August 5, 2012

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum – The Beginning & Now

Article from the USS Intrepid, Photos Courtesy of Intrepid Museum Archives and Len Rapoport

History of the USS Intrepid

According to the Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Center, the USS Intrepid began as 27,100-ton Essex class aircraft carrier built in Newport News, Virginia. She was commissioned in August 1943, and operated in support of the Kwajalein invasion from January to February 1944. On February 17, 1944, the ship was hit by an aerial torpedo while taking part in raids on the Japanese Central Pacific Base at Truk. To help her maintain course while she steamed back to Pearl Harbor for repairs, it was necessary to use an improvised sail.

The carrier returned to combat in September 1944 and took part in strikes on the Palaus, Okinawa, Formosa and the Philippines. Her planes sank or helped sink several Japanese ships during the October 24-25 Battle of Leyte Gulf. However, she was hit by a Japanese suicide plane on October 29, killing ten African-American volunteer gunners. On November 25th, she was hit again, this time while attacking targets in the Philippenes. The work of a suicide plane resulted in the loss of over 60 officers and men, and forced Intrepid to go back to the U.S. for repair work.

A few months later, Intrepid returned to the western Pacific and participated in attacks on the Japanese home islands. In mid-March 1945, she was damaged by a kamikaze, but was able to still take part in the Okinawa operation that began in late March. On April 16, two suicide planes attacked the ship, one of which hit the flight deck and caused damage that forced Intrepid back to the U.S. for more repairs. While returning to the Pacific in mid-August, Japan surrendered and the ship spent most of the rest of the year supporting occupation efforts. She was mostly inactive through 1946 and was decommissioned in March 1947.

Intrepid was temporarily recommissioned in February 1952 and was sent to Newport News for a thorough modernization over the following two years, along with 15 other Essex and Ticonderoga class aircraft carriers. Modernization was necessary in order to make the ship capable of receiving new, high-performance jet aircraft and nuclear-armed attack bombers. In addition, the country’s post-World War II financial climate made it unlikely that replacement carriers could be built.

The modernization required approximately two years for each carrier, and the flight deck structure was greatly reinforced in order to handle much heavier, faster aircraft. Theships were given stronger elevators, more powerful catapults and new arresting gear. The renovations also included improvements to electrical generating power, fire protection, and weapons stowage and handling facilities. Intrepid now weighed much more, which meant blisters were now fitted to the hull sides to compensate, and the waterline beam was widened by eight to ten feet. The ship also sat lower in the water and the maximum speed went down slightly.

Intrepid reentered active service in June 1954 and was twice deployed to the Mediterranean during 1955-56. The ship was then further updated. The most significant new aspect was the British-developed “angled flight deck,” in which the carrier’s aircraft landing area was slanted several degrees off to port, enabling aircraft to easily “go around” in the event of recovery difficulties. The angled flight deck also essentially added another runway to Intrepid so she could handle simultaneous launchings and landings of aircraft. Another alteration included moving the aft aircraft elevator from the centerline to the starboard deck edge, greatly facilitating aircraft handling. The final change was the blending of the flight deck’s forward end into the upper hull form, creating the so-called hurricane bow. These alterations significantly changed the ship’s appearance, but only took seven to eight months shipyard time to complete.

Intrepid continued Atlantic and Mediterranean attack carrier operations until late 1961. In March 1962, she was reclassified as an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) support aircraft carrier with the new designation CVS-11. Intrepid took part in anti-submarine exercises in the Atlantic area, occasionally deployed to European waters and helped with space flight recovery work into the mid-1960s. In 1962 and 1965, Intrepid served as a NASA recovery vehicle for astronauts from Mercury 7 and Gemini 3 missions, respectively. Following a major overhaul, the ship was given an airgroup of light attack planes and the temporary designation as “special attack carrier” for Vietnam War service. She deployed to Southeast Asia three times from 1966-69 before returning to her regular Atlantic Fleet ASW role. Intrepid cruised in the Mediterranean in 1971 and 1973, and visited Northern Europe in 1972.

Photo © 2012 Len Rapoport


Decommissioned in March 1974, she was a Bicentennial exhibition ship in Philadelphia in 1976. USS Intrepid was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in February 1982, and then brought to New York City to its present service as a museum.

In her 37-year service, Intrepid participated in several WWII campaigns, as well as three combat tours in Vietnam. She made it through seven bombs, five kamikaze attacks and one torpedo hit.

Intrepid Museum Today

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird – Cold War Spy Plane
© 2001 Len Rapoport

All four branches of the United States’ armed service are represented on the Flight Deck
© 2001 Len Rapoport

Today the Intrepid is one of the most seen attractions in New York City. A must on every visitors list and one of the most popular museums in the world. In New York it has become a favorite of local and international visitors and a photographers favorite.  Visitors may board the ship and see :

The Flight Deck
Where they can get up-close look at nearly two dozen aircraft, visit the restoration tent and take a walk through history on Intrepid’s island and bridges.

The Gallery Deck
Located between the Flight Deck and Hangar Decks, the Gallery Deck features the Combat Information Center, Pilot Ready Room and Marine berthing.

The Hangar Deck
A great place to start your visit and our main indoor exhibit space, the hangar Deck takes you through both the hardware and humanity of Intrepid.

The Third Deck
Check out the ship’s galley, newly opened Berthing Areas, 1960’s – recreated Mess deck, and enjoy lunch or a snack at Au Bon Pain Cafe.

Space Shuttle Pavilion
Intrepid’s newest exhibit, the Space Shuttle Pavilion has been engineered to express the shuttle program’s stories of human triumph and technological feats. Dare to dream as you become immersed in this up close experience with Space Shuttle Enterprise.

The Growler


Growler With Missile – Photo By Len Rapoport © 2001

The former USS Growler first opened at the Intrepid Museum in 1989 and is the only American diesel-powered strategic missile submarine open to the public. The Growler offers museum visitors a firsthand look at life aboard a submarine and a close-up inspection of the once “top-secret” missile command center. Access is available to the various compartments as they were used during operations….more

The Concorde

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony – Concorde 2001 – Photo By © Len Rapoport


Concorde Ribbon Cutting Ceremony 2001 – Photo © Len Rapoport
Currently on loan from British Airways.

The Concorde is a product of Anglo-French cooperation. When the Concorde entered Air France and British Airways transatlantic service in 1976, it was the only operational supersonic passenger transport in the world. With a crew of nine, the Concorde could fly at 1,350 mph (2,150 kph) at an altitude of 60,000 feet (18,181 meters), high enough for its 100 passengers to see the curvature of the earth….more

Information and Admission

For complete pricing information and the latest exhibits, please visit their website.

Where are they located? Click Here

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About the Author

Len Rapoport
Len Rapoport
IPA Editor-In-Chief, ID: 1000 • I am an internationally published photographer and the founder of International Press Association. As president and editor-in-chief, my duties at IPA are extensive. For over 40 years I have written articles, had my photos published in millions of publications, record album covers, books, and in the digital media. I was senior marketing and sales executive for major corporations, including my own and as a corporate communications consultant. I have taught photography and formed IPA 20 years ago. I currently work from my home office and continue to actively cover media events in addition to all of my other IPA and IMPress responsibilities.



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