Noted for firing the first shots in defense of the United States during World War II – just prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor – then Captain William W. Outerbridge served as the skipper of the destroyer USS Ward.
William Woodward Outerbridge was born in Hong Kong, China, on 14 April 1906. He matriculated at MMI from Middleport, Ohio, and graduated from the high school program in 1923. A member of “E” Company, he was a cadet private and held membership in the Yankee Club and, ironically, in the Stonewall Jackson Literary Society. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, in the Class of 1927.
MMI Cadet Outerbridge as a Junior in the High School, 1921-22.
The MMI High School Class of 1923. William Outerbridge is probably in this group, however unidentified. (He appears to be the fourth cadet from the left.)
MAJ Edward M. Almond, a graduate of Virginia Military Institute, served as the Professor of Military Science when Outerbridge was a cadet. Almond later rose to the rank of Lieutenant General in the Army and commanded the X Corps in Korea.
Building on the lessons of trench warfare in World War I, these MMI cadet trenches were built on the edge of campus when Outerbridge was a cadet.
At the beginning of World War II, Captain Outerbridge skippered the USS Ward, a recommissioned ship built during the World War I period. Reportedly in his first command and on his first patrol off Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, Outerbridge and the USS Ward detected a Japanese two-man midget submarine near the entrance to Pearl Harbor. I will let the images take over from here: (Credit: Official U. S. Navy photographs, now in the National Archives, downloaded from the Internet)
A painting by Tom Freeman of the USS Ward, commanded by Captain Outerbridge, firing on the Japanese two-man midget submarine near the entrance to Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The USS Ward detected the midget sub at 6:45 AM and sank it at 6:54 AM, firing the first shots in defense of the U.S. in World War II. Captain Outerbridge was reportedly awarded the Navy Cross for Heroism. (The midget sub was discovered in 2002 in 1200 feet of water off Pearl Harbor.)
The Mount No. 3 gun from the USS Ward - which fired the first shots for the United States – is now a monument on the Minnesota State Capitol grounds in St. Paul.
This image was taken on December 7, 1944, exactly three years from the day the USS Ward sank the Japanese midget sub. The USS Ward, destroyed by Japanese kamikaze attacks in Ormoc Bay, Leyte, is on fire and members of her crew are being rescued by the USS O’Brien, commanded by Captain Outerbridge. Outerbridge is then ordered to sink the badly damaged USS Ward! Too strange.
Officers of the USS O’Brien, c. 1944: CDR William W. Outerbridge, the skipper, is third from left, front row.
Captain Outerbridge as Commanding Officer of the USS Los Angeles, c. 1953.
During World War II, Captain Outerbridge served in both the Pacific and the Atlantic, taking part in operations at Pearl Harbor, Normandy and Cherbourg, France, and at Ormoc, Mindoro, Lingayon Gulf and Okinawa. He also participated in the carrier task force strikes against Tokyo and the Japanese mainland.
Outerbridge later both attended and taught at the Naval War College; he also taught at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. William Outerbridge retired from the Navy in 1957 as a Rear Admiral.
RADM Outerbridge married the former Grace Fulwood of Tifton, Georgia. They were the parents of three sons. The Admiral died on 20 September 1986. His last address was Tifton, Georgia.
Note: In the 1970 Hollywood movie, Tora! Tora! Tora!, Captain Outerbridge was portrayed by the actor, Jerry Fogel.