Louisiana Naval War Memorial
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
visited June, 2001
USS Kidd (DD-661) DANFS
USS Kidd was the highlight of my visit to the Pelican State (sorry, New Orleans!). The Kidd is the marquee attraction at the Louisiana Naval War Memorial in Baton Rouge. The Memorial (also known as the Nautical Center) honors Louisiana's contributions to and casualties from the War of Independence in 1776 up to the present, along with a large collection of ship models, a full-scale walkthrough of USS Constitution's gun deck, and artifacts & displays relating to Louisiana veterans.
The interior exhibit I found most interesting was a Louisiana pilot's helmet from Vietnam. The pilot wearing it was shot down and captured. Long after the war (and his repatriation) the helmet was "liberated" from the Vietnam national war museum and brought to the U.S. The card relating this tale ends with the words There Are No Plans To Return It.
The memorial to Louisianans who made the ultimate sacrifice is quite moving. Guarded by an A7 Phantom and an eternal flame, names from 1776 to today are engraved in granite walls that evoke memories of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The Kidd alternately floats in the Mississippi River and sits in a 'drydock' depending on the season. When I visited, the Kidd - normally high and dry - was afloat thanks to Tropical Storm Allison. (The Mississippi looked pretty similar in Baton Rouge to my regular vantage point in Wisconsin.) Although I missed the opportunity to examine the hull, there's no question that she looks great in her natural element. Stroll the decks, examine a 5-inch turret, and try to imagine using the torpedo guidance controls outside the bridge on a hot, rainy night in the Pacific.
The Kidd also features a memorial to her class in the aft berthing compartments. Small displays feature detailed information about her Fletcher-class sisters, with memorabilia and artifacts alongside. The Kidd is a very interesting comparison to the Sumner-class Laffey (DD-724) at Patriot's Point in Charleston, South Carolina.
Visitors to the Kidd are greeted by a plaque (pictured below) that reads:
"It is August 01, 1945, Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard, San Francisco. The KIDD is just completing repairs following the April 11 kamikaze hit that killed thirty-eight of her crew off of Okinawa. It is the days before television, plastic, OSHA, and warning labels on everything. It is back when personal safety was a matter of alertness and common sense.
The KIDD is a 1945 ship, so exercise caution as you visit. It is six days before the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Most of the crew are ashore enjoying their last stateside liberty. The remainder are readying the ship for the war's final campaign--the invasion of Japan. Over 350 ships were sunk or damaged at Okinawa, and rumor has it that the invasion of Japan will make Okinawa look like a Sunday picnic. . . ."
(click on thumbnails to show the larger image)
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