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Home > Curator's Corner > August 2009 > Intrepid’s 66th Anniversary
Intrepid’s 66th Anniversary
Intrepid Teens Blog
Posted: 8/14/2009 11:35:51 AM

This month, we celebrate the 66th Anniversary of the Intrepid’s commissioning.  On August 16, 1943, the USS Intrepid (CV-11) officially entered active service with the United States Navy in a ceremony at Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Company.

At the commissioning ceremony, Capt. Thomas L. Sprague accepted command of the Intrepid.  Capt. Sprague was part of a pioneering generation of naval aviators who flew from the Navy’s first aircraft carriers.  He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1917 and earned his wings in 1921.  In 1926, Sprague was deployed aboard the U.S. Navy’s first – and, at the time, only – aircraft carrier, the USS Langley (CV-1).  Over the years, he served aboard a number of other early aircraft carriers including the USS Saratoga (CV-3) and the USS Ranger (CV-4).  In 1942, he became the first commanding officer of the escort carrier USS Charger (AVG-30).  In recognition of his experience and knowledge, Sprague became the first commanding officer to take the helm of the Intrepid.

Sprague understood that commissioning the Intrepid was not simply about the ship herself, but about the men who would take her into combat. Addressing the Intrepid ‘s first crew, Sprague said, “Entrusted to us today is a fine ship.  She has been honestly and skillfully built.  It is now up to us.  There is much work ahead and there are many problems to solve before Intrepid will be ready.  With your cooperation, loyalty, and attention to duty, we will get on with that job.”  Standing aboard the Intrepid that day, the ship’s first crew might not have imagined the dangers that awaited them in the Pacific, or the fierce battles that they and their ship would endure. 

The Intrepid’s commissioning crew more than lived up to Sprague’s expectations.  As he turned over command of the ship to Cdr. Richard K. Gaines in March 1944, Sprague stated, “On August 16th, last year, we were gathered here to place this ship in commission.  It was my hope that we would develop into an organization worthy of such a fine ship and worthy of the name Intrepid.  In the seven months that have elapsed since that day, you have been halfway around the world and have proven yourselves.  You have been commended repeatedly for your performance of duty and your conduct during and after action.”  Reflecting on the skill and bravery of the ship’s men, Sprague continued, “It is all very well when I have stood on the bridge and congratulated myself on commanding such a fine ship.  But I am not deceived.  It is the members of the crew below decks who are responsible for the fine record that has been made.”

In commemoration of the 66th anniversary of the Intrepid’s commissioning, we celebrate not only the Intrepid herself but the 50,000 crew members who served aboard her over her three-decade Navy career.

Jessica Williams
Curator of History