Who Was Pearl Harbor’s Highest-Ranking Casualty?

By: Mark Loproto

Many names stand out when learning about the tragedy that unfolded at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Some are remembered for their bravery under fire, and a few were awarded the Medal of Honor for actions that day. One of these men was Rear Admiral  Isaac C. Kidd, Pearl Harbor’s highest-ranking casualty.


Early Career of Isaac C. Kidd

RADM Isaac C. KIdd

RADM Isaac C. KIdd

Isaac C. Kidd began his military career shortly after the turn of the 20th century. The Cleveland, OH native joined the US Naval Academy when he was 18 years old, graduating four years later, in 1906. Within two years of graduating, Kidd was commissioned into the Navy as an ensign, while participating in the Great White Fleet around-the-world cruise aboard USS New Jersey (BB-16).

Kidd later served aboard various warships, including USS New Mexico at the conclusion and aftermath of World War I. In 1925, he was assigned Executive Officer of USS Utah (BB-31). Next, he commanded USS Vega (AK-17). For three years beginning in 1927, Kidd was Captain of the the Port at Cristobal in the Panama Canal Zone.

Kidd alternated service aboard different ships with other duties, including a stint as Commander of the Scouting Force of Destroyer Squadron One. At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Isaac C. Kidd was the Commander of Battleship Division 1, with the rank of Rear Admiral. His flagship was USS Arizona (BB-39), which was moored along Battleship Row on the morning of December 7, 1941. When Pearl Harbor came under attack that Sunday morning, Admiral Kidd rushed to the bridge and carried out his duties as Senior Officer Present.


December 7, 1941 and the Destruction of USS Arizona

Explosion of USS Arizona (BB-39)

Explosion of USS Arizona (BB-39)

USS Arizona was a primary target for the Japanese attackers, and she was hit with a direct bomb directly to the bridge. Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd was killed in the resulting explosion.

More than 2,400 Americans were killed that morning. Many of them were never recovered, and are still considered Missing in Action. Kidd is one of them. Multiple searches failed to locate his body, though his Naval Academy ring was discovered by Navy divers. It was fused to a bulkhead on the bridge of his last battleship.

Kidd’s personal effects, stored in a trunk, were recovered and sent to his widow. Years later, his children happened upon the trunk, which was donated along with its contents to the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor.


Honors for RADM Isaac C. Kidd

USS Kidd (DDG-100), the third ship named for RADM Isaac C. Kidd

USS Kidd (DDG-100), the third ship named for RADM Isaac C. Kidd

For his bravery and unwavering command during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Kidd received the Medal of Honor and a Purple Heart. These were added to the Army of Cuban Pacification Medal, Mexican Service Medal, World War I Victory Medal with Atlantic Fleet Clasp, American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one bronze battle star that represents Pearl Harbor, and the World War II Victory Medal.

Kidd has also had three ships named for him, so his memory will continue to live on in the US Navy.

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