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Bill Koppos
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First to fight. Duel on Dec 7 1941

December 7, 2022 · in Ships · 17 · 1K

6:40 AM, December 7, 1941. "Captain, come on the bridge!". Lieutenant William W. Outerbridge had been summoned to the bridge of the U.S.S. Ward, straight out of bed and wrapped in a Kimono. He had taken command, his first, of the WW1 vintage 4 stack destroyer just yesterday. Once on the bridge the Officer on watch pointed out the reason for the summons-U.S.S. Antares, a supply ship, had spotted a suspicious object trailing her. Outerbridge called the ship to General Quarters for the second time this morning, first sighting being earlier at 4:00. This time there was no doubt the object in sight was the conning tower of a small submarine. It appeared as if the sub was trying to trail Antares through the anti-torpedo net at the harbor entrance. A PBY patrol plane hovered overhead, trying to decide if this was friend or foe.

The Ward's sleepy crew, at GQ for the second time this AM, sprang to their stations, as Outerbridge gave the order for full speed ahead. Ward was under orders to attack and sink any unauthorized vessels in the defensive sea area, and he did not hesitate. All guns and depth charge stations were manned and ready. The sub's conning tower was headed at Ward, whether to attack, or just blundering along, is unknown. At any rate the Ward's crew blasted it, 2 shots from the 4-inch guns at 100 and 50 yards resulting in a hit right through the conning tower. As the sub fell astern, a rack of depth bombs blew it to pieces. Outerbridge sent a message to Naval District headquarters: "Attacked, fired on, depth-bombed, and sunk, submarine operating in defensive sea area". The message, sent in code, was not decoded and read until the air attack had already started. A small chance of alerting the giant Naval Base had been missed. However, the fine performance of the Ward's crew cannot be understated. They had done their job to perfection, firing the first shots of the newly starting pacific War.

The gorgeous kit of U.S.S. Ward was built by my buddy Joseph Kreutz, a master ship crafter whose previous endeavors ran to much larger, like a 1/200 Missouri and Mikasa. This one is in smaller 1/350 scale by Black Cat Models. The only brass on the kit is the railings and masts. The hull is resin and all the other parts are 3D printed. I was surprised at the number of torpedo tubes on this vessel. This 3D printing stuff is truly amazing to behold. Paint is Tamiya and Vallejo finished with Testor's acrylic flat. The rigging is e-z line .003. This model is truly a miniature gem, the delicacy of the 3D stuff really shines. The future is here.

The midget sub is a 1/72 kit of the Pearl Harbor "type A" attacker from Finemolds that has been in my stash a long time. After seeing Joe's Ward I got the idea to finally build it and display it along with this new gem. It is one of the simplest kits ever, as with all submarine kits the parts count is low. The hardest part was to stop continuously knocking off the stretched sprue fin braces as I was finishing it. The kit plans called for black coloration, but I decided to spiff it up with some red and blue for a purplish tint. THEN I decided to go back and find my copy of "Day of Infamy" (I've had it since High School) and re-read the sub attack parts. Seems the crew remembered the thing being covered with a greenish moss or painted a "dingy green". I decided to go with the moss-covered thing, so I took it out and gave it an overspray of Olive Green. I dunno, the jury's still out on this one.

Well at least somebody was alert that December morn so long ago. Kudos to the Captain and crew of Ward for their immediate and decisive action. Ward went on to serve all through the war until, unbelievably, she was sunk by Kamikazes on December 7, 1944. All 5 Midget subs that were launched came to grief during the attack. Another was sunk by destroyer Monaghan in the Harbor off Ford Island. 2 vanished, later to wash ashore or be salvaged. One had persistent mechanical troubles. Finally the 2 man crew had to abandon it, one Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki surviving to become prisoner of War #1.

For more data and details on these machines, there is plenty on the net for you. Other midgets had later success, at Madagascar and Sydney. For a great description of Ward's morning, go back and read "Day Of Infamy" by Walter Lord. It's one great book, about a dark day in U.S. History. Remember those that were there today.

Reader reactions:
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15 additional images. Click to enlarge.

17 responses

  1. Wonderful Bill! I have this duo as a WIP since last year, only in 1/700. This is a seldom remembered fact about early morning on 12/7/41. Both of the presented builds look fantastic, thank you for sharing.

  2. Fantastic models and subjects. According to wikipedia, one of the guns from the Ward is in front of the Minnesota capitol building.

  3. Both are splendid models, thanks for sharing the story along

  4. Great story, great models.

  5. 2 truly magnificent models!
    Also, a great history of the opening shots of the U.S. Pacific war. As it happens, there was a History TV show recently that mentioned U.S.S. Ward. She was constructed at Mare Island, California, in 1918, and Mare Island holds a shipbuilding speed record for a destroyer that still stands, launching USS Ward in just 17+1⁄2 days in May–June 1918.

  6. Impressive models of a 4 piper destroyer and midget sub.

  7. Excellent models, excellent story, Bill!

  8. Thank you for posting this. It was a horrible day. My grand mother had a brother who was there at Hickam Field on that morning 81 years ago.

    I have always found Pearl Harbor very interesting, some of which could be due to a few stories I heard as a child. Ironically, back on December 7th, 2016, I stopped by to visit my friends at American Aero Services. Lo and behold, this beauty was there.

    This P-40 was also there at Pearl during the attack. I couldn't resist the opportunity and I snapped a bunch of pictures that day. This was one of them.

    Thanks for sharing the story of the Ward with us. Your model building skills are magnificent ! Your friend Joe has ship building down to a science.

    I definitely clicked on the "like" button.

  9. Excellent models!

  10. Great story and accompanied by great models, Bill @billkoppos

  11. Superb models. I really like the Ward model. You don't do a better 4-piper that I have seen.

  12. Nice work from both of you guys. Thanks for sharing. Wickes class destroyers are always interesting and the Ward is the most interesting of them all.

  13. Well done Bill, nice telling of an often forgotten story concerning the Ward on that day. I seem to recall seeing a documentary about an expedition that actually found the sub the Ward sank. And as noted in their after action report the discovered sub had a hole right through the conning tower.

  14. Glad you fellas found this article worthwhile. Remember!

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