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Sea, Air and Space Museum, Pier 86, W. 46th Street and 12th Avenue, New York, (212) 245-0072

On Feb. 17, 1944, off Truk, an aerial torpedo struck USS Intrepid 15 feet below its waterline, flooding compartments and jamming the aircraft carrier’s rudder to port. For two days Captain T.L. Sprague feathered the starboard engines to keep Intrepid roughly on course to Pearl Harbor, but strong winds swung the ship back toward Tokyo. As Sprague later confessed, “Right then I wasn’t interested in going in that direction.” The crew jury-rigged a sail of wood, cargo nets, hatch covers and canvas, and a week later the carrier limped home.

During World War II, Intrepid’s planes sank two Japanese battleships and downed more than 600 enemy aircraft. Kamikazes struck the carrier five times. It later recovered space capsules for NASA and served in Vietnam before its 1974 decommissioning.

Intrepid embarked on its second career in 1982 as a museum on Manhattan’s west side. After 24 years on the Hudson at Pier 86, the National Historic Landmark was in sore need of repair. A monthlong effort to dislodge the ship from 27 feet of muck proved unexpectedly difficult. Finally, in December 2006 the carrier entered dry dock in Bayonne, N.J., for extensive repairs. Once the 5,700 gallons of paint had dried, the ship moved to Staten Island for restoration of its top three decks, more than 80,000 square feet in all.

On Oct. 2, 2008, two years and $120 million later, the 65-year-old ship returned to Pier 86. Intrepid will reopen to the public on November 8 during Veterans Day weekend.

Newly accessible areas include the fo’c’sle (anchor chain locker), crew berths and machine shop. The hangar deck features interactive exhibits and 30-plus aircraft. Also docked at Pier 86 is USS Growler, the world’s only intact diesel-powered nuclear missile submarine on public display.


Originally published in the December 2008 issue of Military History. To subscribe, click here