Rear Admiral Isaac Campbell Kidd, Sr.
(1884 - 1941)

 

USS KIDD (DD-661) and USS KIDD (DDG-993) were both named for Rear Admiral Isaac Campbell Kidd, Sr., one of the first American naval heroes of World War II. RADM Kidd was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

 

U.S. Naval Academy yearbook photo of Cadet Isaac Kidd.

Yearbook photo of Cadet Isaac C. Kidd, circa 1905.  Photo courtesy

of U.S. Naval Academy.

.

RADM Kidd was a native of Cleveland, Ohio. He was born on March 26, 1884, to Isaac and Jemina Campbell Kidd. He was educated in Cleveland's public schools, graduating from West High School in 1902. On appointment from his native state, he then entered the U.S. Naval Academy, from which he graduated as a Passed Midshipman on February 12, 1906.

 

Passed Midshipman Kidd first served on USS COLUMBIA, which carried the Marine Expeditionary Force to the Canal Zone and participated in the round-the-world cruise of the "Great White Fleet." On May 17, 1907, he reported to USS NEW JERSEY. During this tour, he completed the two years at sea then required before commissioning and was commissioned an Ensign, USN, on February 13, 1908. He transferred on May 2, 1910, to USS NORTH DAKOTA, where he served until June 1913, except for target practice and training duty at Annapolis during the winter of 1911-12. He then joined USS PITTSBURGH on June 30, 1913, and during the Mexican trouble of 1914-16 he served as First Lieutenant. Following this tour, he served as Aide and Flag Secretary on the staff of Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, aboard the flagships PITTSBURGH

and SAN DIEGO. He returned to the Naval Academy in August 1916 and was serving as an instructor on the Academic Staff when the United States entered World War I.

 

In 1918, he joined USS NEW MEXICO, serving on that battleship during her fitting out, during her service in the last months of the war, and until July 1919. His next tours were as Aide and Flag Lieutenant to Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, and in 1921 as Aide in Charge of Buildings and Grounds for the Superintendent of the Naval Academy. Cdr. Kidd then served as Executive Officer on USS UTAH from May 1925 until November 1926. He thereupon assumed his first command, on USS VEGA, which he held until June 1927.

There followed a long period of shore duty first as Captain of the Port at Cristobal, Canal Zone and then from June 1930 until April 1932 as Chief of Staff to Commander Fleet Base Force. For three years, he was in charge of the Officer Detail Section of the Bureau of Navigation in Washington, D.C. He returned to sea duty from February 25, 1935, to June 7, 1936, as Commander Destroyer Squadron ONE, Scouting Force. He then completed the Senior and Advanced Courses at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, remaining there to serve on the staff for several months.

Photo of Commander Isaac Kidd during his tenure as commanding officer of USS VEGA, circa 1927.

Photo of CDR Isaac C. Kidd, Sr.

during his time as commanding

officer of USS VEGA, circa 1927.

 

Captain Isaac Kidd (right) with RADM Russell Willson aboard USS ARIZONA in May of 1939.

Captain Isaac Kidd (right) with

RADM Russell Willson aboard

USS ARIZONA in May of 1939.

 Photo courtesy of

Richard E. Ammon, Jr.

In September 1938, Capt. Kidd assumed command of the battleship ARIZONA, serving until February 1940. He was then designated Commander Battleship Division ONE and Chief of Staff and Aide to Commander Battleships, Battle Force, with the accompanying rank of Rear Admiral. RADM Kidd was serving in that billet when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. In the attack, RADM Kidd became the first flag officer to lose his life in World War II, and the first in the U.S. Navy to meet death in action against any foreign enemy. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, with citation as follows:

"For conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and complete disregard of his own life, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese Forces on December 7, 1941. He immediately went to the bridge and as Commander Battleship Division ONE, courageously discharged his duties as Senior Officer Present Afloat until the USS ARIZONA, his Flagship, blew up from magazine explosions and a direct bomb hit on the bridge, which resulted in the loss of his life."

 

In addition to the Medal of Honor, RADM Kidd was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart Medal. He previously had won the Cuban Pacification Medal (USS COLUMBIA), the Mexican Service Medal (USS PITTSBURGH), and the World War I Victory Medal, Atlantic Fleet Clasp (USS NEW MEXICO). He was also entitled to the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one engagement star; and the World War II Victory Medal.

 

RADM Kidd was survived by his wife, the former Inez Nellie Gillmore of Cleveland, and by a son, Isaac C. Kidd, Jr., U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1942.

Medal of HonorPurple Heart

 

That is the career history of RADM Isaac C. Kidd, Sr. But exactly who was this man, and why did the Navy choose to bestow his name upon two vessels in later years?

 

The first thing that we must know about him is that the Admiral did not like his name. In fact, he was usually known as "Cap" to family and friends. This was apparently derived from his days at the Academy when classmates dubbed him with the moniker after Captain William Kidd of pirate lore. In fact, according to son "Ike" Kidd, Jr., "one of his first letters to me when I first attended the Academy was of him apologizing for naming me after him. I never minded the name, but apparently he did."

 

Painting of RADM Isaac C. Kidd, Sr., made posthumously after the Pearl Harbor attack.

Painting of RADM Isaac C. Kidd, Sr.

made posthumously after the

Pearl Harbor attack.

"Cap" was a boxer during his time at the Academy. He maintained a daily regimen of exercise throughout his life, both at sea and while in port. Whenever ARIZONA was in port at Pearl Harbor, he could be seen taking walks every day on Ford Island. According to many of the survivors of the ARIZONA, Kidd was also a father figure to many in his crew. He held their respect, being described as "fair" and "a working admiral." He would have little biographical notecards that he stuck to the mirror in his bathroom that kept him appraised of his men's lives-families, rent, conditions of their children. One story tells of a young Marine assigned to the Admiral who announced that he was getting married. Kidd delayed the ship's departure from San Francisco so that the young man could get his home and marriage started and in order before leaving. The first person to arrive with a housewarming gift was RADM Kidd.

 

When the attack at Pearl Harbor came, young Ike and his mother Inez were having lunch at Annapolis. Ike was just days away from graduating from the Academy. It wasn't until the next morning that mother and son learned of the elder Kidd's fate.

 

It was several days after the Japanese attack on Pearl that Navy divers swam out to inspect the damage to the partially submerged ARIZONA. Fires had burned for nearly two days aboard the battleship. Found in the charred wreckage of the ship's conning tower, an Academy class ring was found fused to the bulkhead. One of the divers separated the ring from the steel hull with a chisel. Inscribed inside was the name Isaac Campbell Kidd. Farther back in the stern of the ship, a cedar-lined wooden sea chest was recovered from the Admiral's quarters. Among the items inside were a heavy, Navy-blue cloak; a formal dress hat; and a sword belt.

 

One year and nearly three months later, widow Inez Kidd served as the sponsor for DD-661, launching the ship which would bear her husband's name and bring the fight back to the shores of Japan during the remainder of World War II. In the wardroom guest book which she presented to the crew of the new ship, she wrote "May the destiny of the USS KIDD be glorious! May her victories be triumphant and conclusive!"

Inez Kidd, widow of RADM Isaac C. Kidd, Sr., prepares to christen USS KIDD (DD-661).

Inez Kidd, widow of RADM Isaac C.

Kidd, Sr., prepares to christen

USS KIDD (DD-661).

 

The Admiral's son, "Ike," would serve with distinction throughout World War II and the Cold War era, eventually attaining the rank of Admiral.  In the 1960s, he flew his flag for a brief period from the mast of DD-661, the very ship upon which his father's name had been bestowed.  Admiral Kidd would serve as Commander, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, and Supreme Allied Commander of NATO before retiring from active duty in 1975.

 

Angelique Kidd Smith, granddaughter of RADM Isaac Kidd, Sr., christens the second ship to bear his name:  DDG-993.

Angelique Kidd Smith, granddaughter of RADM

Isaac Kidd, Sr., christens the second ship to bear

his name: DDG-993.

In 1979, Marie Angelique Kidd Smithgranddaughter of RADM Kiddfollowed in her grandmother's footsteps, serving as sponsor for the christening of the second ship to bear her grandfather's name-USS KIDD (DDG-993).

 

Generations of Navy sailors were made aware of RADM Kidd's role in history during the career of DD-661. When DDG-993 entered the Fleet, she carried aboard her memorabilia of both the Admiral and the elder destroyer in the Officer's Wardroom and the Crew's Mess. The latter destroyer's crest bore the family motto: Nil sig namo labore, . . . "Nothing without much labor."

 

When DDG-993 decommissioned in March of 1998, the crew requested that RADM Kidd's Medal of Honor and Purple Heartwhich had resided in their wardroombe

sent to Baton Rouge to be added to an exhibit on the late Admiral at the USS KIDD Veterans Memorial. School children and people from around the world learn about the ARIZONA's "working admiral," about the sacrifice of him and his crew, and about the ships which bore his name in the fight to deter aggression and keep the peace throughout the span of fifty-six years.

 

DDG-993 was still in the midst of transfer and sale to the Taiwanese Navy when the Kidd legacy saw a new addition.  On January 22, 2005, the 50th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, DDG-100, became the third vessel to bear the name of RADM Kidd, christened by his granddaughters Regina Kidd Wolbarsht and Mary Corrinne Kidd Plumer.  As an example of the legacy being inherited by this new vessel, the red-white-and-blue ribbons from the bottle used to christen DD-661 in 1943 by Inez Kidd were attached to the bottles now used to christen DDG-100.  Following the ceremony, the ribbons were collected and—along with DD-661's original bottle—brought to the museum in Baton Rouge for display by CAPT Isaac C. Kidd, III.

Sisters Regina Kidd Wolbarsht (left) and Mary Corrinne Kidd Plumer (right) christen the third USS KIDD (DDG-100).

Sisters Regina Kidd Wolbarsht (left) and Mary

Corrinne Kidd Plumer (right) christen the third

vessel to bear the name USS KIDD (DDG-100).

Photo courtesy of Northrup Grumman Shipyards.

 

With the launching of DDG-100, the KIDD name gains the notoriety of having all three vessels that have borne the name still afloat simultaneously and capable of docking side by side.

 


This article was compiled from several sources, including conversations with Adm. Isaac C. Kidd,, Jr., USN (Ret); the official U.S. Navy biography of RADM Isaac C. Kidd, Sr.; and an article by Mike Gordon that appeared in the December 7, 1998, edition of The Honolulu Advertiser, portions of which were reprinted here by permission.

 

Photos courtesy of U.S. Navy unless otherwise noted.


**Copyright 1997-2006 by Louisiana Naval War Memorial Commission**