Rear Adm. Isaac Kidd, who served aboard the battleship USS Arizona, was the highest-ranking casualty on Dec. 7, 1941, and the first flag officer to lose his life in World War II.
His posthumous Medal of Honor citation states that as commander of Battleship Division One, he immediately went to the bridge and “courageously discharged his duties” as senior officer present until the Arizona, which was his flagship, “blew up from magazine explosions and a direct bomb hit on the bridge, which resulted in the loss of his life.”
No trace was ever found of Kidd. Only his Naval Academy ring was found fused to a bulkhead on the bridge by Navy divers.
At least three generations of Kidds with the same name would serve in the Navy, including Adm. Isaac Kidd Jr., who became supreme allied commander of NATO’s Atlantic Fleet, and Isaac Kidd III, a retired captain who served 30 years on active duty and in the reserve.
The famous ring is now in the hands of Isaac Kidd IV, the family said.
On Wednesday, the nonprofit Pacific Historic Parks, which assists at the USS Arizona Memorial, celebrated its 40th anniversary with an appearance by Isaac “Cappy” Kidd III — whose father was the keynote speaker at the Oct. 10, 1980, opening of a $5 million visitor center that was then the gateway to the sunken battleship memorial.
In 2010, a new $56 million Pearl Harbor Visitor Center was dedicated.
“For (Pacific Historic Parks), one of our goals is really to be able to tell the story of the Pacific theater in World War II,” said president and CEO Aileen Utterdyke.
Isaac Kidd III had plenty of colorful vignettes to tell within that larger story — including having Adm. Chester Nimitz as a grandfather of sorts while Kidd was a youngster growing up on the East Coast.
Kidd also spent an eventful couple of years in Honolulu in the late 1950s staying on a 106-foot yacht owned by movie director John Ford and getting drop-in visitors including John Wayne.
The retired Navy captain, 75, spoke to a group of a few dozen under a tent on the visitor center grounds with the battleship grave for more than 900 men across the waters of Pearl Harbor behind him.
The Arizona’s loss of 1,177 men represented nearly half of the 2,390 casualties after Japanese warplanes attacked without warning on a sleepy Sunday morning that turned into a day of infamy.
Twenty-one ships of the Pacific Fleet, including eight battleships, were sunk or damaged, and 164 aircraft were destroyed on Oahu.
The third Isaac Kidd said he and his wife, Pam, a couple days earlier had toured the visitor center museums and visited the reopened Arizona Memorial.
“It is a magnificent tribute to not only those who are interred in her hull, but to all sailors who have died at sea and have no permanent marker for the sacrifice they’ve made,” the Annapolis, Md., man said during his remarks.
The Kidd family has deep history in the Pacific, meanwhile.
Commissioned an ensign in 1908, the first Kidd participated in the 1907-09 “Great White Fleet” of 16 battleships ordered by President Theodore Roosevelt to make an around-the-world cruise to project American power and prestige abroad.
Kidd was commanding officer of the USS Arizona from 1938 to 1940 and then was promoted to rear admiral and assigned as commander of Battleship Division One, which included the Arizona, Pennsylvania and Nevada.
Isaac Kidd III remembers coming to Honolulu in 1958 as a teen when his father was at Camp H.M. Smith and wrangling a berth on Ford’s yacht “Araner” at the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor.
“This, for me, was a two-year refuge,” he said, adding that he “developed into a reasonably competent wielder of a varnish brush.”
John Ford also had been a rear admiral in the Naval Reserve, and his wife, Mary, had a condo on the beach and was a regular onboard the Araner — “always introducing her guests to the crew, John Wayne, Mr. and Mrs. Rudy Vallee. These (individuals) live in my memory as most gracious visitors,” he said.
Pacific Historic Parks, meanwhile, started life as the Arizona Memorial Museum Association. The “cooperating association” runs retail offerings including the bookstore and assists with education, interpretation and preservation, Utterdyke said.
On many days, Pacific Historic Parks employees outnumber National Park Service rangers at the memorial, which is overseen by the park service.
Utterdyke said the park service has about 15 rangers and Pacific Historic Parks has 25 to 30 workers at the visitor center.
The nonprofit is also involved with operations at Diamond Head State Monument and at Kalaupapa National Historical Park, American Memorial Park in Saipan and War in the Pacific National Historical Park in Guam.
An evolving area of involvement is at former World War II internment camp Honouliuli National Historic Site in the Kunia area.
“That is another park that has just been put under the Pearl Harbor umbrella,” Utterdyke said. “So as they build that out, we’re there to support that.”