The USS Intrepid Remembered


The USS Intrepid Remembered

Intrepid was launched on 26 April 1943 by Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co., Newport News, Virginia, the fifth Essex-class aircraft carrier to be launched. She was sponsored by the wife of Vice Admiral John H. Hoover. On 16 August 1943, she was commissioned with Captain Thomas L. Sprague in command before heading to the Caribbean for shakedown and training. Intrepid‘s motto upon setting sail was “In Mare In Coelo”, which means “In the Sea In Heaven” or “On the Sea (and) In the Sky”.

Service history

World War II

Intrepid has one of the most distinguished service records of any Navy ship, seeing active service in the Pacific Theater including the Marshall Islands, Truk, Leyte Gulf, and Okinawa. At war’s end, she was in Enewetak and soon supported occupation forces providing air support and supply services before heading back to California.

Marshalls, January–February 1944

  • 3 December 1943: Intrepid sailed from Naval Station Norfolk for San Francisco, then to Hawaii.
  • 10 January: She arrived at Pearl Harbor and prepared for the invasion of the Marshall Islands, the next objective in the Navy’s massive island-hopping campaign.
  • 16 January: She left Pearl Harbor with carriers Cabot and Essex.
  • 29 January–2 February 1944: She raided islands at the northeastern corner of Kwajalein Atoll and pressed the attack until the last opposition had vanished.
  • 31 January: By then, the raids destroyed all of the 83 Japanese aircraft based on Roi-Namur. The first landings were made on adjacent islets. That morning, Intrepid‘s aircraft strafed Ennuebing Island until 10 minutes before the first Marines reached the beaches. 30 minutes later, that islet – which protected Roi’s southwestern flank and controlled the North Pass into Kwajalein Lagoon – was secured, enabling Marines to set up artillery to support their assault on Roi.
  • 2 February 1944: Her work in the capture of the Marshall Islands was now finished. Intrepid headed for Truk, the tough Japanese base in the center of Micronesia.
  • 17 February: Three fast carrier groups arrived undetected at daybreak.
  • 17 February–18 February: The three carrier groups sank two Japanese destroyers and 200,000 tons (180,000 tonnes) of merchant shipping in two days of almost continuous attacks in Operation Hailstone. The carrier raid demonstrated Truk’s vulnerability and thereby greatly curtailed its usefulness to the Japanese as a base.
  • 17 February 1944: That night, an aerial torpedo struck Intrepid‘s starboard quarter, 15 ft (5 m) below her waterline, flooding several compartments and distorting her rudder. By running her port engines at full power and stopping her starboard engines or running them at ⅓ ahead, Captain Sprague kept her roughly on course. Her crew moved all the aircraft on deck forward to increase her headsail to further aid in control.
  • 19 February: Strong winds overpowered the improvised steering and left her with her bow pointed toward Tokyo. Sprague later confessed: “Right then I wasn’t interested in going in that direction.” At this point the crew made a jury-rig sail of wood, cargo nets, and canvas to further increase her headsail, allowing Intrepid to hold her course.
  • 24 February 1944: Intrepid reached Pearl Harbor.
  • 16 March: After temporary repairs, Intrepid sailed for the West Coast.
  • 22 March: She arrived at Hunter’s Point, California.
  • June 1944: She was back in fighting trim and departed for two months of operations out of Pearl Harbor, then to the Marshalls.

Palaus and Philippines, September–November 1944

  • 6 September and 7 September 1944: Intrepid‘s aircraft struck Japanese positions in the Palaus concentrating on airfields and artillery emplacements on Peleliu.
  • 8 September: Her fast carrier task force steamed west toward the southern Philippines.
  • 9 September and 10 September: She struck airfields on Mindanao.
  • 12 through 14 September: She raided bases in the Visayan Sea.
  • 17 September: She returned to the Palaus to support Marines in overcoming opposition from hillside caves and mangrove swamps on Peleliu.
  • When the struggle settled down to rooting Japanese defenders out of the ground man-to-man, Intrepid steamed back to the Philippines to prepare the way for liberation. She struck throughout the Philippines, also pounding Okinawa and Formosa to neutralize Japanese air threats to Leyte.
  • 20 October 1944: Intrepid‘s aircraft flew missions in support of the Leyte landings. Japan’s Navy, desperately striving to hold the Philippines, was converging on Leyte Gulf from three directions.
  • 23 October to 26 October 1944: Ships of the U.S. Navy parried thrusts in four major actions collectively known as the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
  • 24 October morning: An Intrepid aircraft spotted Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita‘s flagship, Yamato. Two hours later, aircraft from Intrepid and Cabot braved intense antiaircraft fire to begin a day-long attack on Center Force. Wave after wave followed until by sunset American carrier-based aircraft sank battleship Musashi and damaged her sister ship Yamato, along with battleships Nagato and Haruna and heavy cruiser Myōkō, forcing Myōkō to withdraw.
  • That night, Admiral William Halsey‘s 3rd Fleet raced north to intercept Japan’s Northern Force which had been spotted off the northeastern tip of Luzon. At daybreak, aircraft took off to attack the Japanese ships then off Cape Engaño. One of Intrepid‘s aircraft got a bomb into light carrier Zuihō. American bombers then sank her sister ship Chitose, and an aircraft from either Intrepid or San Jacinto scored a torpedo hit on fleet carrier Zuikaku knocking out her communications and hampering her steering. Destroyer Akizuki sank and at least nine of Ozawa‘s 15 aircraft were shot down.
  • Throughout the day, the attack continued and, after five more strikes, Japan had lost four carriers and a destroyer.
  • The still-potent Center Force, after pushing through San Bernardino Strait, had steamed south along the coast of Samar where it was held at bay by a small escort carrier group of six “baby flattops”, three destroyers, and four destroyer escorts until help arrived and it went back towards Japan.
  • As Intrepid‘s aircraft hit Clark Field on 30 October, a burning kamikaze crashed into one of the carrier’s port gun tubs killing 10 men and wounding six. Soon skillful damage control work enabled the flattop to resume flight operations.
  • Intrepid‘s aircraft continued to hit airfields and shipping in the Philippines.
  • 25 November, shortly after noon: A heavy force of Japanese aircraft struck back at the carriers. Within five minutes, two kamikazes crashed into the carrier killing six officers and five crew. (Actual report from Air Group 18 states “sixty were dead, fifteen missing, and about one hundred wounded.” Intrepid never lost propulsion nor left her station in the task group, and in less than two hours had extinguished the last blaze.
  • 26 November: Intrepid headed for San Francisco.
  • 20 December: She arrived there for repairs.

Okinawa and Japan, March–December 1945

  • Mid February 1945: Back in fighting trim, the carrier steamed for Ulithi.
  • 13 March She arrived at Ulithi.
  • 14 March 1945: She set off eastward.
  • 18 March: She made powerful strikes against airfields on Kyūshū. That morning a twin-engined Japanese G4M “Betty” broke through a curtain of defensive fire turned toward Intrepid and exploded only 50 ft (15 m) off Intrepid‘s forward boat crane. A shower of flaming gasoline and aircraft parts started fires on the hangar deck, but damage control teams quickly put them out.
  • Intrepid‘s aircraft joined attacks on remnants of the Japanese fleet anchored at Kure damaging 18 enemy naval vessels, including battleship Yamato and carrier Amagi.
  • The carriers turned to Okinawa as L-Day, the start of the most ambitious amphibious assault of the Pacific war, approached.
  • 26 March and 27 March: Their aircraft attacked the Ryūkyūs, softening up enemy defensive works.
  • 1 April 1945: The invasion began on 1 April. They flew support missions against targets on Okinawa and made neutralizing raids against Japanese airfields in range of the island.
  • 16 April: During an air raid, a Japanese aircraft dived into Intrepid‘s flight deck forcing the engine and part of her fuselage right on through, killing eight men and wounding 21. In less than an hour the flaming gasoline had been extinguished, and only three hours after the crash, aircraft were again landing on the carrier.
  • 17 April: Intrepid retired homeward via Ulithi and Pearl Harbor.
  • 19 May: She arrived at San Francisco for repairs.
  • 29 June: Intrepid left San Francisco.
  • 6 August: In passing, her aircraft smashed Japanese on bypassed Wake Island.
  • 7 August: She arrived at Eniwetok.
  • 15 August: At Eniwetok she received word to “cease offensive operations.”
  • 21 August: The veteran carrier got under way to support the occupation of Japan.
  • 2 December: She departed Yokosuka.
  • 15 December 1945. She arrived San Pedro, California.



  • 4 February 1948: Intrepid shifted to San Francisco Bay.
  • 15 August: Her status was reduced to “in commission in reserve”.
  • 22 March 1947(?): She was decommissioned and joined the Pacific Reserve Fleet.
  • 9 February 1952: Intrepid recommissioned at San Francisco.
  • 12 March 1952: She got underway for Norfolk.
  • 9 April 1952: She decommissioned in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for her SCB-27C modernization.
  • 1 October: She was reclassified CVA-11.
  • 18 June 1954: She recommissioned in reserve.
  • 13 October 1954: She became the first American carrier to launch aircraft with steam catapults.
  • 15 October 1954: She went into full commission as a unit of the Atlantic Fleet.


  • 1955: Shakedown out of Guantánamo Bay.
  • 28 May 1955: Intrepid departed Mayport, Florida, for the first of two deployments in the Mediterranean with the 6th Fleet.
  • 5 September 1956: She returned to Norfolk from the second of these cruises.
  • 29 September Intrepid entered the New York Navy Yard for her SCB-125 modernization until April 1957, which included an enclosed bow and an angled flight deck. This was followed by refresher training out of Guantánamo Bay.
  • September 1957: Intrepid departed the United States for NATO‘s Operation Strikeback, the largest peacetime naval exercise up to that time in history.
  • December 1957: Operating out of Norfolk in December she conducted Operation Crosswind, a study of the effects of wind on carrier launches. Intrepid proved that carriers can safely conduct flight operations without turning into the wind and even launch aircraft while steaming downwind.
  • 1958 – 1961: Intrepid alternated Mediterranean deployments with operations along the Atlantic coast of the United States and exercises in the Caribbean.


  • After training exercises, Intrepid was selected as the principal ship in the recovery team for astronaut Scott Carpenter and his Project Mercury space capsule.
  • 24 May 1962, shortly before noon: Carpenter splashed down in Aurora 7 several hundred miles from Intrepid. Minutes after he was located by land-based search aircraft, two helicopters from Intrepid, carrying NASA officials, medical experts, Navy frogmen, and photographers, were airborne and headed to the rescue. One of the choppers picked him up over an hour later and flew him to the carrier which safely returned him to the United States.
  • 1962 summer: Training midshipmen at sea.
  • 1962 autumn: A thorough overhaul at Norfolk.
  • 23 January 1963: The carrier departed Hampton Roads for warfare exercises in the Caribbean.
  • Late February 1963: She interrupted these operations to join a sea hunt for the Venezuelan freighter Anzoátegui, whose mutinous second mate had led a group of pro-Castro terrorists in hijacking the vessel. The Communist pirates had surrendered at Rio de Janeiro.
  • 23 March 1963: The carrier returned to Norfolk.
  • Intrepid operated along the Atlantic Coast for the next year from Nova Scotia to the Caribbean perfecting her antisubmarine techniques.
  • 11 June 1964: She left Norfolk carrying midshipmen to the Mediterranean for a hunter-killer at sea training with the 6th Fleet.
  • While in the Mediterranean, Intrepid aided in the surveillance of a Soviet task group. En route home her crew learned that she had won the coveted Battle Efficiency “E” for antisubmarine warfare during the previous fiscal year.
  • 1964 autumn: Intrepid operated along the East Coast.
  • Early September 1964: She entertained 22 NATO statesmen as part of their tour of U.S. military installations.
  • 18 October–19 October 1964: She was at Yorktown for ceremonies commemorating Lord Cornwallis‘s surrender 183 years before. The French Ambassador attended the ceremony and presented the U.S. with 12 cannon cast from molds found in the Bastille, replicas of those brought to our forces by Lafayette.
  • Night of 21 November 1964: During a brief deployment off North Carolina, swift and efficient rescue procedures saved the life of an airman who fell overboard while driving an aircraft towing tractor.
  • Early 1965: Intrepid began preparations for a vital role in NASA’s first manned Gemini flight, Gemini 3.
  • 23 March 1965: Lieutenant Commander John Young and Major Gus Grissom in Molly Brown splashed down some 50 nmi (90 km) from Intrepid after history’s first controlled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere ended the pair’s nearly perfect three-orbit flight. A Navy helicopter lifted the astronauts from the spacecraft and flew them to Intrepid for medical examination and debriefing. Later, Intrepid retrieved Molly Brown and returned the spaceship and astronauts to Cape Kennedy.
  • After this mission, Intrepid entered the Brooklyn Navy Yard in April for a major overhaul to bring her back to peak combat readiness. The shipyard had already been closed and the work force transferred to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. In fairness, it should be noted that for political reasons, Senator Robert Kennedy had Intrepid sent to Brooklyn, instead of her home yard of Norfolk, for the overhaul. This caused severe dislocation problems for the families of the crew after many long sea periods. however the yard workers profited for they were then paid per diem rates for working away from Philadelphia and living at home in Brooklyn.


This was the final Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM) job performed by the New York Naval Shipyard, Brooklyn, New York, which was slated to close after more than a century and a half of service to the nation.

  • September 1965: Intrepid, with her work approximately 75% completed, eased down the East River to moor at the Naval Supply Depot at Bayonne, New Jersey, for the completion of her multi-million dollar overhaul. After builder’s sea trials and fitting out at Norfolk she sailed to Guantánamo on shakedown.

Mid-1966 found Intrepid with the Pacific Fleet off Vietnam. Nine A-4 Skyhawks and six A-1 Skyraiders, loaded with bombs and rockets, were catapulted in seven minutes, with only a 28-second interval between launches. A few days later planes were launched at 26-second Intervals. After seven months of service with the 7th Fleet off Vietnam, Intrepid returned to Norfolk having earned her Commanding Officer, Captain John W. Fair, the Legion of Merit for combat operations in Southeast Asia.

  • 9 October 1966: Lieutenant, junior grade William T. Patton of VA-176 from Intrepid, Flying a propeller driven A-1H Skyraider, shot down one MiG-17. For the action, Lieutenant (jg) Patton was awarded the Silver Star.

In June 1967, Intrepid returned to the Western Pacific by way of the Suez Canal just prior to its closing during the Israeli-Arab crisis. There she began another tour with the 7th Fleet.

In 1968, she won the Marjorie Sterrett Battleship Fund Award for the Atlantic Fleet.

In 1969, Intrepid was home ported at Quonset Point, Rhode Island, relieving Yorktown as the flagship for Commander Carrier Division 16. In the fall, the ship was run aground by Captain Horus E. Moore, but was freed within two hours. From April-October 1971, Intrepid took part in NATO exercises, and made calls in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean ports of Lisbon, Plymouth, Kiel, Naples, Cannes, Barcelona, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Greenock, Rosyth, Portsmouth, and Bergen. During this cruise, submarine detection operations were conducted in the Baltic and at the edge of the Barents Sea above the Arctic Circle, under close scrutiny of Soviet air and naval forces. She subsequently returned to her homeport to be refitted and then made her final cruise in the Mediterranean, stopping in Barcelona and Malaga Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; Nice, France; Genoa and Naples, Italy; Palma, Majorca; and Piraeus, Greece.

  • 15 March 1974: Intrepid was decommissioned for the final time.

Preservation as museum ship

In 1976 Intrepid was moored at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia and hosted exhibits as part of the United States Bicentennial celebrations.

Plans originally called for Intrepid to be scrapped after decommissioning, but a campaign led by real estate developer Zachary Fisher and the Intrepid Museum Foundation saved the carrier, and established it as a museum ship. In August 1982, the ship opened in New York City as the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum. Four years later, Intrepid was officially designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Over the years, Intrepid has hosted many special events including wrestling events, press conferences, parties and the FBI operations center after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

2006-2008 renovation

Throughout the last several years, the Intrepid museum has operated a fund for the restoration, raising over $60 million to refit Intrepid, to improve its exhibits for visitors, and improve Pier 86.

In early July 2006, it was announced that Intrepid would undergo renovations and repairs, along with Pier 86 itself. It closed on 1 October 2006, in preparation for its towing to Bayonne, New Jersey for repairs, and later Staten Island, New York for renovation and temporary docking.

On 6 November 2006, an attempt to remove the aircraft carrier from the pier for restoration was temporarily put on hold by the Coast Guard. Despite the use of several tugs with a combined 30,000 hp (22,000 kW), officials said the ship was stuck in 24 years worth of accumulated silt and would not move.

On 11 November 2006, the United States Navy announced that it would spend $3 million to dredge the mud and silt from under Intrepid. The effort was led by the United States Navy Supervisor of Salvage and Diving with assistance from the United States Army Corps of Engineers, United States Coast Guard, and contractors. The teams operated for three weeks to clear the site of mud and silt.

On 5 December 2006, after the removal of 39,000 cu yd (30,000 m3) of muck from under the ship and around its four giant screws, Intrepid was successfully removed from its pier and was towed to Bayonne.

Intrepid made a D-Day “landing” on Staten Island, 6 June 2007, after being towed from a slip at Bayonne Dry Dock & Repair Corp.

While in Staten Island, Intrepid underwent the next phase of her refurbishment, and received an $8 million interior renovation. Never-before-seen areas of the ship including the forecastle (fo’c’sle, commonly known as the anchor chain room), general berthing quarters and the ship’s machine shop will be opened to the public for the first time. The hangar deck will feature a new layout and design including new interactive exhibits. Total cost of the renovation was $120 million – $55 million for the ship and $65 million for Pier 86.

The carrier was towed back into place on the Hudson River on 2 October 2008 and reopened to the public on 8 November.