A vessel docked on the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge was flooded with heartfelt stories of courage and spirit Wednesday.
A gun salute marked memorial services for the 62nd anniversary of the kamikaze attack off Okinawa by a Japanese aircraft against the USS Kidd.
Since that time, shipmates have gathered each year, first at a small church in Massachusetts and now aboard their former vessel that's docked in Baton Rouge.
William Barnhouse, who travels from Albuquerque each year to honor his crew members' memories, says, "It's just like it was yesterday. It's as clear in my mind as the day the airplane hit."
38 crew members were lost and 75 wounded aboard the USS Kidd April 11, 1945.
USS Kidd (DD-661), a Fletcher-class destroyer, was the first ship of the United States Navy to be named for Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, who died on the bridge of his flagship USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Admiral Kidd was the first flag officer to die during World War II.
Kidd (DD-661) was launched 28 February 1943 by Federal Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Kearny, NJ; sponsored by Mrs. Isaac C. Kidd, widow of Rear Admiral Kidd, and commissioned 23 April 1943, Commander Allan Roby in command.
During her initial cruise to the Brooklyn Naval Shipyards, she sailed across New York Harbor flying the skull and crossbones of the Jolly Roger on the foremast. Subsequently, during outfitting, her crew adopted the pirate captain William Kidd as their mascot, and commissioned a local artist to paint a pirate figure on the forward smokestack.
It's great to have the opportunity to visit such an amazing piece of history! I never get tired of spending a day, or night, on board - imagining what it was like on the open ocean, never knowing when a wave of Japanese planes were going to appear over the horizon. It makes me realize how lucky I am to live in this place and time, and it reminds me even more of the sacrifices our countrymen have made for us.
I encourage you to come to Baton Rouge and walk the decks of the KIDD in person. See the aircraft that soared through the skies of Southeast Asia during two eras of conflict. Examine the dented helmet of an infantryman who stormed the beaches of Normandy. Touch the names of the fallen Americans whose names are carved into the black granite walls of the Louisiana Memorial Plaza... you won't be the same afterward.
Be sure to check out the USS Kidd Veterans Memorial website.