U.S.S. Aaron Ward (DD-483)
U.S.S. Aaron Ward was a Gleaves class destroyer that served in World War II. She was named after Rear Admiral Aaron Ward.
Design and Construction
Aaron Ward was laid down at the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry dock Company in Kearny, New Jersey on February 11, 1941. She was launched 9 months later. Hilda Ward, daughter of Admiral Ward, broke the ceremonial champagne bottle across her bow.
The new destroyer was commissioned on March 4, 1942 and began her shakedown cruise in Casco Bay, Maine. On May 20, she sailed for the Pacific coast, arriving in San Diego at the end of the month.
Aaron Ward served as an escort for the carrier Long Island and accompanied that ship on a patrol of the west coast until June 17, when she was detached from the task force and sent back to San Diego. Aaron Ward spent the remainder of June patrolling off the west coast.
On June 30, Aaron Ward sailed to Hawai’i for reassignment to the South Pacific. She joined Task Force 18 for the voyage to the Tonga Islands. On August 5, while escorting the oiler Cimmaron, the ship detected enemy submarines. She dropped depth charges and drove them away. She was then assigned to escort warships supporting the invasion of Guadalcanal.
During October, the ship was assigned to shore bombardment. She sailed into Lunga Roads on the 17th to wait for a Marine spotter. While waiting for her passenger to arrive, the ship came under attack from enemy bombers. She began dramatic turns to avoid enemy bombs, and although three bombs landed close to her, the Aaron Ward was undamaged and she continued with her mission.
Three days later, Aaron Ward was escorting the heavy cruiser Chester when a torpedo from a Japanese submarine hit her. Aaron Ward drove the sub off and escorted Chester to Espiritu Santo for repairs.
Aaron Ward held convoy duty near Guadalcanal until November 12, when the ship joined a U.S. Navy task force heading out to stop a large Japanese naval force from bombarding Guadalcanal. During this brutal night battle, Aaron Ward was severely damaged, along with several other American ships. Having taken several direct hits from enemy cruisers, she lost control of her rudders. She lost all engine power at 2:35 am. The ship had begun to flood, and her crew fought through the night to keep her afloat. Despite her flooded boiler rooms, her crew managed to get her engines going at 5:00 am. Unfortunately, she was dead in the water again at 5:30. She contacted other American forces and requested a tug, which towed her to a safe harbor on Tulagi. After temporary repairs, she was able to sail back to Hawai’i under her own power. Aaron Ward rejoined the fleet on February 6, 1943.
The ship was escorting landing craft on April 7 when a Japanese air attack began. Attacked by three bombers in quick succession, Aaron Ward was holed by two bombs, flooding her forward boiler room. A third bomb struck her engine room, cutting power to her 5 inch and 40mm guns. With no power and only a few guns left working, she was an easy target. She was hit twice more. Once again, Aaron Ward’s crew found themselves fighting to keep her afloat. Despite help from two repair ships, Aaron Ward sank stern-first.
Risk of Asbestos Exposure
Built in the 1940s, Aaron Ward would have had asbestos insulation throughout her hull, particularly in her engine room and boiler rooms. The damage she sustained to her engines during her service would have increased the risk of exposure dramatically.
Exposure to asbestos has been proven to cause a malignant form of cancer known as mesothelioma. There is no cure for this disease, but treatments such as chemotherapy are available. If you or someone you know served on the Aaron Ward or worked on her in a shipyard and has contracted mesothelioma, you can fill out the form at the bottom of this page for a free packet regarding your legal options.