The USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. was named after the brother of President John F. Kennedy. She was a 2,400 ton Gearing class destroyer, built in Quincy, Massachusetts, and commissioned at Boston in December 1945.
Action in the Mediterranean and Korea
Home ported in Newport, Rhode Island, the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. underwent shakedown in the Caribbean. She joined the USS Wisconsin in October 1946 for a South American cruise. During 1947 she sailed to the Mediterranean to join 6th Fleet operations, returning to Newport in June 1948. For the rest of the year she conducted ASW exercises. She made two training cruises to the Mediterranean in the first half of 1949 and in August returned for a tour as flagship of Destroyer Squadron 18.
When war broke out in Korea, the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. was assigned to Task Force 77 to screen carriers, arriving in February 1951. She was briefly a part of the Formosa Patrol before returning to Korea to take up bombardment positions for the siege of Harbor Islands. Her nearly constant shelling lasted until June 13. The ship then sailed westward circling the globe with other ships of Destroyer Squadron 8, docking at Newport on August 9.
After the War
She served at Fleet Training School in Newport until setting out for the Mediterranean on January 7, 1953, and made another Mediterranean cruise in the first half of 1954. Arctic maneuvers took her to northern Europe in November 1955. For the remainder of the decade she filled various training roles and sailed to the Mediterranean in both 1957 and 1958. The destroyer was on hand for the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in June 1959.
The Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. again went to the Mediterranean in 1960. January 1961 saw her in Washington for the inauguration of President Kennedy. The rest of the year was spent supporting two Mercury space shots and undergoing overhaul in New York. Leaving the yard in early 1962 she was part of the naval blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Another Mediterranean cruise took place in 1964. In 1965 she supported two Gemini splashdowns. At the beginning of 1966 she once again headed for the Mediterranean, returning to support another Gemini mission.
Her last duty with the 6th Fleet took place in 1967. She was awarded two battle stars for her actions during the Korean War. The Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. was stricken from the naval Register July 1, 1973 and is now a museum ship at Fall River, Massachusetts.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, especially during World War II, naval destroyers also pose a lasting health risk to soldiers serving on them. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were common, especially on older ships, because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with these ships should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.