Seventy years ago this month, a small group of young boys climbed aboard a new aircraft carrier to take part in one of the greatest war battles of all time. They made up the original crew of the USS Intrepid, the legendary warship-turned museum, that came to known as the ship the Japanese couldn’t destroy. Torpedoes, bombs and suicide pilots crashed into her, but after each attack Intrepid limped back to Pearl Harbor for repairs and rejoined the fleet.
During her 31 years of service, some 55,000 men served aboard the Fighting I. More than 300 of the former crew members returned for a reunion last week. Among them were 16 of the original crew members who invited me to join them on a dinner cruise and shared with me stories of a long-ago war, memories that for some remain as fresh as yesterday. Their stories are compelling and emotional. For today’s generation Intrepid is a floating museum. For those for whom it was a battlefield, it is hallowed ground filled with the memories of the 274 courageous sailors who gave their lives defending the ship and their nation.