The USS KIDD Veterans Memorial Museum

 


USS KIDD Veterans Memorial Museum


 

Built adjacent to the KIDD on the banks of the Mississippi River in downtown Baton Rouge, the Veterans Memorial Museum houses many special attractions for the history or military enthusiast. It features many one-of-a-kind artifacts, offering an expansive view of the mighty river and is located in the heart of the downtown historical district, just walking distance from Louisiana's Old State Capital, the Louisiana Arts & Sciences Museum, the Irene Pennington Planetarium, the LSU Museum of Art, and the Shaw Center for the Performing Arts.

 

The Louisiana Veterans Hall of Honor

 

The most popular exhibit found in the museum is the Louisiana Veterans Hall of Honor, dedicated to those servicemen and women who have had outstanding or unique military careers.  Each person is a Louisiana native and each has a remarkable story to tell: two Medal of Honor recipients; a participant of the famous Doolittle Raid on Tokyo; a former "Flying Tiger" of World War II; a defender of Corregidor who survived the Bataan Death March; an infantryman who was wounded four different times during the invasion of Normandy; a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne who was twice wounded during the Battle of the Bulge; two Air Force pilots who were held for six and a half years as POWs (Prisoners of War) in Vietnam's infamous Hoa Lo Central Prison, also known as the Hanoi Hilton; and one of the first women to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Each story is of courage, valor, and personal sacrifice.

The Louisiana Veterans

Hall of Honor

 

The keel-laying banner for the nuclear-powered submarine USS BATON ROUGE (SSN-689).

The keel-laying banner of the nuclear-powered

submarine USS BATON ROUGE (SSN-689)

The USS BATON ROUGE Exhibit

 

Among the many exhibits found in the museum is a display featuring the USS BATON ROUGE (SSN-689), a nuclear-powered Los Angeles-class attack submarine. The exhibit is centered around a model of the submarine and the brass builder's plaque taken off of "Big Red" herself.  An intriguing artifact is the bunting which covered the "nose" of the BATON ROUGE during her keel-laying ceremonies:  it stretches from floor to ceiling through both floors of the museum lobby and is nearly the width of the building.

 

A model of the Navy's latest nuclear-powered Ohio-class missile submarine, USS LOUISIANA (SSBN-743), the 18th and last of her class, can be found nearby.

 

The USS KIDD Exhibition Room

 

On the 1st floor of the museum lies the USS KIDD Exhibition Room. Here you will see an eight-foot brass model used to build all 175 Fletcher-class destroyers, as well as the builder's model for the newer Kidd-class guided missiles destroyers.  Another display features the photos of the men who were killed aboard ship on April 11, 1945, during an attack by a Japanese kamikaze. Pieces of the actual plane itself can be found in another exhibit on the infamous pilots of "the Divine Wind."

 

You'll also see an exhibit on the U.S. Navy's WAVES: Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. Of note is the changing role of women in the military services over the decades. This display is sponsored by Baton Rouge's own chapter, the Red Stick WAVES.

The U.S. Navy WAVES Exhibit

The U.S. Navy WAVES Exhibit

in the USS KIDD Exhibition Room

 

The Freedom Shrine

 

Located on the 2nd floor of the museum, the Freedom Shrine is a collection of 28 original historic American documents photographically reproduced for display.  Its purpose is to remind all Americans that the freedoms enjoyed today are a gift from the past:  the product of the idealism, determination, and sacrifice of vast numbers of courageous men and women who preceded us.  This display is sponsored by the Baton Rouge chapter of the Exchange Club.

 

The Veterans Signature Quilt

The Veterans Signature Quilt

The Veterans Signature Quilt

 

The Veterans Signature Quilt is a beautiful forum through which our veterans can touch the hearts of generations yet to come.  Signatures range from World War II and the Korean War to the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, and the liberation of Kuwait.  There are even a few small signatures for the doughboys who returned from the "Great War"—World War I.  Sailors, soldiers, marines, airmen, nurses, WAVES, and WACS—all are represented.  Some inscribe messages for friends or loved ones now gone:  "For the uncle I never knew . . . Louis Britt, USN, USS ARIZONA, Pearl Harbor."  This exhibit is sponsored by the Peaceful Quilters.

 

The Pilothouse of the Steamboat LOUISIANA

 

On the north end of the museum's 2nd floor, you will find the full-scale replica of the pilothouse of the 19th century paddlewheel riverboat LOUISIANA.  Visitors can climb inside and try their hand at turning an authentic piece of history:  the gigantic century-old steering wheel of an actual riverboat.  Relive the old days when Samuel Clemens was a river pilot, when paddlewheelers ruled the Mississippi, and when Cotton was King.

The pilothouse of the riverboat LOUISIANA.

The pilothouse of the riverboat LOUISIANA.

 

The 1/9-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

The 1/9-scale replica of the

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

 

On the 2nd floor of the museum resides a 1/9 scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall found in Washington, D.C. The replica was brought to Baton Rouge through the efforts of Chapter 488 of the Vietnam Veterans Association in honor of all those who fought in Southeast Asia, particularly those 58,000 Americans whose names can be found engraved on the polished black granite of the Wall. A moving and emotional display, the Wall brings home the truth of the pledge "Never Forgotten."

 

Ship Model Collection

 

It has been called "the largest model ship collection in the South" and it is located here at the USS KIDD Veterans Memorial. Sponsored by the Baton Rouge Ship Modelers Association, this collection features models of such famous vessels as TITANIC, the Confederate raider CSS ALABAMA, HMS SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS, Admiral Horatio Nelson's HMS VICTORY, the battleship USS MAINE, the Coast Guard Training Ship EAGLE, and the beautifully crafted USS NEW ORLEANS (CA-32). And with the nation's busiest river just a few hundred yards away, it is only natural that models of many of the local tugs and cargo vessels that have plied the Mississippi's waters appear alongside the warships of yesteryear.

One of the many ship models in the museum's collection:  the HMS SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS.

A model of the HMS SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS

 

The full-scale replica of the gundeck of USS CONSTITUTION.

The full-scale replica of the gundeck of "Old Ironsides," USS CONSTITUTION.

The Gundeck of "Old Ironsides"

 

In tribute to the early days of the U.S. Navy, the museum features a full-scale model of a section of the gundeck of USS CONSTITUTION, also known as "Old Ironsides." Guests can walk through this replica, see a history of the "Grand Old Lady of the Fleet" that includes actual artifacts and wooden timbers from the CONSTITUTION herself, feel the wooden planks underfoot, duck down to avoid the low beams overhead, and grasp a greater understanding of life and combat aboard the United States' early frigates.

 

The P-40E Warhawk Fighter Plane

 

Possibly the most famous aviation group in history, the American Volunteer Group known as the "Flying Tigers" won fame during World War II fighting the Japanese in the skies above China and Burma. Led by General Claire Chennault, these fighter pilots flew combat missions long before the United States ever actually entered the war. These courageous aviators fought against overwhelming odds and racked up a kill ratio that was, by far, the envy of the Imperial pilots who flew against them. A P-40E Warhawk, the type used by the "Tigers" before they were disbanded, honors these American fliers.

The P-40E Warhawk fighter plane.

The P-40E Warhawk fighter plane.

 

USCGC WHITE ALDER Memorial

The USCGC WHITE ALDER Memorial.

USCGC WHITE ALDER Memorial

 

On the northern end of the grounds, a black granite memorial stands a lonely vigil in memory of lost sailors.  On December 07, 1968, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter WHITE ALDER (WLM/WAGL-541) collided with a Taiwanese freighter on the Mississippi River near White Castle, Louisiana.  The little buoy tender sank in a matter of minutes, taking seventeen of her twenty crew members down with her.  The ship and her crew remain entombed beneath the silty river bottom to this day.

 

The A-7E Corsair II Fighter-Bomber

 

On the northern end of the memorial, an A-7E Corsair II jet attack aircraft from the Vietnam era sits high atop a pedestal, arrowing skyward. Dedicated in 1994, this plane was restored through the efforts of Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 488.  It bears the markings of VF-147, "the Argonauts," off of the carrier USS RANGER (CV-61), who were the first squadron to fly A-7s in Vietnam.

 

The A-7E Corsair II has been designated as the State of Louisiana's official memorial to its Vietnam War veterans.

The A-7E Corsair II jet attack aircraft is the State of Louisiana's official memorial to its Vietnam War veterans.

The A-7E Corsair II jet attack aircraft.

 

The Korean War monument

The Korean War Monument.

Korean War Monument

 

Perhaps one of the most beautiful exhibits on the grounds of the memorial is the Korean War monument.  Made of black granite, the monument bears an etched map of Korea on one side showing the sites of 26 major battles that occurred during the three-year conflict.  The reverse side holds the seals of each branch of the Armed Forces with the message "Freedom Is Not Free" engraved on each side of its base.  Dedicated in 2004 through the efforts of the Korean War Veterans Association, Chapter 230, it stands as a testament to all that the Korean War is not the "Forgotten War."

 

Statue of Lieutenant General John Archer Lejeune

 

A lone figure guards the entrance to the Louisiana Memorial Plaza, honoring one of Louisiana's most outstanding military leaders.  A graduate of Louisiana State University, Lt. Gen. John Archer Lejeune saw action in the Spanish-American War and World War I and was the first Marine officer to command an Army division in combat.  He served as the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps from 1920-1929 and superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute from 1929-1939.  The Marine Corps training facility Camp Lejeune, located in North Carolina, was named in his honor.  He is known today as "the Marine's Marine" and "the greatest Leatherneck."

The statue of Marine Corps General John Archer Lejeune.

The statue of Marine Corps

Gen. John Archer Lejeune.

 

A rose is placed beside the name of a loved one on the walls of the Louisiana Memorial Plaza.

A rose is placed beside the name of a loved one

on the walls of the Louisiana Memorial Plaza.

The Louisiana Memorial Plaza

 

Located directly adjacent to the museum and is the Louisiana Memorial Plaza. The plaza is enclosed by polished black granite walls inscribed with the names of over 7,000 Louisiana natives who died in service to their country in all of the American wars, from the Revolutionary War of 1776 to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. An eternal flame rests at the center of the square and seven American flags are flown daily on the western side of the courtyard in tribute to our fallen heroes.

 


**Copyright 1997-2011 by Louisiana Naval War Memorial Commission**