If you go for a bike ride along D.C.’s southwest waterfront, and I highly recommend that you do, you should proceed east on the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail until you get to the waterfront at The Washington Navy Yard. Located on the north shore of the Anacostia River just east of Nationals Park, you will find the Navy’s oldest shore establishment. Known as “The Yard,” it is the former shipyard and ordnance plant of the U.S. Navy in southeast D.C., and currently serves as a ceremonial and administrative center.
On the waterfront at The Yard you will find the USS Barry (DD-933) moored at Pier 2 (MAP). She was one of the Navy’s eighteen Forrest Sherman-class destroyers when commissioned in 1954. She supported the 1958 Marine and Army airborne unit landing in Beirut, Lebanon. And in 1962, she participated in the Cuban Missile Crisis as a member of the task force that quarantined Cuba in response to evidence that Soviet missiles had been installed on the island. She spent most of her career in the Caribbean, Atlantic, and Mediterranean, but also served in the Vietnam War, for which she was credited with destroying over 1,000 enemy structures and earned two battle stars. During the final portion of her active career, in the 1970’s, she was home ported in Athens, Greece as part of the Navy’s forward deployment program.
Decommissioned in 1982, she began her new career as a museum ship and permanent public display two years later when she was brought to The Yard. She currently lies moored in the Anacostia River and serves as a distinctive attraction for visitors to the historic area, with some of her internal areas opened for visitors to tour. Some of the museum ship’s areas open for viewing include the machine repair shop, the crew berthing room, the ward room, the mess deck, the bridge, and the combat information center. She is also used for training and shipboard familiarization, and as a ceremonial platform.
Many local residents think the ship was named after “D.C. Mayor-For-Life” Marion Barry, but she was actually named for the illustrious Revolutionary War naval hero, Commodore John Barry. An officer in the Continental Navy during the American Revolutionary War and later in the United States Navy, John Barry is widely credited as “The Father of the American Navy,” sharing that moniker with John Paul Jones. As most naval historians note, Barry can be classed on a par with Jones for nautical skill and daring, but he exceeds him in the length of service to his adopted country and his fidelity to the nurturing of a permanent American Navy. He had great regard for his crew and their well being and always made sure they were properly provided for while at sea. Barry was also a religious man, and began each day at sea with a reading from the Bible.
I have been to the waterfront at The Yard several times, and each time I practically had the place to myself. It is one of D.C.’s true hidden gems. And although I know there are some people who’d prefer to keep it that way, this is another place worth knowing about and visiting that is just too good not to share.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, after 34 years in D.C., the USS Barry is no longer at the Washington Navy Yard. Unable to move under its own power since the ship’s internal systems were in layup and out of commission, on May 7, 2016, tugboats towed the ship to Philadelphia, where it was dismantled and sold for scrap.