|As temperatures drop in New York, my mind inevitably wanders to any number of balmy places I’d love to visit. Intrepid’s history offers no shortage of travel inspiration. During the Cold War, the ship made multiple trips to the Mediterranean, giving crew members an exceptional opportunity to bask in the history, nightlife, and warmth of foreign ports.
A year after her recommissioning in 1954, Intrepid departed for her first deployment to the Mediterranean. Throughout the Cold War, “Med cruises” maintained a powerful and visible U.S. Navy presence in this strategically important region. Intrepid monitored Soviet activities, searching for Russian airplanes and submarines. Her aviators performed reconnaissance missions over Europe. As she steamed the length of the Mediterranean, Intrepid demonstrated the might of the U.S. Navy to our adversaries as well as our allies.
But for many Intrepid sailors, hunting for Soviet subs was not the reason they enlisted. The early twentieth-century slogan “Join the Navy and See the World” still resonated with young men across the United States. Intrepid’s Cold War cruises offered incredible travel opportunities for her crew, many of whom had rarely strayed far from their hometowns. On her first Med cruise alone, Intrepid visited no fewer than 12 ports including Gibraltar, Valencia, Cannes, Naples, and Istanbul.
To help sailors navigate exotic ports, the ship’s print shop produced travel guides for each city Intrepid visited. These “port-of-call” booklets highlighted sights to see, foods to eat, and souvenirs to buy. The pamphlets also issued warnings, such as this tip about the bars and cabarets near Barcelona’s waterfront: “They’re breeding places of venereal disease and dope addiction, and generally dirty.” A booklet on Cannes, France cautioned sailors to be sensitive to local pride: “Don’t say anything about Germany’s having once defeated France – no one wants to be reminded of his country’s being beaten, even though the defeat was a temporary one.” Armed with these helpful hints, Intrepid sailors fanned out across foreign cities, ready to explore local culture – or just find the best watering holes.
Want to learn more about Intrepid’s globe-trotting missions? Our new interactive globe exhibit is being tested as we speak. Located in the Exploreum, the globe will illuminate five cruises that span Intrepid’s career. Also, you can find port-of-call memorabilia in our main exhibition. For former crew members, we’re interested in collecting your souvenirs and stories about shore leave. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your tales!
Curator of History