flare at 003°. 0445 Sighted flare ot 000°. 0450 An unidentified aircraft passed close aboard down the starboard side of the convoy. Due to low visibility the plane could not be seen but it was assumed to be enemy as no IFF was picked up. The USS Ward did not open fire, nor did any ship in the near vicinity. 0454 Observed anti-aircraft fire bearing 202°. 0515 Observed two flares bearing 050°. 0550 Observed flare bearing 0530°. 0605 Ordered all troops to their respective boat stations and stationed boats crews and boat handling details. 0613 All boats reported manned and ready, all troops at their stations. 0625 Changed course and slowed while approaching APD Transport Area. 0626 Lowered all boats to the rail. 0630 Destroyer bombardment of the landing beaches commenced. 0634 Arrived in APD Transport Area, stopped all engines. Other APD's took station on USS Ward. 0642 Lowered all boats and disembarked the landing force in obedience to verbal orders from CTG 78.3. All boats rendezvoused 200 yards ahead of the ship watching for signals from the wave commander in the USS Schley's boats. The boat handling details returned to their general quarters station. 0645 All boats (LCPRs) proceeded to the line of departure and at 0653 the first wave of APD boats proceeded from the line of departure to the landing beaches. 0708 Rocket bombardment by LCI(R)s commenced. 0708 Destroyer bombardment ceased. 0712 Rocket bombardment of the beach ceased. 0713 First wave landed on the beach (word received via SCR -300 from USS Ward boat officer). 0717 First wave retracted from the beach, reporting good beach conditions and no enemy opposition. 0735 USS Ward stationed all boat handling details in preparation for hoisting returning LCPRs. 0751 All Ward boats returned and were hoisted in their davits. 0755 In obedience with previous orders the USS Ward proceeded to take station on anti-submarine patrol in area "Able" which was between Leyte Island and the northern side of Ponson Island. The USS Mahan was already in this area. At 0801 a radio message was intercepted stating that a Japanese convoy comprised of 14 ships was sighted by aircraft to the northwestward of Ormoc Bay. The USS Mahan was ordered to investigate, the report. 0825 The USS Ward commenced anti-submarine patrol between the eastern tip of Ponson Island and the western tip of Leyte Island, steering courses 243° and 041° making two-thirds speed (10 knots) 0940 Sighted a formation of nine twin-engined bombers approaching from the northwest, distant 5 miles, altitude approximately 5000 feet. As identification of these planes was not certain, speed was increased to full (20 knots) and the rudder was placed right full. When the bombers had reached a position angle of 50 degrees, they were positively identified as Japanese. 0943 Commenced firing at enemy aircraft using 3"50 cal. and 20MM batteries. 0945 Ceased firing, no hits observed and no bombs released by aircraft. The planes passed out of sight circling to the southward. 0951 The USS Mahan was observed hit by bombs or by suicide planes, distant 7 miles bearing approximately 260° from the USS Ward. The Japanese bomber formation which had been previously sighted now appeared to be directly over the Mahan. Enemy fighter planes were also sighted in the same vicinity engaging in a dog-fight with U. S. Army P-40's and P-38's. At 0953 a total of 5 enemy bombers and fighters were observed to crash into the sea after being hit by U. S. Army fighter planes. Just previous to this time the USS Ward had ceased circling and commenced "fish-tailing" on base course 100&°, speed was still 20 knots. The remnant of the bomber formation continued to make a wide circle to the right. 0955 Observed three twin engined bombers break away from the formation, after being attacked by P-38's, and commence a dive toward the Ward. The leading plane appeared to have been hit by a P-38 as it was trailing a small amount of smoke. This smoke may have been from the plane's own machine gun fire as the Ward was strafed by the incoming planes. As soon as the bombers broke away from the formation the USS Ward commenced firing with both 3" and 20MM batteries, the aircraft were bearing approximately 325°, altitude 3000 feet. At this time the ships rudder was placed left full. 0956 The leading bomber leveled off from approximately a 45 degree dive and struck the USS Ward just above the waterline on the port side, entering the forward part of the boilerroom and the lower troopspace. There was a large explosion and a huge sheet of flame enveloped the amidship section of the ship. Fire broke out immediately in the troopspace and also in the boilerroom where a flareback was experienced. An instant later another bomber passed low over the forecastle, strafing as it came in, and crashed into the sea approximately 200 yards off the starboard bow. Still another bomber crashed in the sea about 600 yards astern the USS Ward. These aircraft are believed to have been the "FRANCIS" type. 0957 Ceased firing and commenced fire-fighting operations. The ship began to lose headway immediately and at 1000 stop was indicated on the engine room annunciators but this was not necessary as the steam pressure had already dropped below 100 pounds. Inter-communication were destroyed with the exception of the JP-(3" 50 Cal.) circuit. Magazine flood valves were opened but the fire and bilge pumps had stopped due to lack of steam pressure. 1005 Lowered #1 and #2 boats to assist in fire fighting from alongside the ship. At this time all fire fighting equipment, with the exception of erratic gasoline driven billy pumps, was useless. Orders were given to release life rafts and prepare to abandon ship if necessary. 1015 Observed the USS O'Brien, USS Saunders, USS Crosby, and the USS Scout standing toward the USS Ward. The USS Crosby and the USS Scout lowered boats to assist in picking up survivors. A report was made to CTG 78.3 via SRC-608 (battery powered) stating the ships predicament and the intention to abandon ship if the fire could not be brought under control. 1018 The USS O'Brien stood in close aboard on the port side and commenced fire fighting operations. By this time the fire was raging in the troopspaces, apparently both the baker fuel tanks and also the diesel oil tanks had caught afire. The boiler room was filled with black smoke from the burning oil and it was impossible to regain steam pressure. Flames were coming up from the troopspace and spreading along the main deck in the vicinity of 20MM ready ammunition. As the portable handy-billy pumps were proving ineffectual and as there was danger of the ready ammunition (under the galley deck house), the service fuel tanks, and the forward magazines exploding, ir was considered advisable to abandon ship. 1024 Orders were given for all hands to abandon ship. Depth charges had been locked on safe during the entire trip from Leyte Gulf but they were again checked to make sure. There had been no panic among the crew or officers and the ship was abandoned in an orderly fashion utilizing life rafts and the boats from both the USS Ward and the USS Crosby.
The performance of all ordnance equipment and ammunition was good. No trouble was experienced with either the 3"50 cal. or the 20MM guns. Local control was used throughout, employing the line of sight barrage with the 3 inch battery.
When the bomber formation was first taken under fire, the 3 inch guns were lagging the targets. The bursts gradually caught up with the planes but were between the ship and the targets, therefore no hits were scored. The 20MM battery was firing even though the planes were never actually within 20MM range. At 0955 the Ward commenced firing with both 3"50 cal. and 20MM batteries, at the three bombers which had commenced their dive. The Ward had not opened fire until this time as there were many friendly fighters amongst the enemy formation. The 3 inch guns did not obtain any hits as the fuze settings were evidently too great, however it is known that the 20MM guns were hitting the leading plane as it approached the ship. The plane failed to explode in midair before striking the ship. It is not known whether or not the guns of the USS Ward damaged the two bombers which crashed in the sea.
There were no misfires, jamming, or other casualties during this action. Ammunition expenditures are approximate as control did not have a chance to obtain this information from the individual guns. Approximate expenditures are as follows: 3"50 cal. AA 25 rounds. 20MM (AP.HE.HET) 500 rounds.
The twin-engined Japanese bomber struck the USS Ward about six inches above the water line on the port side, approximately between frames 50-70. There was an initial explosion of gasoline as the plane hit and it seemed as though the entire amidship section of the ship was covered by a sheet of flame. The ship listed to starboard about 10 degrees as a result of the impact combined with the fact that the rudder was left full.
It appeared that the bulk of the planes fuselage, as well as both engines, entered the ships hull. The port engines, of the bomber apparently passed completely through the ships hull as a large hole was observed on the starboard side of the ship, which appeared to extend both above and below the waterline. It is this commands belief that both the "Baker" bunker fuel tanks plus the diesel oil tanks were ruptured and ignited immediately. The ship lost all headway within a few minutes and heavy black smoke and flames emerged from the troopspace hatches and from the holes in the hull.
The following information was submitted by Ensign J. B. Carney, assistant engineering officer whose battle station was in the boiler room, and Lieut. (jg) E. A. Le Gros engineer officer whose battle station was in the forward engine room: "The plane ruptured the skin of the ship on the port side of the fireroom above the waterline for a distance five feet aft of the forward fireroom bulkhead. The height of this hole was approximately eight feet. No. 1 forced draft blower appeared to be knocked off its framework and inboard into the fireroom. A flash of flame extended athwartship between #1 boiler and the forward fireroom bulkhead. Both #1 and #2 boilers flared back and the entire fireroom filled with black smoke and gasoline vapors. The fires in the boilers continued to flare back until the quick-closing fuel oil valves were closed.
The engineroom noticed rapidly falling steam pressure at about the same time that "STOP" was rung from the bridge, throttles were closed immediately. Both fire and bilge pumps in the engineroom were put on high speed at the time of the explosion, but when the steam pressure continued to fall, even after closing the throttles, all auxiliary machinery in the engine-rooms plus the main steam line bulkhead stop valve was secured. Steam pressure continued to drop, gauges registering zero at the time the enginerooms were abandoned.
It is believed that the forward heating system steam line and anchor engine steam line, leading through the lower troopspace, may have been ruptured as well as the auxiliary steam line to #1 forced draft blower. There was no apparent damage to engine-room machinery.
About five minutes after being hit excessive smoke and small flames were apparent on the main deck over the troopspaces, this smoke increased in intensity filling the spaces under the galley deck house and coming out the boiler funnels. Fuel spread along the starboard side of the ship for a distance of about forty feet aft of the hole, with frequent combustion. The smoke and vapors on deck had a gunpowder smell with sickening and choking effect, temporarily obscuring eyesight. A sweet smelling odor was also present.
Attempts were made to use spitfire gasoline pumpers with suction hoses over the side to put out the fire, however spitfires became clogged and would not run at full speed for more than a few minutes at a time.
A small fire also broke out in the wheelhouse as a result of a belt of Verys Pistol ammunition detonating. What caused these cartridges to detonate is not known. The remainder of the belt was thrown overboard leaving a small smoldering fire in one corner of the wheelhouse.
There are approximately 1000 rounds of 29MM ammunition stowed in individual ready magazines along both the port and starboard passage way under the galley deck house. Due to the intense heat and heavy smoke it was not possible to jettison this ammunition prior to abandoning ship. Shortly after the word was passed to abandon ship, this ammunition commenced exploding. The draft of the ship before being damaged was approximately 10' 06" forward and 10' 08" aft. A small amount of flooding plus the introduction of foam and water into the ship by the two vessels aiding the Ward, caused the draft forward to increase to about 10'06", as observed by the commanding officer while abandoning ship. The Ward remained on an even keel which indicated that flooding was not serious and was evenly distributed in the lower troopspace.
Navigation: The charts furnished the USS Ward for the Phillipine operations again proved to be most accurate. Piloting in the Ormoc Bay area was accomplished without any difficulties, the Ward was in her proper position in the transport area when boats were lowered.
Engineering: I have no special comment to make on engineering except that I believe the sudden loss of steam pressure could not have been easily prevented by the engineering personnel. The throttles were open for 20 knots when the plane struck the ship and were not closed until the steam pressure began to drop rapidly. The engineroom did not know immediately of the situation in the fireroom. The probability of ruptured forward heating system steam line, anchor engine steam line and auxiliary steam to No. 1 forced draft blower is very strong.
Damage Control: Condition "Able" had been set since 0153 and all watertight doors and hatches were secured. Ventilation throughout the living spaces and troopspaces was secured, however in the troopspace the ventilation ducts contained no closure valves. This without a doubt provided a perfect vent for the fire in the lower troopspace.
The damage control lockers on the USS Ward were loaded under the galley deck house on both the port and starboard sides. The rescue breathing apparatus, with the exception of one, was located in a separate locker directly over the spot where the plane struck the ship. A few minutes after the initial explosion, this equipment was impossible to obtain due to the fact that the space under the galley deck house was filled with heavy black smoke and flames. The one available rescue breather was utilized in the fireroom. Portable pumpers were immediately set up using fog adapters but the pumps proved to be quite inadequate as they would not run at high speed for more than a few minutes at a time. These pumps had all been tested 3 days before in San Pedro Bay and seemed to be in fairly good operating condition. It is not known exactly what was wrong. It could have been a combination of poor grade fuel and improper carburator adjustment.
The order was given to flood magazines but shortly after the flood valves had been opened all power was lost. This was a most disturbing fact as the fire was gaining headway rapidly.
The Japanese bomber had evidently already expended its bomb load, or if it had not, the bombs proved to be duds as there was no high order explosion after the plane first struck.
The well-deck was covered by a canvas tarpaulin which had been treated with a fire proof paint. This tarpaulin had been installed for about fifteen months and it was therefore thought advisable to cut away this canvas and possibly prevent the fire from spreading to the bridge.
All ready ammunition in the vicinity of the fire was immediately jettisoned with the exception of 20MM ammunition located under the galley deck house.
Communications: Immediately after the plane struck all sound powered telephone circuits from the bridge aft were broken with the exception of the JP circuit (3"50-cal guns). This one remaining circuit served the purpose quite well, however it was impossible to communicate with the fire room to learn the exact extent of the damage. As soon as power was lost, the SCR 608 radio set was cut in on the secondary maneuvering circuit and communications were established with the Task Group Commander. This shows the value of having at least one battery powered radio ready for immediate use.
It is strongly recommended that this type ship be equipped with complete damage control lockers fore, aft and amidships. These lockers should each contain an asbestos suit and rescue breathing apparatus as well as the normal tools for damage control. I cannot too strongly recommend that all men be fully clothed and wear life jackets when operating in a forward area.
Personnel, performance, casualties: There was a noted lack of panic amongst the crew members, both officers and enlisted men carried out their duties in a cool and competent manner.
When the word was passed to prepare to abandon ship, several men jumped over the side but were picked up by ship boats later. As a whole the crew exhibited a desire to stay with the ship and attempt to save her.
Not a single man lost his life although several were burned as a result of the gasoline explosion when the plane first struck the ship.
There are several men and officers who are deserving of recognition for their conduct and individual performance throughout this action. They will be recommended in separate correspondence. I closing I wish to say that a group of men and officers with high morale or devotion to duty would be hard to find.
R. E. FARWELL,
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