The USS Joseph P. Kennedy is a Gearing-class destroyer that was in active service in the United States Navy between 1945 and 1973. She was named for the eldest of the Kennedy brothers who was killed in August 1944 during a mission against German artillery positions in France.
Joseph P. Kennedy has been preserved as a floating museum at Fall River, Massachusetts.
The "Joey P." was laid down at the Bethlehem Steel Fore River Shipyard at Quincy, Massachusetts in April 1945, She was launched a mere three months later, but not commissioned until December of that year. Commander H.G. Moore was her first captain.
As launched, Joseph P. Kennedy was 390-1/2 feet long with a beam of 40 feet and ten inches. She displaced just under 3,480 tons when fully loaded. Four Babcock & Wilcox boilers provided the power for her General Electric steam turbines, making the vessel capable of a top speed of over 35 knots. Standard crew compliment consisted of 14 officers and 260 seamen.
Among the "Joey P's" first crewmen was the younger brother of her namesake, Seaman Robert Kennedy, who would later serve in Congress and be assassinated during his run for president in 1967.
Joseph P. Kennedy underwent her shakedown trials in the Caribbean between February and April of 1946. Initially based out of Newport, Rhode Island, the destroyer spent her first year engaged in routine duties along the East Coast including Naval Reserve training. This was interrupted by a diplomatic cruise to South America in the fall of that year.
In 1947, the vessel was deployed to the Mediterranean for peacekeeping duties as the aftershocks of World War II were still being felt in the region.
Joseph P. Kennedy served in Korea with Task Force 77 between January and June 1951. Returning to port via the Mediterranean and Atlantic, the destroyer continued deployments to Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East throughout the decade. Joseph P. Kennedy underwent a major overhaul at the Boston Naval Shipyard from late 1958 through June 1959. From June 1961 until May 1962, Joseph P. Kennedy was at the New York Naval Shipyard for her Fleet Rehabilitation And Modernization (FRAM I) overhaul, during which the vessel was outfitted with antisubmarine weaponry, a helicopter flight deck and numerous other upgrades.
During the 1960s, the destroyer was noteworthy for her participation in the U.S. Space Program, joining the recovery team for two Mercury missions as well as Gemini 6 and 7. Sheunderwent a major overhaul at the Boston Naval Shipyard in the spring of 1965. Joseph P. Kennedy remained in operation out of East Coast ports for the remainder of her career.
She was decommissioned in 1973 and towed to Fall River, where she was turned over to the Battleship Cove Museum, after which several years of work was undertaken in order to turn her into a floating exhibit. She remains docked there to the present day.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (DD-850)
The engineering and boiler compartments aboard Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. had the highest concentration of ACMs (asbestos-containing materials). The material was used as insulation for pipes, to line ship's boilers, and to cover elements of the ship's motors and steam turbines. Even compartments not used for any heat-related engineering function were contaminated with asbestos fibers, as the substance was used in cement, adhesives, paint, seals and the tools and protective clothing of crewmen. Exposure to ACMs has been directly linked to developing mesothelioma later in life.
The incidence of mesothelioma is strongly correlated to the quantity of asbestos exposure and also to the total time of exposure. Working with or near friable asbestos products also increases risk. ACMs become friable when they are worn or damaged.
The legal system offers recourse for Navy veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma. We have compiled a helpful mesothelioma information packet to help you understand your legal rights. Simply the web form on this web page and we'll send you an information kit, at no cost or obligation.Sources
Destroyer History Foundation. "Gearing Class"
Mooney, James. Dictionary of American Fighting Ships. (Washington DC; Department of the Navy, 1991).