The USS KIDD (DD-661) is a Fletcher-class destroyer, the six hundred sixty-first destroyer built by the United States Navy. In the traditional system of naming destroyers after Naval heroes, she was named after Rear Admiral Isaac Campbell Kidd, Sr. who was killed aboard his flagship, USS ARIZONA (BB-39) during the surprise attack by the Japanese on the American fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Built at Federal Shipbuilding & Dry-dock Company of Kearny, New Jersey, KIDD was one of four destroyers [USS BULLARD (DD-660), USS THORN (DD-647), and USS TURNER (DD-648)] launched on February 28, 1943 in a record-breaking fourteen minutes. Mrs. Inez Kidd, widow of RADM Kidd, served as the ship's sponsor, christening her and presenting her crew with a handsome wardroom guest book in which she wrote: "May the destiny of the USS KIDD be glorious! May her victories be triumphant and conclusive!"
The KIDD's first voyage was one of some notoriety. Under the command of Cdr. Allan B. Roby, the destroyer moved across New York Harbor for delivery to the Brooklyn Naval Shipyards . . . flying the skull and crossbones of the Jolly Roger high from the foremast. The edition of TIME magazine that week carried a photo of KIDD, announcing that it had been one hundred years since the Jolly Roger had flown in New York Harbor. The crew quickly adopted the pirate Captain Kidd—who ironically hailed from New York—as their mascot and hired a local cartoonist to paint the famed buccaneer's image high of the forward smokestack. Not wishing to dishonor RADM Kidd, however, the crew obtained permission from Mrs. Kidd first. The Admiral's nickname at the Naval Academy had been "Cap" (as in "Captain Kidd") and he had gone by this nickname his entire life. So on the crew's behalf, Mrs. Kidd obtained official permission from the powers-that-be in the Navy for them to paint the pirate on the stack and fly the Jolly Roger. The KIDD would become the only vessel in the history of the United States Navy to ever have such leave granted to fly the flag of piracy.
Another unique distinction about KIDD's first voyage was the make-up of her crew. Anne Randle was the first member of the WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service) to be assigned to the Office of Shipbuilding in New York City. Ordered to take a training tour of the Kearny Shipyards, her name was placed on the list of personnel that were scheduled to report on board KIDD for the purpose of accompanying the destroyer across the harbor to the Brooklyn Naval Shipyards. Her name was listed as "Ens. A. Randle", omitting any mention of her gender. At that time, there was still an uneasy tradition that having a woman aboard a naval ship was to invite bad luck. However, when KIDD arrived at the Brooklyn yards, the official message sent back to the yards in Kearny read: "The WAVE delivered The Kidd at 2:30 today."
Commissioned into service two months later on April 23, KIDD commenced her shakedown cruise at Casco Bay, Maine. She saw her first duty covering the North Atlantic sea lanes near Argentia, Newfoundland. She then provided escort for new carriers during their shakedown cruises from Norfolk to Trinidad. In August of 1943, she transited the Panama Canal along with three other destroyers providing escort for USS ALABAMA (BB-60) and SOUTH DAKOTA (BB-57) and proceeded to Pearl Harbor.
During a simulated torpedo attack in September of that year, KIDD was struck by two star-shells fired from the NORTHCAROLINA (BB-55). As fortune had it, her forward damage control party was exercising in the immediate vicinity with a make-believe casualty strapped into a stretcher. One of the shells entered the compartment and crossed just above the chest of the pretended casualty. The sailor suffered a minor abrasion from a fleck of debris. The skipper reported to the task force commander: "KIDD claims to be the best prepared ship in the Navy. We had a victim already strapped in the stretcher when he was wounded."
It was early on at this point in her career when she picked up the nickname that would become her trademark. Taking their mascot pirate to heart, crew members began to "ransom" rescued pilots for ice cream mix and other delicacies from their comrades aboard aircraft carriers so that her reputation grew as the "Pirate of the Pacific." Other destroyers conducted this practice, but KIDD did so with a certain flair. The Pirates were one of the first "tin cans"—destroyers—to have their very own ice cream machine, something usually reserved for the larger vessels of the fleet.
Serving as part of Destroyer Division 96 (DESDIV 96) within Destroyer Squadron 48 (DESRON 48), KIDD functioned in the many roles demanded of the U.S. Navy's destroyers: anti-submarine picket duty, picking up downed pilots, shore bombardment, and anti-aircraft platform. She provided escort for the carrier task force which launched air raids on Wake Island in October of 1943 and then again, in November, for the carriers ESSEX (CV-9), BUNKER HILL (CV-17), and INDEPENDENCE (CV-22) in strikes against Rabaul and Bougainville. During the attack on Rabaul, KIDD stopped to pick up the crew of a downed plane from the ESSEX, falling behind the main force of the fleet, and came under attack from a group of eight Japanese dive bombers. She continued rescue operations all the while
maneuvering to avoid bombs and airborne torpedoes while simultaneously engaging the enemy. Both pilots were recovered and three enemy planes were shot down, with one more kill probable and hits scored on several of the remaining aircraft. This action won her skipper at the time, Cdr. Allan B. Roby, the Silver Star for gallantry.
Not long afterward, KIDD saw action at Tarawa during the Gilbert Island invasion in November of 1943. With carrier-based aircraft pounding the Japanese installations on the island, KIDD moved off to investigate a submarine contact miles away from the formation. While her sonar crews were attempting to verify the contact, lookouts spotted 15 low-flying enemy torpedo bombers which were headed toward the large troopships carrying thousands of Marines who would soon be storming the beaches. KIDD sounded the warning to the rest of the fleet and opened fire, downing two of the attackers. The combat air patrol downed the remaining Japanese aircraft.
The island-hopping campaign continued across the Pacific and KIDD continued to "go in harm's way." She saw action again in the Marshall Islands in January of 1944, and was the first to follow minesweepers into the lagoon at Majuro. She participated in the bombardments of Roi and Kotje through February of that year, guarded construction of airfields at Emirau from March through
In need of repairs and shore leave for her crew, KIDD returned to Pearl Harbor in August of 1944. Cdr. Allan Roby was reassigned at this time, with Cdr. Harry G. Moore coming aboard in his stead. Under her new commander, KIDD returned to battle during the invasion of the Philippines in October and November. She screened the amphibious operations, serving as a fire-support ship during the landings on Leyte. Following this action, KIDD—along with the other ships of DESRON 48—sailed for Mare Island Naval Shipyard in California for a major overhaul and refitting. It was December, 1944.
Sailing for the western Pacific again in February of 1945, KIDD and her sister ships joined Task Force 58, then forming for raids against the Japanese home islands and the invasion of Okinawa. She and the other ships of her squadron were among the first to encounter the Japanese planes which came out to meet the great armada threatening Japan's shores. KIDD was in the vanguard position with BULLARD the following morning when they steamed to within eleven miles of the Japanese shoreline, her navigator taking bearings on enemy lighthouses.
Rescuing downed pilots, fighting off suicidal attacks, destroying floating mines, and giving early warning to the fleet of approaching enemy aircraft, KIDD participated in a naval siege which would see the greatest losses ever suffered by the United States Navy. Thus far during the war, she had suffered no major damage, the starshells fired by NORTH CAROLINA over a year and a half earlier being the most severe. But with the advent of suicide tactics by the Japanese, destroyers on escort duty faced an even greater peril than before. On March 19, 1945, the carrier USS FRANKLIN (CV-13) suffered a devastating hit which touched off gasoline and ammunition explosions and claimed 724 lives. KIDD was one of several destroyers which stood guard for the beleaguered carrier while her crew fought to keep her afloat.
It was here, just ninety miles east of Okinawa, that KIDD suffered her most severe damage of the war. The date was Wednesday, April 11, 1945.
The raids that developed that day weren't out of the ordinary, in spite of the fact that three approaching formations of enemy aircraft were reported. The first two raids were driven off by the combat air patrol, in tandem with KIDD and her division mates: BLACK (DD-666), BULLARD, and CHAUNCEY (DD-667). At 14:09, KIDD's crew observed a dogfight between Japanese aircraft and the fighters of the combat air patrol. One of the enemy planes descended to near water level, levelled out, and commenced a run on BLACK which was 1,500 yards off KIDD's starboard beam. But instead of ramming into BLACK, the pilot pulled up and passed directly over her. KIDD's 20mm and 40mm gunners took the plane under fire, scoring several hits, to no avail. Left full rudder was applied; the ship had just barely begun to turn. The
A lone suicide bomber crashed into her forward boiler room killing everyone inside. The bomb carried by the kamikaze was catapulted through the ship and out the other side where it detonated just seconds later. Thirty-eight men were killed; fifty-five were wounded. Among those seriously wounded in the attack were the ship's commander and the ship's doctor, Dr. Broox C. Garrett, Jr. Chief Engineer Lt. (jg) George P. Grieshaber was among those killed in the forward boiler room after having gone below to check on a leaking gauge. In spite of being injured himself, Executive Officer Lt. B.H. Brittin took command of the ship and headed the beleaguered ship southward..
With a gaping hole in her side, most of her forward super-structure severely damaged, and radio communications down for the first hour after the attack, KIDD withdrew from the area under the covering fire of her sister ships. A doctor transferred over by highline to care for the wounded from squadron mate HALE (DD-642). Enemy planes, spotting smoke from the crippled destroyer, attempted to finish her off. Gun crews kept the aircraft at bay. Only one plane drew close enough to drop a bomb: it missed, detonating about twenty feet off the starboard bow. The plane departed trailing smoke. Screened by McNAIR (DD-679), KIDD retreated southward.
Having transferred steam to both enginerooms from her only remaining boiler room, KIDD now made approximately 20 knots as she headed south toward Ulithi Atoll. The crew buried their dead at sea along the way on April 12. Upon reaching Ulithi, another devastating blow to morale was waiting for them. Lookouts spotted flags flying at half-mast. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had died on April 12, the
same day that KIDD had committed her dead to the sea. Tying up alongside the destroyer tender HAMUL (AD-20), the crew began to make temporary repairs. Parts of her radar array were scavenged for use aboard CASSIN YOUNG (DD-793) which had also survived a suicide attack and was preparing to go back out on the line. While all of this was going on, the crew of the HAMUL cast a brass plaque with the names of KIDD's thirty-eight fallen crewmen. The plaque was mounted on KIDD's quarter deck in their memory.
On April 30, Cdr. Fred M. Bush assumed command of KIDD and, temporary repairs completed, she returned to San Francisco and Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard for repairs. While in the shipyards, Cdr. Bush fulfilled one of his promises to the crew upon taking command at Ulithi: the pirate, which had been ordered painted over in late '44, was restored to the Number One stack. Morale among the crew soared. Fully repaired and ready for action in the eminent invasion of Japan's home islands, KIDD was en route to Japan via Pearl Harbor just days after the first atomic bomb struck Hiroshima, heralding the end of World War II. She returned to San Diego and was decommissioned on December 10, 1946, placed in the Reserve Fleet until such time as she would be called upon again.
That call to action came in 1951 during the Korean War. Commissioned back into service on March 28 of that year under the command of Cdr. Robert E. Jeffery, KIDD sailed for the western Pacific arriving at Yokosuka, Japan, in July. Assigned to DESDIV 152, she joined Carrier Task Force 77 at Wonsan, Korea, with division mates UHLMANN (DD-687), HOPEWELL (DD-681), and WEDDERBURN (DD-684). She was dispatched to relieve the destroyer BROWN (DD-546), bombarding targets of opportunity on the eastern coastline of Korea from Nan-Do Island southward below Kansong.
Detached from bombardment duty, KIDD was ordered to convey an Admiral to Pusan at flank speed. Upon departing Pusan, she rounded the southern tip of the Korean peninsula and almost ran headlong into Typhoon Marge. She put in at Inchon to wait out the storm, after which time she proceeded to the island of Koje to join a slow carrier task force traversing Korea's western coast.
In September of that year, KIDD participated in a top secret mission which carried her to a midnight rendezvous "somewhere in the Yellow Sea." She then joined NEW JERSEY (BB-62) on bombardment duty, before being assigned to patrol the Formosa Strait. Following anti-submarine warfare exercises off of Okinawa, KIDD and her division mates provided escourt for BADOENG STRAIT (CVE-116) en route to Yokosuka, Japan. In January, 1952, DESDIV 152 returned to San Diego for overhaul and repair.
While at San Diego, Cdr. Jeffery was reassigned, with Cdr. Charles A. Bellis coming aboard as commanding officer. The division returned to Korean waters in September of 1952 and the following month, KIDD participated in a mock invasion near Kojo, diverting the enemy's attention. She returned to bombardment duty and rescuing downed pilots. During Operation War Dance in December of that year, KIDD cruised at 10 knots around the harbor at Wonsan, drawing the fire of enemy shore batteries in order to reveal their positions. She returned fire on and silenced several batteries successfully. KIDD departed the Far East for San Diego and an overhaul in March of 1953.
While off Pierpoint Landing in Long Beach Harbor, KIDD was struck by the 9,000-ton Swedish freighter HAINAN on April 21, 1953. The freighter's bow sliced nearly halfway through the destroyer's hull at the deck line, leaving a 15-ft. v-shaped hole that extended three feet below the waterline and flooding the sonar compartment. With no injuries to the crew, the damage was repaired and the ship was underway again on May 11, 1953.
With war's end, KIDD returned to peacetime duties. The Pirate of the Pacific began a series of WESTPAC cruises which lasted from 1954 to 1959. Ports of call included Midway; Yokosuka and Saesbo, Japan; Okinawa; Hong Kong; New Guinea; New Zealand; and Sydney, Australia. She participated in a "precautionary deployment" in November, 1956, of American naval forces during the Suez Crisis. The latter part of 1958 saw her engaged in a similar role patrolling the straits between Formosa (Taiwan) and mainland China while international tempers flared over the Chinese bombardment of the offshore islands of Quemoy and Matsu.
Not all of the latter 1950s involved Cold War tensions. In September of 1957, KIDD and the submarine USS REDFISH (SS-395) participated in the filming of the motion picture "Run Silent Run Deep" off the coast of San Diego.
In 1959, KIDD was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet. On October 2, 1961, she found herself part of the rapid mobilization of the nation's military forces in response to the Soviet's construction of the Berlin Wall. Two months later, she was involved in a show of force off the coast of the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean, which had just overthrown the Trujillo dictatorship
Starting on April 24, 1962, KIDD was assigned to the Naval Destroyer School at Newport, Rhode Island. During this time, she served as a training ship for Naval Reservists, cruising up and down the East Coast.
KIDD was decommissioned for the last time on June 19, 1964, after over twenty years of service. The venerable destroyer had earned twelve battle stars during her career: eight for service in World War II and four for service in Korea. She was placed in the Philadelphia Shipyard to await her final fate, one that befell so many of her sister ships: the cutting torch. But through the efforts of many dedicated people, she avoided the scrapping yard to make one final voyage. Her destination: Louisiana.
In 1975, KIDD was deemed unfit for further service and was stricken from the naval list of vessels. Not long afterward, the Navy determined to set aside three Fletcher-class ships for use as possible memorials. The first of these was USS THE SULLIVANS (DD-537), named after the five brothers killed aboard USS JUNEAU (CL-52) in 1942 off of Guadalcanal. The second was CASSIN YOUNG. Finally, the third Fletcher selected was KIDD, largely due to the efforts of Harold Monning, who served aboard her during World War II, and the shipmates of the DESRON 48 Reunion Association. When Congressman W. Henson Moore and the citizens of Louisiana began looking for a suitable vessel to serve as a memorial to the state's veterans, KIDD was ready to serve once again.
KIDD was chosen, in part, due to her condition after years of sitting idle: she had escaped the cannibalization common to ships of the inactive fleet. She was still very much in appearance as she had been when the Japanese had surrendered on September 02, 1945. Her single-pole mast was still in place, though her own post-war damage control plans showed her with a tripod mast. All five 5"/38-cal. gun mounts were still in place. Therefore, prior to her departure from Philadelphia, the Navy was contracted to remount two twin 40mm gun mounts forward of the bridge in place of the "hedgehog" anti-submarine projectors which had been added in the 1950s. A sister ship of the Fletcher-class, USS CAPERTON (DD-650), provided the quintuple Mk-14 21-inch torpedo tubes that were missing, as well as a Mk-27 torpedo director, two Mk-63 gun directors, and her boat boom. That task accomplished, KIDD departed Philadelphia, arriving under tow at Baton Rouge on May 23, 1982, to a welcoming crowd of over ten thousand. She opened to the public for the first time on August 27, 1983.
Over the years, KIDD has slowly been restored back to her August, 1945 configuration. Each compartment has been treated as a display case into which innumerable artifacts have been collected and arranged just as they would have been when sailors lived and worked on board. The search for hard-to-find World War II vintage equipment has gone around the world. In 1984, the Dutch fleet oiler ZUIDERKRUIS arrived in Baton Rouge on a port visit and transferred to KIDD two twin 20mm gun mounts, two Mk-16 "K-gun" depth charge projectors, and twelve 20mm magazine drums. A 36" searchlight and platform, a Mk-12/22 fire-control radar antenna, four more "K-guns", and several smaller items were salvaged from USS TOLMAN (DD-740/DM-28) prior to her disposal by the Navy as a target ship. Six 25-man balsa life rafts were located in Seal Beach, California. A second 36" searchlight was obtained from a private estate in 1985. In 1995, what began as a blind letter to several allied navies which had received Fletcher-class ships in the years following 1945 resulted in the donation of twelve Mk-9 depth charges from the Turkish navy. On July 03, 1997, KIDD's torpedo tubes were reloaded for the first time since 1964, finishing out her full armament.
Today, USS KIDD is moored in the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the centerpiece of the Louisiana Naval War Memorial. She rests in a unique docking system designed for the near forty foot rise and fall of the river each season. Half of the year, she rides the currents of the Mississippi; the other half, she sits dry-docked in a cradle where visitors can see her full dimensions. Restored to her August, 1945 configuration, KIDD is one of the most authentic and accurate restorations in the Historic Fleet. Of the three preserved Fletcher-class destroyers, she is the only destroyer remaining in her World War II appearance and is now on exhibit in her wartime camouflage paint, "Measure 22."
A Fletcher Museum is located in one of her aft berthing areas: glass-covered foot lockers with plaques dedicated to the 175 Fletcher-class destroyers like KIDD and the men who served aboard them. Each locker contains mementos donated by the crews of these vessels. At least once a year on July Fourth, KIDD's guns sound with an angry roar, firing against would-be attackers in a dramatic reenactment. She is one of the only World War II vessels still capable of performing such a feat. Along with her signal flags, the Jolly Roger flies high from her mast and the image of the pirate looks out from her forward stack, greeting passers-by both on shore and aboard visiting riverboats. She whispers stories of courage, bravery, and sacrifice. She serves as a reminder of all those who have gone before us.