The first Destroyer preserved for Posterity.
January 2014 marks the 40th anniversary of the USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr DD850 joining the museum at Battleship Cove. This is a brief history of some of the history behind how she became a memorial at the Battleship Cove museum and why the Friends of the USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. advocate for her continued restoration.

Why JPK DD850?
In the early 1970s, Battleship Cove in Fall River, MA was looking to add to its collection of Naval vessels that already included the Battleship Massachusetts and submarine Lionfish. Due to damage sustained to the Newport Naval Station based JPK DD850, the Navy planned on retiring JPK in July 1973. It was a fit that made sense since DD850 was built in MA, was moored only around the corner from Fall River, MA to ensure a cheap towing cost, and was named after a prominent MA citizen from a famed family. Battleship Cove began interaction with the Navy to begin transfer of the ship.

However, all was not easy as a thin hulled Destroyer had never been preserved before and costs for maintenance would need to be reviewed. While the museum reviewed the proposal and logistics costs of acquiring the destroyer, the sister destroyers of the active Navy removed much equipment. After months of negotiations the US Navy finally communicated that if the museum didnt take the JPK soon, tugs were going to bring her to Philadelphia, PA in preparation for a scrap sale. At the last minute, Battleship Cove with the support of Ted Kennedy signed the agreement to bring DD850 to Fall River, MA.

Veterans and ship lovers to the Rescue
On a cold day in January 1974, JPK with snow on her decks was towed to Battleship Cove in Fall River to begin life as a museum ship. With weathered decks, faded paint, and many spaces empty of equipment, the museum had a big challenge to say the least. During her darkest time, a brilliant idea arose to a Board of Diector of Battleship Cove named Edward Ward. Though he never served himself, he had a great love for destroyers and was the catalyst for the museum to acquire JPK. His idea was to create an organization called Tin Can Sailors (TCS) to promote, fund, and provide volunteer labor to restore JPK DD850.

It started slow at first with only a few members but would eventually grow into its own independant organization that would have more than 20,000 members. In the early days, TCS funded and provided volunteer labor with the use of retired Destroyer sailors that put new life into DD850. Parts acquisition trips to the BASILONE DD824, GLENNON DD840, STRIBLING DD867, and others would reacquire some of the missing material.

Today, TCS donates thousands of dollars to fund various preservation and restoration projects aboard DD850. Our volunteer force which we call "The Crew" has restored much of the vessel to her late 1960s/early 1970s appearance and has been on dozens of mothballed ships in VA, PA, and CA to reacquire most of what JPK needs to complete her transformation.

"Joey P" sits proudly as a museum and memorial to all those who served aboard Destroyers in the US Navy. She also reflects and honors our service personnel who served during the Cold War in the challenging 1960s and 1970s. With the Official Commonwealth of Massachusetts Korea and Vietnam War Memorial to our fallen servicemen aboard, her mission is as important as her active duty service.

Significant Attributes as a Memorial and Museum

  • Last remaining Gearing class destroyer of 98 built to be in a completely US Navy configuration. The Gearing class destroyer represents the predominant Navy workhorse of the Cold War era fleet.

  • Only museum ship in the world that presents the US Navy's first UAV system (DASH) in its restored and original platform environment.

  • Home to the Admiral Arleigh Burke National Destroyermen's Museum, which honors all destroyer veterans and their ships across the nation.

  • Designated as the Official Memorial for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to service members who lost their lives in the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

  • Designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service.

  • Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. was the first destroyer type ship preserved in the United States.

  • Tin Can Sailors, The National Association of Destroyer Veterans, was founded aboard the ship.

  • Ship was named in honor of Massachusetts war hero, Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., who sacrificed his life on a daring mission over the English Channel in WW2.

  • The ship participated in the Inauguration of President-elect John F. Kennedy in Washington DC in January 1961. The ship was named for the oldest brother of John and had close ties to parents Joe Sr. and Rose Kennedy, who hosted parties for the ship's crew and kept abreast of DD850s service.

  • A young US Navy reservist and future US Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy, served for a short time as an enlisted crewmember on his brother's namesake.

  • Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. provided "Camelot at Sea" for President John F. Kennedy, his wife Jackie, and children as well as many dignitaries for various events including the America's Cup Races off Newport, RI. A young and future Senator John Kerry from Massachusetts was aboard DD850 with President Kennedy for the races in September 1962. Jackie continued to use DD850 as a viewing platform even after the death of the President, including the America's Cup competition in 1970.

  • Joseph P. Kennedy Jr received international notoriety in October 1962 when she was ordered to stop and board the Soviet chartered freighter Marucla during the Cuban Missile Crisis when the pre-mentioned ship attempted to run the naval blockade of Cuba, which was in effect to stop entry of any missiles or components. This incident represented the pinnacle of President Kennedy's diplomatic and military standoff with Soviet Premier Khrushchev regarding Soviet placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba.

  • Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. was built by the citizens of Massachusetts and those of the New England region at the Fore River Shipyard, Bethlehem Steel Shipbuilding Division in Quincy, MA in 1945.

  • The ship operated out of her homeport of Newport, RI and served the nation in the active Navy for over 27 years.

  • Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. was awarded two battle stars for service during the Korean War in 1951, which included the bombardment of Wonsan as Flagship of DesRon 8.

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