- The guided missile destroyer USS Kidd was recently spotted flying a Jolly Roger flag.
- The flag is a nod to Rear Admiral Kidd’s nickname, “Cap,” itself a reference to the notorious Captain Kidd the pirate.
- The Navy destroyer is adorned with the skull and crossbones of the Jolly Roger, from the flag to steel doors.
Keen observers spotted the guided missile destroyer USS Kidd earlier this week flying the Jolly Roger pirate flag. Not every warship can get away with flying a flag associated with piracy and lawlessness, but the USS Kidd isn't any ordinary warship. The story, as The War Zone explains, goes all the way back to Pearl Harbor.
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In early December 1941, Rear Admiral Isaac Kidd was the commander of Battleship Division One at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. During the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Kidd quickly went to the bridge of his flagship, USS Arizona, to take charge of his battleships. Kidd, along with 1,176 other sailors and Marines, was killed when the Arizona sank under multiple bomb and torpedo hits. His body was never found.
Admiral Kidd, the highest ranking officer killed at Pearl Harbor, was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. His Medal of Honor citation reads:
“...for conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and complete disregard of his own life, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. Rear Admiral Kidd immediately went to the bridge and, as Commander Battleship Division ONE, courageously discharged his duties as Senior Officer Present Afloat until the U.S.S. ARIZONA (BB-39), his Flagship, blew up from magazine explosions and a direct bomb hit on the bridge which resulted in the loss of his life.”
According to The War Zone, the first USS Kidd, a Fletcher-class destroyer commissioned in 1943, adopted the skull and crossbones and overall pirate theme as a play on 18th century Scottish pirate William Kidd. Admiral Kidd’s nickname at the US Naval Academy was “Cap,” a reference to the pirate Captain Kidd. The ship got the all-clear from Kidd’s widow to associate itself with both the pirate and the captain, kicking off almost 80 years of tradition.
Today’s USS Kidd is a guided missile destroyer of the Arleigh Burke class. The ship does regularly fly the Jolly Roger, as it did on September 21 (see above) and here, departing San Diego in June 2020:
A quick check of the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service indicates the ship typically flies the flag coming or going from U.S. naval bases on the West Coast, but doesn't fly the flag abroad, particularly during multinational naval exercises.
Flag aside, the skull and crossbones theme is found elsewhere on the ship. The rear of the ship’s Mk. 45 5-inch gun features the pirate flag:
Fire Controlman 1st Class Juan Morales, a crew member on the Kidd and a talented artist, painted the Jolly Roger. In the span of five years, Morales completed “more than 300 artistic projects for various Navy commands and ships since he enlisted [on] March 14, 2012,” according to a 2017 Navy article.
The pirate skull and crossbones also appears on a steel door inside the Kidd, again painted by Morales:
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