Pearl Harbour Survivor Will Lehner of the destroyer, USS Ward, was honored at Wisconsin State War Memorial. The honor included a stone placed in remembrance of Lehner’s service at Pearl Harbour and WWII. At the time of the honor, Will Lehner was 94 years old.
When Lehner was 84, he was offered the opportunity to get in a University of Hawaii submarine to look at the submarine that he and the crew of USS Ward claimed to sink before the attack on Pearl harbour began. Lehner jumped at the opportunity and went underwater.
1200 feet below surface he saw the 78 foot Japanese midget submarine that they sunk 64 years earlier. Until the discovery of this submarine, Lehner and the others from USS Ward, listened to many who were critical of their story about sinking the submarine.
By diving 1200 feet he was able to achieve vindication after decades. Ward truly did fire the first shots of WWII for America.
Ward was patrolling the entrance of Pearl Harbour on December 7th, 1941. Another ship spotted the midget submarine and notified Ward. At about 6am they searched until they spotted the conning tower of the submarine trailing repair ship, USS Antares, that was entering the harbour.
Ward sped up from five to twenty five knots and began firing on the unidentified object in the water. They scored a direct hit, the submarine heeled over, leaked oil and sunk. At 6:53, more than an hour before the attack began, Lt. Outerbridge of USS Ward sent a message, “We have attacked, fired upon, and dropped depth charges upon submarine operating in defensive sea area.” The message was received, but the reaction was disappointing.
Video of Will Lehner’s War Memorial Honor
This video is courtesy of WSAW.com. The article can be found here. Please note that the mention of 1939 is a mistake and should be 1941.
Lehner After Pearl Harbour
Lehner continued to serve on USS Ward and became a cook, preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ward was converted to a fast transport hauling troops. When USS Ward sunk in 1944, Lehner was on board, loading ammunition into the number four gun. A kamikaze plane went into the side of the ship and right through to the other side. Fire broke out and the ship sunk, but only one american was killed.
The sinking of the USS ward took place 3 years to the day from when Ward sunk the Japanese midget submarine at Pearl Harbour.
One of the most fascinating things about Will Lehner was when he met Japanese fliers and submariners from the attack. He talked with them and he said, “I don’t have any animosity now. . . Time heals everything, I guess.”