Aaron Ward (DM 34) - Naval Cruise Book

 - Class of 1945

Page 17 of 48

 

Aaron Ward (DM 34) - Naval Cruise Book online yearbook collection, 1945 Edition, Page 17
Page 17



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space and fire room, the ship steamed all theiway .t-o the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, on one propeller and one engine, for refitting. She is now undergoing repairs in the yard. But the beginning goes back many months to building, launching and commissioning at the Bethle- hem Steel Corporation yards at Terminal lsland, San Pedro, California, last year. Orginally Destroyer No. 773, the 2200-ton Aaron Ward is the third "can" to bear the name of ia Spanish-American war hero. The first Aaron Ward, a World War l ufour-piper", was transferred to the Royal Navy in l94l. The second, a Federal vessel built at Kearny, N. I., was sunk off Guadalcanal in 'l943. The third 'Aaron Ward, the unsinkable bearer of that name, was not completed as a destroyer, but was converted to a destroyer minelayer. ln the late summer of 1944 the crew began gathering, some three- quarters green hands, mostly youngsters just out of bootcamp, with a leaven of experienced chiefs and petty officers. Of the score or so of officers, few were battle-wis-e. The skipper was an old destroyer sailor who had had two commands in the Atlantic earlier in the war. A native of San Diego, where he now resides at 3421 Herbert Street with his wife and young son and daughter, -Commander Sanders entered the Naval Academy back in 1926 the hard way, from the ranks, when he couldn't clinch an Academy appointment as a civilian. Fifteen years as a naval officer have given him a sun-bronzed skin and graying hair and in-tensified and unruffled manner which he probably has had since youth. "l-le's the best liked skipper in the Navy," his junior officers say. "He's never feazed. He's the coolest guy you've ever seen. He never gets excited under any circumstances." ' Of his junior officers the gunnery officer, youthful Lt. Comdr. Cthen Lieutenantj David Rubel, U.S.N., a l94l Academy graduate, a fellow San Diegan and the assistant gunnery officer, Lt. Lefteris Lavrakas, U.S.N., Naval Academy, class l943, of Old Sudbury Road, South Lincoln, Mass., were combat veterans. So was the executive officer, Lt. Comdr. Karl F. Neupert, U.S.N.R., of 6115 Southeast 34th Ave., Portland, Oregon. Most of the other officers, like the enlisted men, were young and green. But willing and eager. "From the start we had a fine spirit aboard," said Captain Sanders. "Usually when a ship puts to sea headed for the combat zone, there's a man or two who goes AWOL. But not on the Aaron Ward. That morning when we were to leave San Pedro last February to report for action every man was aboard and ready." The Aaron Ward was like that from the first, its officers say with pride. l-ler marksmanship in training was exceptional. And as soon as she went int-o action the Aaron Ward was singled out for special commendation. Almost the first time she was under attack she splashed three lap planes and rated a congratulatory message from Admiral 'Richmond Kelly Turner. From the day she reported for the Okinawa operation, her first, the Aaron Ward was in the thick of things. Bef-ore love day she provided fire support for minesweepers, operating under lap guns which didnt fire, in accordance with the defense plan of waiting until after the landings. After love day she operated with bombardment vessels, and almost every night was under plane attack. Aaron Ward sailors saw some lU s-uicide crashes. They saw an ammunition ship blow up after she was suicided, they were near witnesses when the Pinckney was hit. During this time the Aaron Ward had several close calls. One plane dropped a bomb only 50 feet away. Other bombs dropped nearby. But no suicide planes came in successfully. "lt is relatively simple with one plane coming at y1ou," said Commander Sanders. "We frequently took single planes under fire, and drove them away." "We were plenty cocky," said Lt. Lavrakas, the exuberant young assistant gunnery officer. "We knew we could shoot and the kids all were lo-oking for more planes to shoot at. We were just hoping we d get attacks so we could splash some more Nips. A "We had had plenty of training-that's the Navy policy-We had more shooting in training than ships used to get in a lifetime. We were achin' for Iaps even after we had seen what Kamikazes had done to other ships." . The kids got all the planes they had dreamed of the afternoon of May 3. The Aaron Ward was on radar picket station that aft-ern-oon some 80 miles westward of Okinawa.. Radar pickets are vessels stationed on the outskirts of an area of formation to pick up enemy planes in the distance .4131-

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