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THE AARON WARD EPIC
A lustrousfnew chapter in the annals of bravery at sea was revealed today, and another Yankee
ship and crew took their place in the top rank of naval gallantry when the Navy told for the first time the
story of the Aaron Ward, destroyer minelayer No. 34. A F
Many epic chapters have come out of the furious sea battle of Okinawa, when the Iapane-se Kamikaze
tactics reached their greatest ferocity. No story of American boys sticking to the guns under fire-of never
giving up the ship even though it was almost under water-can eclipse that of the Aaron Ward. T
This destroyer type vessel, in her maiden campaign, took six suicide planes aboard in 52 minutes of
hell the late afternoon of May 3.
Three of them dropped bombs that blew holes deep in the hull. Five of them exploded, spreading
flaming death over the main and superstructure decks. The after stack toppled, blazing ammunition exploded
lethally, the steering gear was one of the first casualties, and during' the action the Ward steamed in a
circle like the British Battleship Warsp'ite at Iutland. Both engine rooms were pierced and flooded.
But the Aaron Ward never stopped fighting. lmpenetrable smoke poured from the pierced stack, mask-
ing Iap suicide planes as they made their runs, but A-aron Ward'.s guns kept blazing. Five Kamik-azes were
blasted into the sea before they reached their targets. Five others which crashed the Aaron Ward were hit
hard during their runs. But these five laps-and one more which sneaked in undetected-hit their mark in
one of the most intense and carefully co-ordinated mass suicide attacks on record.
When the attack was over the Aaron Ward lay dead and low in the water, listing eight degrees to
starboard, her main deck only five inches out of the w-ater. Fires were blazing aft and amidship. Engine
spaces were flooded. All 'power was gone. Darkness had set in over the Pacific, but the flames of the Aaron
Wiard lit the fwater for miles, providing a beacon for other enemy planes. "Now," the ship's action report
records, "began the nightlong fight to save the Aaron Ward and her crew by the damage control parties
and the medical department."
Assisted by smaller vessels which came alongside, the Aaron Ward"s officers and men fought the flames.
The powder magazines were sprinkled down by hand by "brave kids who didn't bat an eyelash though they
knew the magazines might go up any minute." Damage control parties manned gasoline pumps. A herculean
task faced the ship's doctor, Lt. I. K. Barbieri CMCD, USN, an.d his small staff of hospital corpsmen. F
V Nineteen members of the crew lay dead. Six were mortally wounded, forty-nine others were seriously
wounded, twenty others, blown overboard, were missing and were never recovered. . '
'The first suicide plane had dest-royed the after battle dressing station. The sick bay was a mass of
debris from another Kamikaze. Corpsmen and sailors' from all divisions picked their way through a gantlet
of flames and exploding ammunition carrying wounded shipmates to the wardroom for t-reatment. Sulfa
drugs, penicillin and blood plasma in whole-sale quanties were administered to shocked, bleeding blue-
jackets, with only flashlights and emergency battle lanterns to give illumination. Some 55 major injuries
and '20 lesser cases were treated during the night. '
' The next morning, when the Aaron Ward, under tow, reached a haven near Okinawa, the wounded
were transferred to another ship. The rest of the men of the' Aaron Ward turned to on the work of 'clearing
out debris and extricating bodies of the dead. A ship, that the flaps must have marked sunk, had been
saved to fight another day, ' ' C I D'
"That the ship was saved to fight again after such punishment in the face of overwhelming odds,"
Captain Sanders' report said, "bears witness to the wonderful work and high calibre off fighting officers and
men I had the good fortune to have assigned to my command. 'l cannot say en-ough to express my complete
admiration for them." n A
Others have echoed the captain's words. From squadron, division and fleet commanders messages
of glowing praise flashed into the battered radio shack of the Aaron Ward. The big boss of the Pacific
Fleet, Admiral -Chester W. Nimitz, spoke for all in his following dispatch from his advance headquarters
a few days after the action: ,
"We all admire a ship that can't be licked. Congratulations on your magnificent performance." '
The high points in the Aaron Ward story were emblaz-oned during Sl minutes of action Ma-y 3, and
the l4 agonizing hours afterwards, when the almost sinking' ship was towed into Kerama Bet-to, with other
attacks expected any minute and the horizon flashing with anti-aircraft fire of other ships.
From there, after repairs by her own engineering department had restored the forward engineering