Friday, October 2, 2015

Battleship Cove - The Joey P

USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., DD-850
"The Joey P"
As a young lad when JFK took office as the 35th President of the United States I, as a New Englander, already knew quite a bit about the Kennedy family. Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. was the oldest son, the crown prince of the Kennedy family. His father had visions of his oldest boy and namesake Joe someday sitting in the White House, not Jack. But history will have her way and it was not to be.

LT Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr., USNR
25 July 1915 - 12 August 1944

The young Naval Aviator was killed at the age of 29 on a special mission.
Operation Aphrodite (US Army Air Forces) & Operation Anvil (US Navy) made use of unmanned, explosive-laden Army Air Forces Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Navy PB4Y-1 Liberator bombers, that were deliberately crashed into their targets under radio control. These aircraft could not take off safely on their own, so a crew of two would take off and fly to 2,000 feet (610 m) before activating the remote control system, arming the detonators and parachuting from the aircraft.

After U.S. Army Air Forces operation missions were drawn up on July 23, 1944, Kennedy and Lieutenant Wilford John Willy were designated as the first Navy flight crew. Willy had "pulled rank" over Ensign James Simpson (who was Kennedy's regular co-pilot) to be on the mission. They flew a BQ-8 "robot" aircraft (a converted B-24 Liberator) for the U.S. Navy's first Aphrodite mission. Two Lockheed Ventura mother planes and a Boeing B-17 navigation plane took off from RAF Fersfield at 1800 on 12 August 1944. Then the BQ-8 aircraft, loaded with 21,170 lb (9,600 kg) of Torpex, took off. It was to be used against the Fortress of Mimoyecques and its V-3 cannons in northern France.

Following behind them in a USAAF F-8 Mosquito to film the mission were pilot Lt. Robert A. Tunnel and combat camera man Lt. David J. McCarthy, who filmed the event from the perspex nose. As planned, Kennedy and Willy remained aboard as the BQ-8 completed its first remote-controlled turn at 2,000 feet near the North Sea coast. Kennedy and Willy removed the safety pin, arming the explosive package, and Kennedy radioed the agreed code Spade Flush, his last known words. Two minutes later (and well before the planned crew bailout, near RAF Manston), the Torpex explosive detonated prematurely and destroyed the Liberator, killing Kennedy and Willy instantly. Wreckage landed near the village of Blythburgh in Suffolk, England, causing widespread damage and small fires, but no injuries on the ground. According to one report, a total of 59 buildings were damaged in a nearby coastal town. W
B-24D, the aircraft type some of which the Army Air Forces converted to BQ-8 drones.

PBY4-1, two of which the Navy converted to BQ-8 drones though some sources indicate that the Navy did not call them BQ-8s. It was in this type aircraft that Navy Lieutenants Kennedy and Willy lost their lives.

In 1945 the Gearing-class destroyer DD-850 was laid down in the Bethlehem Steel Corporation's Fore River Shipyard at Quincy, Massachusetts. She was christened the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. She is "the last surviving Destroyer built in the State of Massachusetts, the only vessel to stop and board a Soviet chartered ship during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, and the last US Navy configured Gearing class Destroyer in the world" (source).

A young Robert Kennedy served on her during her shakedown cruise in February 1946. JFK and Jackie Kennedy watched the America's Cup races from her decks in 1962, anchored off of Newport, here in Little Rhody. The old ship has strong ties to New England. I had the honor, and privilege, of visiting this proud ship just recently at her final mooring at Battleship Cove in Fall River, MA.

The Joey P's bridge. Yes, that hatch was locked. Yes, Murph and I tried to open it.
The flight deck of the Joey P. Murph and I were surprised that she has a flight deck. We wondered what sort of helo could fly off such a small platform. We discovered that, as you shall, a bit further down.
You can climb up to Joey P's flight deck, so of course, we did.
Part of Joey P's enlisted berthing. No doubt Skip would consider this spacious.
This machine shop can be seen in the previous photo. Can you imagine trying to catch some rack time with some machinist mate working in there? I can't.
Looking towards Joey P's bow and her forward 5-inch gun mount. (Torpedo launcher in left foreground, see below.)
Search radar (the box-spring looking thing) on the mast and a gun fire control radar dish forward of the mast.
Aft end of the eight cell RUR-5 ASROC launcher. Manufactured by Honeywell, this launcher held 8 Anti-Submarine Rockets, essentially a torpedo with a rocket strapped to its butt.
Business end of the ASROC launcher.
An exercise ASROC mounted on its loader.
(If it's blue it won't go boom. If it's gray, get out of it's way.)
Joey P was originally equipped with two Mark 32 Surface Vessel Torpedo Tubes (Mk 32 SVTT) with three tubes each, one of which you can see in the photo above looking towards the bow. These were designed to fire the Mk-44 torpedo. Those two examples in the photo are actually Mk-46s. (I know they're not blue but they're not war shots. At least I don't think they are... Nah, no way.)
Port side Mk 32 SVTT (detail from the photo above looking towards the bow).
Joey P's stack (think engine exhaust...)
The hangar just forward of Joey P's flight deck. Home to two Gyrodyne QH-50 DASHs (Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopters). They're not that big, which is how the flight deck can be so small. Manned helos need not apply!
Placards detailing the drones. Not sure if you can read them. Need good eyes!
Another placard showing a DASH lifting off.
On to the Lionfish, where I brained myself.
Farewell Joey P!


  1. Thanks for the memories. Kennedy was a squadron mate of my ship (Charles H Roan (DD-853) in Newport. Remember her well. She was known as the "Paint Can" because she was always being spiffed up for various VIP rides/duties. (Tin Can covered in lots of paint = "Paint Can" get it?). Anyway she was as nearly identical to my ship as you can get--allowing that every ship has her own personality. The Mark 46 torpedoes (those appear to be exercise shots with day glow "warheads" which were shot full of air for flotation purposes at the end of an exercise firing) were in fact carried by FRAMs--replacing the Mark 44s for close in attacks. A superior fish in every way. ASROC , besides carrying the RTT (Rocket Thrown Torpedo--Mk 44 and later Mk 46) also had a RTDC (Rocket Thrown Depth Charge) version featuring a 12-14 KT nuclear depth charge. We carried both.

    1. Well, that answers a lot of my questions as to why those fish were displayed. We still use the Mk-46, though the newer version (Mk-54) is around, seems only PACFLEET has it.

      "Paint can" - I love it.

  2. That is spacious compared to the berthing compartment below the mess decks, where my rack was.
    We didn't have to deal with the machinist's noises so much as the sound of the SQS-23 sonar pinging and the inconvenience of having the hatch from the mess decks closed when there was a movie.
    But, then so did the sonarmen and torpedomen, who shared the compartment.

    When the FRAM was first completed we carried Mk24 torpedoes.
    That bedspring antenna was for the air search radar, in that instance probably the AN/SPS-29.
    We carried the SPS-40, which had a parabolic shape with an overhead feed horn.

    1. As for the DASH, it was only a rumor while I served on the ship.

    2. I've been reading a lot about FRAM lately. I guess back then we tried to get more out of our ships.

    3. The DASH didn't last long, poor reliability.

    4. Yup to all. Radar might have been the Mark 37A, which used the Mark 29 antenna hooked to a more powerful Radar system. DASH also had a tendency to home in on the nearest Carrier. Airedales REALLY didn't like that!

    5. Gee, I wonder why? (Said the father of two kids in naval aviation...)

  3. In the last pic, Is that Murph trying to sneak into the hangar bay?

    1. Hahaha! No, Murph is better than that. (We tried to gain access inside the ship, no witnesses that way.)

      Actually I remember that guy, some sort of "professional" photographer with light meters and everything.

      Murph doesn't like people cluttering up his photos, but as you can see with that guy on the flight deck, having people in the shot gives you an idea of scale.

    2. Did you notice what brand of lethal, scary lathe that was in the cage? I always envision some poor guy hanging on for dear life as the ship tries to throw him into the spinning work! Wow.

    3. No I didn't but yeah I can see that too. Tin can sailors had to be tough.

  4. So what are those round hatch-thingies in the deckhouse (?) just forward (I think?) of the MK46's? Ready torpedo reloads? JO staterooms?

    Sleeping with noise -- you get used to it. So much so that it's tough to sleep the first few nights back on the beach when everything is so eerily quiet. I even got to where I could sleep with needle-gunning going on. Had to be pretty exhausted for that one though.

    1. The "round hatch thingies" are in the ASROC magazine, and are blow out patches in case the rocket motor ignited while in the magazine (which would be a very bad thing),. There was also a rather robust salt water quenching system for the same reason.

      I still need some "White noise" to sleep properly. Complete silence wakes me up instantly.

    2. Ah, I understand. Thanks. Makes perfect sense. Burning rocket + enclosed space = BAD THING.

    3. Murph and I were wondering about those as well. Now we know.

    4. White noise is great for sleeping. Too quiet and I'm trying to listen to what's not there!

    5. One last thing, having anything burning on board a ship at sea is bad. In an enclosed space with burning rockets? Really, really, really bad.

  5. Yep, EXTORPS. And Ev can tell some tales about DASH ops... That's what he did. We almost got knocked out of the air by one of those years ago. It went chugging by, co-altitude with us. NO idea where the ship that launched it was (at least over 120nm away).

    1. Flying with a DASH that far from the mother ship? Geez! I'll bet that required a change in flight suits!


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