United States Ship Joseph P. Kennedy Jr.

Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. ( DD-850) was launched at the Fore River Shipyard of the Bethlehem Steel Company in Quincy, Massachusetts on 26 July 1945. Sponsored by Miss Jean Kennedy (Smith), sister of Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., the ship was commissioned in Boston on 15 December 1945 with Commander H. G. Moore in command.

The new destroyer sailed on 4 February 1946 for shakedown training in the Caribbean. She returned to her homeport, Newport,RI, in April, and was occupied for the next few months in Naval Reserve Training. At this time, Robert Kennedy served a short stint of service as an enlisted crewmember after granted a release from NROTC by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal in order to go to sea on the ship named for his oldest brother. Arriving in Norfolk on 8 October, the ship joined Admiral Leahy's flagship Wisconsin BB-64, and other units for a cruise to Chile and Venezuela. She transited the Canal twice on this voyage, and was reviewed by the President of Venezuela on 25 November 1946. Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. , returned to her home port of Newport, RI on 14 December 1946.

During 1947 the destroyer operated on the East Coast and in the Caribbean. She sailed for fleet maneuvers off Puerto Rico on 9 February and upon completion steamed eastward to join the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean. During this period of great unrest in Europe, the fleet carried out the important role of peacekeeper and stabilizer. Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. visited various Mediterranean ports before arriving in Newport on 26 June 1948. The remainder of the year was spent in antisubmarine exercises and the first half of 1949 saw her make two training cruises to the Caribbean.

The ship sailed on 23 August 1949 for 6th Fleet duty as flagship of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 8, returning 27 January 1950. With the advent of war in Korea, she carried out reserve training in July 1950 followed by bombardment and convoy exercises to prepare for action defending South Korea from Communist aggression. Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. , sailed for Japan on 3 January 1951 by way of the Panama Canal, Pearl Harbor, and Midway. At Sasebo she loaded ammunition and, exactly 1 month after departure from Newport, joined Task Force 77 off Korea. From February to April she screened Valley Forge (CV-45), Princeton (CV-37) and Philippine Sea (CV-47) as they pounded enemy positions and supply lines. She departed on 8 April for the Formosa Patrol, helping to prevent further hostilities across the volatile Straits.

Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. , then returned to Korea arriving off Wonsan on 20 May to take up bombardment station in support of the Allied siege and occupation of harbor islands. This duty continued until 13 June, a period of almost constant bombardment of great importance to the operation, after which the ship steamed to Sasebo.

Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. , did not return to the West Coast immediately upon the termination of this combat duty, but instead steamed westward to complete a circuit of the globe. With other units of Destroyer Squadron 8, she visited Singapore, Bahrain, Port Said, Naples, and Gibraltar before returning to Newport on 9 August 1951. Until January 1953, she conducted battle practice and served as school ship for the Fleet Training School at Newport that served to keep the fleet abreast of the latest developments. She sailed on 7 January for another 6th Fleet cruise, returning to Newport on 18 May 1953. Antisubmarine training exercises and another Mediterranean cruise from January-May 1954 comprised her duty through most of 1955, and she sailed on 5 November for Arctic maneuvers off northern Europe. The ship visited Oslo, Norway, and Bremerhaven, carrying out tactical exercises with units of the 6th Fleet before returning to Newport on 5 March 1956.

In June 1956, the veteran ship arrived in Annapolis, MD with Iowa ( BB-61) and New Jersey ( BB-62) to embark Naval Academy midshipmen for a practice cruise. Upon returning from Northern Europe on 1 August, the ship took part in training operations until 6 May 1957, when she sailed once more for 6th Fleet duty. The Jordanian crisis had just passed with the strong support of the fleet, and Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. , took part in carrier operations until September, when she steamed to the coast of Norway for NATO joint maneuvers. She returned to Newport on 22 October 1957. Again in 1958 the ship sailed to the Mediterranean, and on this cruise spent April in the Persian Gulf, with the Middle East Force that helped stabilize that critical area before arriving in Newport on 1 July 1958.

After a needed period of overhaul at the Boston Navy Yard, Joseph Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. , arrived in Annapolis once more on 3 June 1959 for midshipman training. Along with other ships of the task group, she entered the St. Lawrence Seaway and represented the Navy at the opening of the Seaway on 26 June 1959. Following the ceremonies, in which both President Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth II took part, the destroyer entered the Seaway and steamed to Chicago on 2 July. The ship visited various ports before returning to the Atlantic on 6 August. In 1960 she returned to the Mediterranean with Forrestal (CVA-59) and Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVB-42), returning to Newport 15 October.

In January 1961 Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. , steamed to Washington for the inauguration of John F. Kennedy, brother of her namesake. During February and April of that year, she took part in space shots in the Project Mercury series. She then arrived at the New York Navy Yard in Brooklyn, NY on 1 July 1961 for a FRAM overhaul in the Naval Shipyard. During this period she received the latest in anti-submarine gear (ASROC, DASH, MK 32 Torpedo Tubes), a major machinery overhaul, and significant structural changes to her topside configuration to encase the latest electronic and weapon additions designed to increase her useful life by over 8 to 10 years. After emerging in her new dress in late May 1962, she underwent exhaustive shakedown out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba returning on 26 August 1962.

In September 1962, the destroyer carried President John F Kennedy, First Lady Jackie Kennedy and other dignitaries that included a young future Senator from Massachusetts, John Kerry, for the America's Cup races off Newport. During this visit, President Kennedy gave the following remarks on 15 September to the ship's company during a presentation in which EM1 Gilbert Olsen presented him with a model of the ship:


I want to express our very great appreciation to you, Captain, to Electrician's Mate Olsen, and to all of you for this presentation, and also for the model of the ship.

The ship, the Kennedy, means a good deal to all of us. My sister took part at the commissioning. My father and mother attended it. It was built in Fall River, Mass. My brother, Robert, served on it as a seaman in the Caribbean in 1944 and 1945. My father and mother have visited it on several occasions when it was stationed in the Mediterranean. It was, of course, as you know, named after my brother who had a distinguished combat record in the Second World War, and it's been the greatest source of satisfaction to all of us that you officers and men have maintained the extremely high standard which every captain and every officer and man on this ship has maintained over a period of 17 years. So I was particularly happy when we heard that this ship was here, and I know that I speak on behalf of Mrs. Kennedy and all of us who were your guests today, the Members of the Congress, our visitors from abroad, members of the press, in expressing our very warm thanks to you, our very best wishes to you.

We realize that whatever may come for this country and for the Navy, that the U.S.S. Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. , will be playing an important and forward part.

Thank you very much.

A month later, the Presidents promise to ensure that JPK would play a forward part in our countryís defense came to quick fruition as Soviet nuclear missiles were discovered in Cuba. Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. , with other ships of the fleet, reacted quickly to the threat of offensive missiles in Cuba, and President Kennedy's quarantine order. Sailing on 22 October, the ship took an active part in the blockade which forced an easing of the crisis, but sighted a merchant ship that had crossed the quarantine line on 25 October. The destroyer reported the contact to the task force commander and continued on station. Later that day, the order to intercept the Soviet chartered Marucla was given. Given the time between the order to intercept the freighter and the initial contact, the destroyer steamed after the now out of sight ship at full speed. Destroyer John R. Pierce (DD753) picked up the freighter contact and shadowed it until DD850 arrived on the scene around midnight. At this point, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. signaled the Marucla to prepare to receive a boarding party at dawn. With the two destroyers standing by on each side of the freighter on 26 October, a six man crew consisting of one from the PIERCE and five from KENNEDY boarded the Marucla. After three hours of searching for prohibited materials, the freighter was sent on its way. The destroyer left the quarantine area to escort an amphibious task force carrying troops from the Panama Canal to Cuba. After participating in this demonstration of the power and mobility of the modern Navy, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. remained on patrol in the Caribbean until returning to Newport on 7 December 1962.

During 1963, the veteran destroyer carried out training operations off the Virginia Capes and Nova Scotia. She departed Newport on 29 April 1964 for another Mediterranean cruise until 26 August, and in October was underway for Operation "Steel Pike I", one of the very largest amphibious operations since World War II. During the passage of the task force to the Spanish coast, she acted as antisubmarine screening ship. Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. returned to Newport on 19 November 1964.

Late in January of 1965, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. , put to sea for Port Canaveral, Fla., where she helped qualify two newly constructed Polaris submarines for patrol overseas. There followed a regular 3-month overhaul in the Boston Naval Shipyard. On July 15, DD850 began a 2-month period of refresher training as the ship set sail for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The U.S. Space Program was one of Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. s mid-60's commitments; leaving Newport on November 27, 1965, the ship took station 1,200 miles southeast of Bermuda as part of the afloat recovery team for Gemini 6 and 7 on a 14-day orbital and rendezvous mission in space. The shots a success and her duty done, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. returned to Newport on 21 December to prepare for another deployment in the Mediterranean.

Assigned to DESRON 10, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. departed Newport on 15 February 1966 for duty with the 6th Fleet. After arriving at Gibraltar on 24 February, she participated during the next 4 months in Anti-Air Warfare (AAW) and Anti-submarine Warfare (ASW) operations and ranged the Mediterranean from the North African coast to Turkey. She completed her peace-keeping patrols late in June and returned to Newport on 8 July.

During the remainder of the year she conducted destroyer exercises and carrier screening operations off the eastern seaboard. In mid-November she participated in recovery operations following the successful 4-day flight of Gemini 12. On 1 March 1967, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. again sailed for duty with the mighty 6th Fleet. She cruised the Mediterranean until late April, thence transited the Suez Canal for the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. Late in June, she departed the Gulf of Aden for the United States. Steaming via the Cape of Good Hope and South America, she arrived in Newport the following month. The destroyer participated in joint US/Canadian operations and prepared for the possible recovery of the Apollo IV capsule through the remainder of 1967.

January 1968 brought about service as a SONAR school ship in Key West, FL and more operation in the Caribbean. With DESRON 20, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. deployed to the Mediterranean with the 6th Fleet and NATO exercise consisting of Italian and British forces. In Newport by September, the DD850 operated along the East Coast and underwent an overhaul that lasted throughout the remainder of the year. The year 1970 saw the destroyer undertaking a cruise to Bermuda and participation in a joint US/Canadian antisubmarine exercise in the North Atlantic. In July of 1970, JPK left plane guard duties with Independence (CV-62) to undertake gunfire practice in the sinking of the obsolete Otter (DE-210). The destroyer returned to Newport to serve as a host ship for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, her children, and guests for the 1970 America's Cup.

After years of heavy steaming, the Kennedy took her final cruise to the Mediterranean in late 1972, with the sixth fleet, as a member of DESRON 24. Due to damage received at sea during the return trip and the overall age of DD850, the scheduled overhaul for July 1973 was cancelled and the vessel was decommissioned on 2 July 1973, thus ending a long active service period in the United States Navy. Though being planned for tow to Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and an intended scrap sale, the USS MASSACHUSETTS Memorial Committee requested the ship as a museum at Battleship Cove.

In January 1974, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. began her next assignment as a museum vessel to represent the largest class of destroyer to serve the US Navy during the Vietnam Conflict era. By doing so, Joey P became the first destroyer type vessel preserved for posterity. In June 1989, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service.

JPK earned two battle stars for action in the Korean Conflict ( Timeframe: 3 Feb-13 Apr 51, 5 Feb-3 Apr 51, 21 May-17 Jun 51, 8-9 Apr 51 for First UN Counter Offensive: 25 Jan-21 Apr 51; and 30 May-13 Jun 51 for Communist China Spring Offensive: 22 Apr-08 Jul 51 ) as well as the United Nations Service Medal, South Korean Presidential Unit Citation, China Service Medal, and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for the Cuban Missile Crisis.