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