A Naval Academy class ring gives mute testimony to disaster at Pearl Harbor 70 years ago today

By John Keller

Posted by John Keller

A ring from the U.S. Naval Academy, class of 1906, is an enduring icon of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor , which happened 70 years ago today, and ushered the United States into World War II. The ring belonged to Navy Rear Adm. Isaac Campbell Kidd, who on that day was commanding officer of the Navy's Battleship Division One. His flagship was the USS Arizona .

Adm. Kidd was born in 1884, and had served as a naval officer all of his adult life. His military experience involved the Navy's Great White Fleet's round-the-world cruise in 1907 to 1909. He had been aide and flag secretary to the commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and commander of Destroyer Squadron One, Scouting Force.

On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, Kidd was aboard the battleship USS Arizona , which was anchored at the Hawaiian naval base at Pearl Harbor near the other Pacific Fleet's battleships. The Arizona was a Pennsylvania-class battleship commissioned in 1916.

Even though the ageing warship had been at sea for a quarter century, the huge vessel with its 14-inch guns still was considered to be among the most formidable weapons of its day. The era of the aircraft carrier was yet to come, and battleships were still kings of the ocean on that sunny Sunday morning 70 years ago.

Adm. Kidd was a battleship officer through-and-through. In addition to the Arizona , he had served aboard the battleships USS New Jersey (BB-16), USS North Dakota (BB-29), USS New Mexico (BB-40), and USS Utah (BB-31).

When the first Japanese bombs began falling on Pearl Harbor, Adm. Kidd rushed to the bridge of the Arizona . There wasn't a lot he could do, as the ship was moored on Battleship Row next to Ford Island at Pearl Harbor, penned in next to the repair ship USS Vestal , with the battleships USS Nevada , USS Tennessee , and USS West Virginia in front and behind.

Although the Vestal screened the Arizona from Japanese aircraft-launched torpedoes, the Arizona was a stationary target, vulnerable to Japanese bombs. One of those bombs ripped through the Arizona's forward deck, igniting a powder magazine and causing a spectacular fiery explosion that ripped the battle wagon apart, and collapsed the ship's superstructure that contained the ship's bridge.

Adm. Kidd's body was never recovered. Navy divers sent to salvage what they could from the Arizona's wreckage did locate Adm. Kidd's naval academy class ring. They found it in what was left of the Arizona's bridge welded to a bulkhead from the concussion and heat of the explosion.

Divers also found Adm. Kidd's trunk on the sunken Arizona , which is at the USS Arizona Memorial museum at Pearl Harbor.

In a postscript to the disaster at Pearl Harbor, Adm. Kidd's son, Isaac C. Kidd, Jr., was commissioned a Navy ensign 12 days after his father's death at Pearl Harbor. Later he participated in the U.S. invasion of Iwo Jima near the end of World War II in the Pacific. He retired from the Navy in 1978 and died in 1999.

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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

June 2015
Volume 26, Issue 6

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