World War II Navy veteran Will Lehner recalls sinking a Japanese submarine while aboard USS Ward during the onset of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
USS Ward fired the first American shot in World War II. USS Ward (DD-139) was a 1,267 t Wickes-class destroyer in the United States Navy during World War I, later APD-16 in World War II.
On the morning of 7 December 1941, under the command of LCDR William W. Outerbridge, Ward was conducting a precautionary patrol off the entrance to Pearl Harbor when she was informed at 03:57 by visual signals from the coastal minesweeper Condor of a periscope sighting, whereupon Ward began searching for the contact. At about 06:37, she sighted a periscope apparently tailing the cargo ship Antares whereupon she attacked the target.
The target sunk was a Japanese Ko-hyoteki-class two-man midget submarine and thus Ward fired the first American shots of World War II a few hours before Japanese carrier aircraft formally opened the conflict with their attack on the Pacific Fleet inside the harbor. The submarine was attempting to enter the harbor by following Antares through the anti-submarine nets at the harbor entrance. Ward fired several rounds from its main guns hitting the conning tower of the sub and also dropped several depth charges during the attack.
This submarine belonged to a class of Japanese midget submarines (Ko-hyoteki) used during World War II. Fifty were built. Five of these boats participated in the Pearl Harbor attack, with two actually making it into the harbor.
The submarines were each armed with two 450 mm torpedoes in muzzle-loading tubes one above the other at the bow. In the Pearl Harbor attack, the specially designed Type 97 torpedo was used, but problems with the oxygen flasks[clarification needed] meant that all later attacks used a different torpedo.
The midget submarine attacked by Ward (DD-139) at 6:37 a.m. on 7 December, No.20, was located in 400 meters (1,312 feet) of water five miles outside Pearl Harbor by a University of Hawaii research submersible on 28 August 2002.