Docked in downtown Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USS Kidd (DD-661) is a United States Navy Fletcher-class destroyer ship that served in World War II and the Korean War. USS Kidd (DD-661) was commissioned in the spring of 1943, named in honor of Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, the first United States flag officer to be killed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, and sponsored by his widow.
Before her entrance into battle in the Pacific theater during World War II, the ship’s crew commissioned a local New York City artist to paint a pirate logo on her forward smokestack, playing off of the ship’s name similarity to famed pirate captain William Kidd.
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Throughout the remainder of World War II, the ship served as part of nearly all of the important naval campaigns in the Pacific, including the Gilbert and Marshall Islands invasions and the campaign at Okinawa. She was decommissioned after her World War II service in 1946, but returned to service in 1951 as part of the American forces in the Korean War. Upon return home from the Korean War, Kidd suffered a collision with Swedish freighter Hainan, causing a need for repairs that put her out of service until the spring of 1953. From 1953 through 1959, Kidd patrolled locations in the Pacific, including ports in Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines. Throughout the early 1960s, she assisted with the Berlin Crisis and patrol of the Caribbean during the Cold War. In June 1964, she was decommissioned and berthed at Philadelphia Shipyard.
After her decommission, Kidd was selected as one of three Fletcher-class warships to serve as future public memorials, and was chosen by Louisiana state legislature to represent the service of the state’s World War II veterans. In 1982, she was permanently docked along the Mississippi River in downtown Baton Rouge and opened as a public museum vessel, and in 1986, she was listed as a National Historic Landmark.
Today, the USS Kidd (DD-661) stands as the only Fletcher-class destroyer to remain in its original World War II state, completely restored to her 1945 appearance and armament. She is owned and operated by the Louisiana Naval War Memorial Commission. Because of the unique depth conditions of the Mississippi River, she spends half her year berthed on the river and the other half dry-docked on the shoreline of downtown Baton Rouge.
Visitors may board the Kidd as a living history museum and see the ship as she was configured during her service in World War II, touring all areas of the ship and climbing inside bunks within the ship’s sleeping quarters. Navy veterans on site serve as docents for ship tours, highlighting important ship information and sharing anecdotes about life on deck. Though the Kidd is only handicap-accessible on her main decks due to the nature of her historic restoration, a 30-minute film presentation touring the entirety of the ship’s interior is available upon request for visitors with accessibility needs.
In addition to the ship itself, admission to the Kidd also includes a tour of a two-story museum dedicated to Louisiana veterans. Permanent exhibits focus on aspects of naval history on the Mississippi River and beyond, featuring memorabilia from crewmen who served on the Kidd during her 20th-century engagements, including helmets showing the damage of their World War II battle service. A number of rotating temporary exhibits are also highlighted, focusing on historical and cultural topics related to World War II, such as the 2017 Captured in Canvas exhibit featuring works of amateur and professional art depicting the Kidd. A Louisiana Memorial Plaza outside the museum commemorates the names of fallen area soldiers.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Guided 1 ½-hour tours are offered for school groups and organizations, highlighting Louisiana history and social studies curriculum topics. An overnight camping experience is offered for students, allowing children to sleep inside the ship’s bunks and learn about naval history in a hands-on environment. The Kidd is also available for private rental for birthday parties, military ceremonies, and other special events.
Regular public lectures are held as part of the Kidd Keynotes lecture series, focusing on topics related to military and social issues and highlighting ways to get involved in community veterans activities. The museum also participates in Baton Rouge’s Free First Sundays program, which allows families to visit some of the city’s most prominent museums for free. Themed activities are offered during First Sundays, including pirate-themed activities honoring the ship’s nickname as the “Pirate of the Pacific.”
A number of fundraising events and programs throughout the year honor the service of Louisiana veterans and facilitate museum operations, including a Sponsor-a-Veteran donation program and an annual benefit concert.
305 South River Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70802, Phone: 225-342-1942