USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. (DD-850):
The eldest child of Joseph P. and Rose Kennedy, Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr. was born on July 28, 1915. After graduating with honors from Harvard University in 1938, Kennedy enrolled in Harvard Law School, leaving early to enlist as a Navy pilot.
In August of 1944, the young aviator volunteered for a top-secret bombing mission over Normandy in which he was to direct an explosives-laden, radio-controlled Liberator into a German V-2 rocket launching site. The mission went tragically awry: The charges detonated prematurely, and Kennedy was killed.
For his heroism, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. was posthumously awarded the Air Medal and the Navy Cross.
Destroyer Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., known by her crew as the "Joey P," was laid down April 2, 1945, by the Bethlehem Steel Company at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, MA. Launched on July 26, 1945, and commissioned on December 15, 1945, she was completed in only 8 months, reflective of the fast pace of shipbuilding during the last year of WWII.
Homeported in nearby Newport, RI, Kennedy spent the next 27 years performing countless duties. Following commissioning, she spent the rest of the decade conducting training exercises in the Atlantic and Caribbean, and executed peacekeeping duties as a member of the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. On February 3, 1951, she joined the carrier task force attacking North Korean positions. In May of that year she stood off Wonsan, North Korea, using her 5" guns for nearly a month of continuous bombardment duty. Kennedy left the war zone and arrived back in the States in August 1951, and for the next several years she completed several Sixth Fleet tours of duty, midshipmen cruises, and joint NATO maneuvers.
In early 1961 she operated in the Caribbean, assisting with the first Mercury space flights. She arrived at New York Naval Shipyard in July for renovation under the FRAM I (Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization) program. This conversion afforded her new anti-submarine gear, a helicopter hangar and flight deck, and other improvements designed to extend her useful life. Following a post-refit shakedown cruise, she returned to Newport in September 1962 to embark President John F. Kennedy for his observation of that year's America's Cup Races.
In October, Kennedy was dispatched to the Caribbean to participate in the naval blockade of Cuba. It was here on October 26 that Kennedy stopped and boarded the Greek freighter Marucla, suspected of ferrying missile components to Cuba. From the early 1960s until her decommissioning in 1973, Kennedy again performed innumerable duties, including her role as a recovery vessel during the Gemini 6 and 7 NASA space program missions. She was stricken from the Naval Register of Ships in 1973 and acquired by Battleship Cove in 1974.
In Spring 2000, Kennedy was towed to Rhode Island sound to portray herself and destroyer John R. Pierce (DD753) in the Kevin Costner film entitled Thirteen Days, which recreated the events surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis. A National Historic Landmark, USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. is home to the Admiral Arleigh Burke National Destroyer Museum and serves as the official memorial to Bay State citizens who gave their lives during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.