When the Japaneseattacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Oklahoma took three torpedoes soon after the attack began. She listed dangerously, and it was soon apparent that she would capsize. The order was given to abandon ship, but Seaman First Class Ward remained in a turret holding a flashlight, thus sacrificing his own life to permit other members of the crew to escape. For his heroism at that time, he posthumously received the Medal of Honor.
Medal of Honor citation
<blockquote>For conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and complete disregard of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. When it was seen that the U.S.S. Oklahoma was going to capsize and the order was given to abandon ship, Ward remained in a turret holding a flashlight so the remainder of the turret crew could see to escape, thereby sacrificing his own life.</blockquote>