Another wartime wreckage found

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 09 December) — The expedition crew of Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel led by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen has documented the USS Ward (Destroyer No. 139) in its final resting place near Ponson Island in Camotes, Cebu.

The Allen-led expedition released the first underwater footage of the USS Ward — the American destroyer that fired the first shots in World War II at 6:45 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941,  just before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The crew sent its Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to explore and document the remains of the USS Ward on December 1, 2017 and released the video in honor of the 76th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor and the men who served there.

Wheelhouse of the USS Ward; Photo courtesy of Paul G. Allen

The discovery of Wickes-class destroyer came after the huge find of five  Japanese warships consisting of two dreadnought battleships – Fuso and Yamashiro – and three Asashio class destroyers Yamagumo, Asagumo and Michishio during the expedition in Surigao Strait on November 22- 29.

Robert Kraft, director of Subsea operations and Paul Mayer, deep sea pilot and researcher both told reporters aboard Research Vessel Petrel on Thursday afternoon that they proceeded to Ormoc Bay in search of other warships.

According to Allen’s website, the USS Ward, a Wickes-class destroyer serving the U.S. Navy, was patrolling the Pearl Harbor entrance on the morning of December 7, 1941, when the Officer-of-the-Deck spotted an 80-foot-long Japanese 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,” it said.

The enemy air attack on Pearl Harbor, and throughout Oahu, started about an hour after the USS Ward sank the midget submarine.

Exactly three years later, on December 7, 1944, the USS Ward, then patrolling Ormoc Bay in Leyte, was lost after it was 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,” an article on Allen’s website said.

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 up to 6,000 meters deep (more than 3.5 miles). Following a 2017 retrofit, Petrel and its crew have been using 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. “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,” he said.

To ensure the location of the ship was accurate, the USS Ward’s wreckage was identified and cross-referenced with historic drawings and schematics of the ship.

The survey of the USS Ward was part of a combined mission to document the Imperial Japanese Warships that were lost during the Battle of Surigao Strait in the Philippines.

During the November expedition, the R/V Petrel was able to capture video of IJN Yamashiro (FUSO class dreadnought battleship), IJN Fuso (FUSO class dreadnought battleship), Yamegumo (Asashio class destroyer), Asagumo (Asashio class destroyer) and Michishio (Asashio class destroyer). These ships and more than 4,000 men were lost during a decisive battle on October 25, 1944, considered the largest naval battle in history.

The Allen-led expeditions have also resulted in the discovery of the USS Indianapolis (August 2017), Japanese battleship Musashi (March 2015) and the Italian World War II 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.

Allen’s expedition team and R/V Petrel are dedicated to continuing exploration, marine archaeology and oceanographic research.

The billionaire tech mogul is interested in collecting and protecting the artifacts that speak to the heroism and service of that day. His recently acquired Research Vessel Petrel provides a platform to search for historic artifacts that have been lost at sea. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)