On December 7th, 1941, a young sailor named James Richard Ward etched his name in the annals of American history with his selfless act of bravery during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Born in Springfield, Ohio, Ward joined the Navy at the age of 19, eager to serve his country. He was stationed aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma (BB-37) as a Seaman 1st Class, a vital member of the crew.
Chaos and horror unfolded on that fateful morning as Japanese forces descended upon Pearl Harbor. The USS Oklahoma became a prime target, sustaining multiple torpedo strikes and capsizing within minutes. As the ship rolled over, engulfing the crew in darkness and confusion, Ward displayed extraordinary courage.
Despite the order to abandon ship, Ward remained in his station within a turret. Recognizing the perilous situation, he sacrificed his own life by staying behind to hold a flashlight, guiding his fellow sailors to safety through the smoke and debris. His selfless act facilitated the escape of numerous crew members, forever marking him a hero.
Sadly, Ward did not survive the sinking of the USS Oklahoma. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1942 for his “conspicuous devotion to duty and extraordinary courage” during the attack. His sacrifice embodies the very essence of heroism, putting the lives of his comrades above his own.
To commemorate his bravery, the escort ship USS J. Richard Ward (DE-243) was named in his honor. Moreover, his story lives on as an enduring testament to the courage and selflessness displayed by American heroes in the face of adversity.
Now, Seventy-six years after his valiant service during the attack Seaman 1st Class Ward will be honored with a burial at Arlington National Cemetery. The 20-year-old Ward originally was interred as an Unknown at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaiʻi until his remains were identified in 2021 using new technology