We headed east toward the Capital City of Baton Rouge, where the riverfront revitalization continues. A rare World War II destroyer named the U.S.S. Kidd has graced the riverfront for more than 40 years. She saw action in both the Atlantic and the Pacific during World War II, and also served during the Korean War. Even though the U.S.S. Kidd was designed to be on the open seas, she how rests on the Mississippi River, rising and falling with the water level.
Who is the namesake for the U.S.S. Kidd? "His name was Admiral Isaac Campbell Kidd. He was the Admiral aboard the U.S.S. Arizona." says Rosehn Gipe, the Executive Director for the U.S.S. Kidd Veterans Museum.
She continues, "Everybody remembers the Arizona, it was the ship that was sunk at Pearl Harbor, and there's a memorial there now. He was a flag officer on board, and was the first flag officer killed in World War II."
As a boy he had a pretty cool nickname. Gipe says, "When he was growing up, he was known as Cap. That was his nickname. So when this ship was commissioned, the crew aboard was to choose a mascot. And they wanted to use Captain Kidd, the pirate as their mascot."
A pirate? Doesn't that mean trouble on the high seas? "They didn't want to offend anyone, so they asked the Admiral's widow who had christened the ship if it would be all right and she thought it was a wonderful idea!" Gipe continues.
But the crew went a step further asking Kidd's widow again ti they could fly another flag. The Jolly Roger, or as most people know it the Pirate Skull and Crossbones flag. Kidd's widow personally went to the Navy to ask if that flag could be authorized. Gipe says, "And they did! Who's going to turn down Mrs. Kidd? And now, the ship is authorized to fly the Pirate Flag!"
The U.S.S. Kidd started escorting carriers in the Atlantic, then eventually transited the Panama Canal heading toward the Pacific. On April 11, 1945, then unthinkable, as a Kamikaze pilot positioned himself between the U.S.S. Kidd and the U.S.S. Black. Neither ship could fire, for fear of hitting each other. Gipe says, "The bomb it was carrying went directly through the ship, exploding on the other side. It killed 38 people and injured 55." Somehow the ship was able to return to harbor on its own power. The ship's doctor capturing a picture of the Japanese plane as it made its approach.
Today, even though it's a museum. The kids are going to love it! "On the ship you can touch things. You can point and train the guns. You can climb up the ladders. There are a lot of active things that children can do." Gipe saying, their imagination can run wild! "We do see a lot of the play acting when they're up on the guns. You hear a lot of sounds like they're blowing up things and firing the guns!"
And the Veterans become kids too. Gipe says, "I've seen sailors coming down the gangway with a cane or a walker, which of course you can't use well on the ship. And they hit this deck and they're 18 again. And they can get up and down the ladders just fine. When they leave, they're back to their old self again. It's really something to see."
How about playing sailor for the night? "We have an overnight camping program. A lot of historic naval ships do. Kids can come spend the night in the bunks that the sailors were actually in, and we have a whole educational program that goes with it." says Gipe.
For the rest of us, it's a self guided tour. You can start in the museum building and enjoy the special exhibits, then head to the ship. But they really need you to visit. During the time of the Pandemic, visitors stayed away, which also means a loss of revenue. And it takes money to keep this lovely lady in "Ship Shape"!
You can also participate in one of their annual fundraiser called "Roaring on the River". It will be held at the museum and ship March 24. Chef John Folse will be there with his fantastic cuisine. Entertainment by the Victory Belles, and music by the Connor Underwood Quartet. The 2022 Patriot Award will be given to author, Hans Sternberg. And of course you'll be able to enjoy the best view of the river from the deck of the U.S.S. Kidd! Tickets are $75 and can be purchased online. All to benefit the U.S.S. Kidd Veterans Museum!