This Veterans Day, as the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum honors our veterans with a ceremony on the Flight Deck in the afternoon, the Museum is also working to preserve and collect the stories of Intrepid former crew members and others who made an impact on the Museum.
The Intrepid Museum established an Oral History Project this past May, focused on collecting the stories of those who served on board the historic aircraft carrier Intrepid,from its commissioning in 1943 until its decommissioning in 1974, as well as those who were associated with other key elements of the Museum including the submarine Growler, space shuttle Enterprise and the supersonic airliner Concorde.
The first-hand recollections of those who served on board Intrepid vividly depict the traumas, tragedies, and sometime comedies of the ordinary and extraordinary days from World War II, the Cold War-era, the Vietnam War and beyond. These stories infuse passion and humanity into the inanimate, industrial environments within the ship.
One excerpt poignantly captures the power and spirit of first-person storytelling. Ray Stone, who served as a radarman during World War II, shares the tragedy of losing many of his friends and crewmembers during a kamikaze attack on Intrepid on November 25, 1944:
“I think God was good to me, that I was both blessed and lucky and I don’t know why. The terrible thing about having 26 of your fellow radarmen killed is that you knew them, you knew their hopes and you knew their aspirations. You hurt for them and their families. Then, when there are heightened types of memories, like Memorial Day, the litany of their names and their aspirations... Schultz will never dance at a three-day Polish wedding in Chicago again. Nitro will never get to play first violin at the San Francisco symphony. Compton will never grow vegetables in Alaska with his brother. Robinson will never change the diaper on his newborn baby. That repeats in your mind as you honor them, and try to remember the fun things that you did together and try to remember them – that they’re at the bottom of the sea.”
These oral histories related to the Intrepid Museum are quickly emerging as a core component of our collections – as valued as our objects, artifacts and photographs – and will be used in perpetuity to help educate generations of visitors. Members of our trained staff have recorded 21 video interviews to date and are eager to hear the stories of many others.
Click here to learn more about the Oral History Project and how you can support this program from the Intrepid Museum.