By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Clifford L. H. Davis,
Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
WASHINGTON –Director of Navy Staff Vice Adm. G. James Foggo III held a dedication ceremony for a conference room at the Pentagon, June 6.
Used to host major meetings for the Navy within the Pentagon, the room was dedicated to honor both Cmdr. James Ward, the first U.S. Navy officer killed in the Civil War, and Rear Adm. William W. Outerbridge, once the commanding officer of the destroyer named for Ward, USS Ward (DD 139).
During the American Civil War Battle of Mathias Point, Virginia, Cmdr. Ward instructed his flagship and rest of the Potomac Flotilla to provide gunfire support to a retreating gun party. While sighting the bow gun aboard the steamer Thomas Freeborn, Ward was struck by a bullet and mortally wounded.
Rear Adm. Outerbridge, then a lieutenant, left his mark on naval history when USS Ward spotted what looked to be a Japanese midget submarine trailing USS Antares (AG 10) the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor. With Outerbridge’s order, Ward’s number one and three 4-inch 50-caliber guns opened fire. Gun mount three struck the submarine at the waterline, causing it to keel over starboard.
During the ceremony, guests were also shown a short clip from the movie “Tora, Tora, Tora!” that depicted Outerbridge’s actions on the bridge and that of his crew.
“Historically in the room today, it wasn’t the number one mount—that was Hollywood—but it was the number three mount that fired the fateful and fatal shot on the Japanese submarine,” said Foggo. “Here we have the actual gun site, on loan from Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC).”
In attendance were Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran; Rear Adm. Frank Thorpe (Ret.); Bill and Tom Outerbridge, sons of Rear Adm. Outerbridge; their daughters Cathy Pekel, Laura Outerbridge-Evans, Marylyn Outerbridge, and Amy Toveyou; and great-grandson Matthew Toveyou.
“I had never seen any part of the Ward before, and I was blown away to see the gun sight,” said Laura Outerbridge-Evans.
Additional items on loan from NHHC included the book An Elementary Course of Instruction in Ordnance and Gunnery, published by Cmdr. Ward; a facsimile of bounty paid to Cmdr. Ward during his time in command of the USS Jamestown off the African coast; and a hand-written naval career biography and the awards of Rear Adm. Outerbridge, held in the NHHC Modern Officer Biography (ZB) files.
“The missions of both men, although in very different wars and with very different technology, were similarly dangerous and serve as examples of the type of situations current skippers could potentially face,” said Richard Hulver, Ph.D., historian for NHHC.
Outerbridge would later take command of USS O’Brien (DD 725), which was ordered to sink the incapacitated USS Ward, hit by a Kamikaze at Ormoc Bay on the three-year anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“I am touched and appreciate Mr. Hulver for showing us grandpa’s hand-written biography and awards,” said Outerbridge-Evans. “I feel grandpa would have been touched, too, by the event with all the good things said about the Ward and to now have a room named after his ship.”
The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis and dissemination of U.S. Naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through our nation’s history and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, ten museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.