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Destroyer Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. gets some love from volunteers

The USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., at sea in May, 1963.

U.S. NAVY

By MARC MUNROE DION | The Herald News, Fall River, Mass. | Published: October 23, 2017

FALL RIVER, Mass. (Tribune News Service) — Tom Gay was painting. A lot of people were painting away in various corners of the USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., a 1945-vintage destroyer permanently moored at Battleship Cove.

"We're having a weekend field day," said Gay, brush in hand.

"We have a bunch of civilians painting the ship, restoring it, keeping it from deteriorating.

"While the weather is good," Gay said. "And that won't last long.

Gay said they expected some 80 volunteers were working by Saturday.

"We'll have about 30 sleeping on the ship, he said. "We'll eat our meals here, and we'll get liberty at night.

"We're doing some plumbing work, but it's mostly painting," Gay said.

A ship is outdoors, sitting in water, every hour of every day, in every season, in every kind of weather. Painting is a constant task, so much so that sailors often changed the old recruiting slogan "Join the Navy and See the World," to "Join the Navy and Paint the World."

A National Historic Landmark, the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. is home to the Admiral Arleigh Burke National Destroyermen's Museum and serves as the official memorial to Bay State citizens who gave their lives during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

The ship was stricken from the Naval Register of Ships in 1973 and acquired by Battleship Cove in 1974.

Gay said the effort was all volunteers, many of them from the Tin Can Sailors, which is the national organization for destroyer veterans.

For Michael Angelini, the trip across the river from his Somerset home to the Kennedy is also a trip back in time.

Friday found him sitting in the same office he was sitting in back in 1972, when he crossed the Atlantic as the personnel officer on the Kennedy.

"We hit a huge storm," is one of the things he remembered about that crossing.

"I was a career counselor," he said, putting the civilian title on his naval speciality.

"I tell people I was in this office, and they say, 'You mean one like it?' and I say, 'No, this one,'" he said.

"It's a dream really," said Angelini. "I'm living the dream."

Every so often, the ship's loudspeakers blared forth the combat command for crew to get to their battle stations, a little bit of virtual reality on a calm, sunny day at the wharf.

©2017 The Herald News, Fall River, Mass.
Visit The Herald News, Fall River, Mass. at http://www.heraldnews.com/
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