To the untrained eye, the USS Kidd has looked exactly as it did in World War II. But naval veterans of that era — and USS Kidd Veterans Museum staff — knew otherwise.
On this Veterans Day, the Kidd is finally complete.
A blast shield that protected seamen from the concussion of the warship’s 5-inch gun was put in place on Oct. 26, completing the external authenticity of the Fletcher class destroyer, which has been on display on the Mississippi River since 1983.
“This is the last major piece,” said Tim NesSmith, ship superintendent and educational outreach coordinator the museum. “If you stand on the levee and look at the Kidd, that’s the last thing that you would see that’s missing.”
Through the years, the museum has been adding pieces to the Kidd, which was badly damaged by a kamikaze attack off Okinawa in 1945 and also served in the Korean War before being decommissioned in 1964.
The Kidd, however, did not have its blast shields, and volunteer Greg Shears, a destroyer veteran, enlisted an Arizona firm, Advance Fabrication, to build a replica. Shears and his wife, Carol, donated half the $10,000 cost, and Abbeville native and longtime Kidd supporter James Landry matched their donation.
McKinney Salvage lifted the new shield aboard the Kidd so it could be installed.
“Its basic function is you’ve got three people that sit on top of the torpedo tubes, and right behind those torpedo tubes you’ve got a 5-inch gun,” NesSmith said. “The concussion from the blast would just knock them flat, so you put this shield around the controls where they sat so they would be able to function and not just be blown off the torpedo tubes. I’m sure it didn’t help their ears because essentially they just stuck them in a kettle drum with a gun behind it.”
The museum already has received feedback about the addition.
“I shared the story on our Facebook page, and a couple of people commented … ‘You know, I was visiting, and I thought there should have been something there and it always bugged me, and now I know there was something missing and I’m glad you got it,’ ” NesSmith said. “For folks in the know, vets, they knew it was missing.”