NEW YORK (PIX11) — The USS Intrepid is turning 80, and for the occasion, around 200 former crew members are expected to show up to share old war stories and celebrate another milestone aboard the aircraft carrier which was their battlefield years ago.
Now the Intrepid Sea, Air Space Museum, the vessel earned the distinction of being the “Unsinkable Intrepid.” A valiant warrior, it survived seven bombs, one torpedo and five kamikaze attacks. She was the backbone of the American task force in the Pacific, the pride of the carrier fleet.
Time has passed them by, the original crew members, but memories of their deeds live on. Now in their 90s, only a handful of the original crew members have survived. They’re gone, but their voices still resonate. On previous milestones, they gave thanks for surviving the ferocious battles in the Pacific.
They were mere boys back then. Jessica Williams, Intrepid’s head curator, noted, “Here on Intrepid, many crew members were just teenagers. They found themselves half way around the world operating an aircraft carrier. They were forced to grow up fast.”
Intrepid took relentless beatings. On Feb. 17 in 1944, the order was given to abandon ship after a Japanese torpedo nearly destroyed Intrepid. It blew seven decks below and all the way up to the flight deck.
Former crew member Al De Pinto remembered back in 1993 that he had just missed it by 10 minutes. He recalled, “Some guy took my watch and was killed.”
Months later two kamikaze planes nearly succeeded in sinking Intrepid. Planes were blowing up on the hangar deck, general quarters was playing abandon ship.
“Nov. 25 1944 was the worst day in Intrepid’s history,” Williams said. “Sixty-nine crew members were killed. After failing to sink Intrepid several times, legend has it that the Japanese nicknamed Intrepid “The Ghost Ship.”
In total, 50,000 men served aboard Intrepid during its 31 years of service, and 270 of them lost their lives. Intrepid’s legacy lived beyond World War II.
“Intrepid had a storied history after World War II. It served in the Cold War, three tours of Vietnam and was a NASA recovery vessel for early Mercury and and Gemini missions,” said Susan Marenoff Zausner, Intrepid’s president.
After 31 years of active service, Intrepid was saved from the scrap heap. She now rests in New York harbor as a national historical landmark, as the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
Eighty years after its commissioning, the men of the Intrepid come back home to rekindle old war stories on the very battlefield where they served. For past generations, Intrepid is a ship of memories. For future generations, she’s a floating monument, a museum rich in lessons of war in time of peace.