Posts Tagged ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’


The USS Barry Museum Ship

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.


The Yenching Palace

During a 13-day period in October in the year that I was born, a political and military standoff nearly turned into a worldwide nuclear conflict.  Known in this country as the Cuban Missile Crisis (it was known as the October Crisis in Cuba and the Caribbean Crisis in the former Soviet Union), leaders of the U.S. and the Soviet Union engaged in a tense confrontation in October of 1962 over the installation of nuclear-armed Soviet missiles on Cuba, just 90 miles from U.S. shores.

In a nationally televised address, President Kennedy notified Americans about the presence of the missiles and explained his decision to enact a naval blockade around Cuba.  The President made it clear the U.S. was prepared to use military force if necessary to neutralize this perceived threat to national security.  However, 51 years ago today, disaster was avoided when the U.S. agreed to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s offer to remove the Cuban missiles in exchange for the U.S. promising not to invade Cuba.  Kennedy also secretly agreed to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey.

So I took a bike ride to the location where many historians contend the agreement to end the crisis was negotiated, the Yenching Palace Chinese restaurant.  Tucked between the D.C. Fire Department’s Engine Company 28 and a 7-Eleven, it was located at 3524 Connecticut Avenue (MAP).  The Yenching Palace was opened in the 1950’s by Van Lung, the son of a Chinese warlord, and remained a landmark in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of northwest D.C. for more than 50 years.

In its heyday, diplomats, politicians, movie stars and musicians dined there alongside neighborhood regulars.  In the early 1970s, Henry Kissinger was a regular visitor, Chinese diplomats often his companions. Kissinger used to drink Moutai — a powerful liqueur popular in China — and eat the duck.  A few of the other customers included Mick Jagger, Danny Kaye, George Balanchine, Ann Landers, Jason Robards, James Baldwin, Arthur (that’s how he signed the guest book) Garfunkel, famed architect I.M. Pei (whose signature is completely unreadable), Daniel Ellsberg, “Alex” Haig, Lesley Stahl, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and so many ambassadors and Senators it’s hard to keep track.  But perhaps the most famous customers and the most oft-told story about Yenching Palace is how emissaries representing President Kennedy and Soviet leader Khrushchev clandestinely met there on the evening of October 27th to negotiate during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and legend has it that they hammered out the final details, and avoided a war, in the second-to-last booth on the left.

The Yenching Palace closed – to the dismay of many regulars – in 2007 when the building was leased by the Lung family to a Walgreens – the first Walgreens to locate in D.C., in fact.  In a nod to the building’s history Walgreens attempted to recreate the façade of the building to imitate its original appearance.