It was never easy to find the birthplace of Isaac Campbell Kidd, one of Cleveland's most important World War II war heroes. And, if you read the rest of this story, you'll learn that it is now impossible. The little grey house, built in about 1875, was located at 3059 Mabel Court. To get there, you had to know a little Ohio City geography. From Franklin Circle, you drove west on Franklin Boulevard. Then, just after you passed the Robert Russell Rhodes mansion (which today houses the Cuyahoga County Archives), you would turn left onto West 31st Place, and then quickly left again onto Mabel Court, a winding little alley with just a handful of houses on it. The house in which Admiral Kidd was born sat about 100 feet down the alley, on the right side.
So just who was Isaac Campbell Kidd? When the USS Arizona went down during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941--a date, according to President Franklin Roosevelt "which will live on in infamy," 1171 members of its crew of 1511 men lost their lives. Among them was Rear Admiral Isaac Campbell Kidd, whose flagship was the Arizona. According to eyewitness accounts, when the attack began, Admiral Kidd bravely rushed to the bridge and assumed command as the senior officer on board. As the attack progressed, a Japanese plane dropped a bomb on the Arizona which struck its forward magazine, blowing up the ship. The Admiral, standing on the bridge above that magazine was killed instantly, almost certainly incinerated by the blast. No part of his body was ever found. Only his Class of 1906 Naval Academy ring. And that was found welded to part of the bridgehead, undoubtedly the part where the Admiral's hand rested at the moment of his death. Kidd was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Isaac Campbell Kidd was born in Cleveland on March 26, 1884. He lived on the west side, attending Cleveland public schools and graduating from West High School in 1902. At his graduation, he gave a commencement address, ironically entitled "The Yellow Peril." He was recommended for an appointment to the Naval Academy by famed Ohio Senator Marcus Hanna, and attended the prestigious military college, excelling in both football and boxing, and becoming the college's heavyweight boxing champion. In 1906, following his graduation from the Academy, he served in a number of important expeditions as the United States began to grow its modern navy and strive to become a world sea power. He first served on the USS Columbia during the Marine Expeditionary Force to the Canal Zone in 1906. The following year, he participated in President Theodore Roosevelt's "Great White Fleet," sixteen battleships that circumnavigated the world over a fourteen month period. During much of World War I, before America's entry, Kidd served on the USS Pittsburgh. The ship patrolled off the coast of Mexico, once it became known that Germany was attempting to induce Mexico to enter the war, promising it Texas, Arizona and New Mexico if Germany should win. Once America did enter the war, Kidd was assigned to a new battleship, the USS New Mexico, which saw limited action, but in 1919 served as the escort of the transport George Washington, carrying President Woodrow Wilson to the Versailles Peace Conference in France.
During the years between the two World Wars, Kidd continued to receive important assignments and rise in the officer ranks. In 1938, he became Captain of the USS Arizona, and two years later--the year before his death, he received his final promotion to Rear Admiral and final assignment as Commander of Battleship Division ONE, which consisted of three battleships, including his flagship, the Arizona. He was serving in that assignment when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
Admiral Kidd's death was reported on December 11, 1941, four days after the attack. An article in a Cleveland newspaper which detailed his life and death, listed his birthplace as "near Detroit School, 4800 Detroit Avenue." In early 2015, however, it was learned that the newspaper report was wrong, and the house it referred to--near West 48th and Tillman Avenue, was where the Kidd family lived from 1885-1887, but was not where the Admiral was born in 1884. Unfortunately, the house at 3059 Mabel Court--for too long unrecognized as the birthplace of one of Cleveland's most important war heroes, suffered extensive damage in a fire during the winter of 2014-2015, and was demolished in April 2015. Like the Admiral himself whose body was never recovered after the attack on the USS Arizona, there is now no trace left of Isaac Campbell Kidd's birthplace here in Cleveland.