The USS Intrepid (CV-11), nicknamed “the Fighting I,” was ordered for the U.S. Navy before World War II. Her keel was laid down at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company on December 1, 1941. She was launched on April 26, 1943 and commissioned on August 16, 1943 under the command of Captain Thomas L. Sprague.
When USS Intrepid joined the action in early 1944, she started with an attack on Kwajalein. On January 31, her aircraft strafed Ennuebing Island in preparation for the Marines landing. She then headed to Truk in February, where she helped sink two Japanese destroyers as part of Operation Hailstone. The aircraft carrier was struck by a torpedo on February 17, requiring her to sail to Pearl Harbor for temporary repairs and Hunters Point for permanent repairs.
In early September, the USS Intrepid launched strikes at the Palaus, Peleliu, Mindanao, and the Visayan Sea. She returned to the Palaus on September 17 to support the Marines on Peleliu before heading off to strike at Okinawa and Formosa.
USS Intrepid covered the troop landings at Leyte on October 20. Several days later, she became involved in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. During this time, her aircraft were subjected to intense antiaircraft fire. The task force shot down numerous Japanese aircraft and sank a fair number of Japanese ships.
On October 30, the USS Intrepid was striking at Clark Field on Luzon when she was hit by a flaming kamikaze. Ten men were killed and six others were injured, but she remained in position. The aircraft carrier continued air strikes against the Philippines until she was attacked again by kamikazes on November 25. Two kamikazes crashed into her, killing six officers and five crewmen, though the report from Air Group 18 lists 60 dead, 15 missing, and 100 injured. She maintained her position until the following day, when she headed to San Francisco for repairs.
The USS Intrepid returned to action in the spring of 1945, striking at Kyushu on March 18. She moved on to Kure, Okinawa, and the Ryukyus. The carrier supported the invasion of Okinawa on April 1, striking ground targets and raiding Japanese airfields. On April 16, a kamikaze dived into her flight deck, killing eight men and injuring 21. She headed to San Francisco for repairs via Ulithi and Pearl Harbor.
USS Intrepid left San Francisco on June 29, attacking Wake Island on her way to Eniwetok in early August. The war ended just a week after her arrival, and she supported occupation forces until December.
The USS Intrepid was decommissioned in March 1947, recommissioned briefly on February 9, 1952 to sail from San Francisco to Norfolk. There, she was decommissioned on April 9 for modernization and conversion to an attack aircraft carrier. She was reclassified CVA-11 on October 1 and recommissioned on June 18, 1954.
After training, USS Intrepid was deployed to the Mediterranean on May 28, 1955 with the Sixth Fleet. After modernization and overhaul in September 1956, she went on to participate in naval exercises Operation Strikeback and Operation Crosswind. The carrier was deployed to the Mediterranean and along the East Coast from 1958 to 1961.
USS Intrepid was reclassified as an antisubmarine warfare carrier, CVS-11, on December 8, 1961. She sailed to Norfolk for overhaul and refitting the following March. The aircraft carrier recovered the Project Mercury space capsule and astronaut Scott Carpenter on May 24, 1962.
Over the next few years, USS Intrepid participated in training, fleet exercises, overhaul, and ceremonial duties. On March 23, 1965, she recovered the astronauts from the Gemini 3, Lieutenant Commander John Young and Major Gus Grissom.
The USS Intrepid headed back to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for overhaul that April, but the shipyard had been closed and the work transferred to Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. Workers did return to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to complete the work, the shipyard’s final Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM) job. The overhaul was completed at the Naval Supply Depot in Bayonne, New Jersey.
USS Intrepid joined the Pacific Fleet off the coast of Vietnam in 1966. This deployment earned Captain John W. Fair the Legion of Merit. She rejoined the Seventh Fleet in June 1967 and was awarded the Marjorie Sterrett Battleship Fund Award in 1968.
In 1969, the USS Intrepid changed her homeport to Quonset Point, where she became the flagship for Commander Carrier Division 16. In the coming years, she would participate in numerous NATO exercises and make ports of call throughout the Mediterranean and North Atlantic.
The USS Intrepid was decommissioned on March 15, 1974. She was originally intended to be sold for scrap, but she became a museum ship in New York City, opening to the public in August 1982 as the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum. She was designated as a National Historic Landmark on January 14, 1986. The aircraft carrier has been featured in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) Yokozuna Bodyslam Challenge, the History Channel’s Mega Movers, and the films Aftershock: Earthquake in New York, National Treasure, and I Am Legend. She also served as a center of operations for the FBI after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Like other ships built during World War II, the USS Intrepid was made from many different asbestos-containing components. Asbestos was prized for its resistance to water, heat, fire, and corrosion, so it could be found in virtually all areas of the ship and in the aircraft she carried. Because of this, anyone who served aboard the USS Intrepid or was involved in her repair and overhaul was put at risk of developing asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer that attacks the protective lining that surrounds the lungs and other organs.
USS Intrepid workers should monitor their health carefully, and consult a doctor if they experience any symptoms associated with mesothelioma. Anyone who worked on or around the USS Intrepid, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.