Rainbow Band
Donate to the Intrepid Museum
Home > October 2013 > Learn about Intrepid’s History in New Monthly Series
Learn about Intrepid’s History in New Monthly Series
Posted: 10/15/2013 9:35:24 AM

Intrepid at War: October 1943

Intrepid’s commissioning ceremony in Virginia on August 16, 1943

Seventy years ago this past August 16, USS Intrepid was commissioned, joining the U.S. Navy in the middle of the Second World War. For the next two years, this ship and her crew trained, fitted out, and then fought their way across the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, the contributions the ship and crew made to victory were vital and the price they paid heavy. Travel with our museum Tour Guides here each month as they follow this ship’s journey and her crew’s experience in the Second World War.

Our Story so Far…

Prior to October 1943, Intrepid’s journey from idea to commissioned warship had already been long and arduous. The ship that would eventually become Intrepid was first authorized by Congress in June 1940 as a reaction to France’s surrender to Nazi Germany. Fear that the allies might lose the War in Europe galvanized Congress into voting unanimously to double the fleet into a true “Two Ocean Navy.” Intrepid was the second of the new aircraft carriers authorized that summer but construction could not begin right away. The United States had only a handful of shipyards large enough to build a major warship and most were already busy with battleships. As a result, Intrepid’s construction finally began on December 1, 1941, just six days before the Pearl Harbor attack. Prior to the attack, the U.S. Navy estimated 36 months of work was necessary to complete the ship. After the losses at Pearl Harbor, a three-year build time was no longer an option. To meet this challenge, there was a nationwide industrial mobilization, combined with an unprecedented level of cooperation between business, labor, and government. In April 1943, after just 17 months of work, Intrepid was launched and christened. A few more months were necessary to fully outfit the ship and bring a crew aboard. Then on August 16, 1943, in a ceremony at the Norfolk Naval Yard in Virginia , Intrepid was commissioned, finally joining the U.S. Navy.

October 1943: A Month of Firsts

Though the ship joined the Navy two months earlier, October 1943 was a month of firsts for USS Intrepid. On October 7, Air Group 8—Intrepid’s first group of planes, pilots, and air crewmen—officially arrived on board. That same day, the ship departed Norfolk for her Shakedown Cruise and first taste of true carrier operations. During sea trials in the Chesapeake Bay in September, both sailors and pilots had already been practicing their separate crafts on and above the ship. Now in October, they were on their way to the Caribbean to operate as one cohesive whole for the first time.

A small group of the men aboard Intrepid that October were already veterans. The Commander of Air Group 8, Cdr. A. McB. Jackson, had served on carriers Lexington and Enterprise earlier in the War. Back on September 16, he had the honor of being the first pilot to ever land aboard the Intrepid, touching down in his F6F Hellcat. Meanwhile, Warrant Machinist Newland had the distinction of being the only man on board this USS Intrepid to have served on the prior USS Intrepid. In June 1916, Newland, a young sailor-in-training, spent three months assigned to the third US Navy vessel named Intrepid, then a training ship at Mare Island. During Shakedown, veterans like Jackson and Newland had the important job of imparting the wisdom and know-how they had gained from a life at sea on to their inexperienced shipmates. The overwhelming majority of the men aboard, both officer and enlisted, came from civilian life. Many brought with them their own unique talents and experiences. For example, Lt. Charlie Devens, Assistant Flight Deck Operations Officer and former New York Yankees pitcher, was no stranger to taking the field in October. This time it wasn’t just the big game on the line, but lives, as he sent pilot after pilot launching off the Flight Deck.

Lt. Charlie Devens, Intrepid’s Assistant Flight Deck Operations Officer, pitched for the New York Yankees from 1932 to 1934.  Devens played with Babe Ruth on the 1932 World Series team.
Between October 7 and 27, off Trinidad, Intrepid’s veterans and rookies alike went through an intense training regimen. For the ship’s crew, drills and lectures ranged from damage control and gunnery to flight and resupply operations. Meanwhile Air Group 8 pilots practiced taking off and landing around the clock. For naval aviators, a carrier landing is an extremely delicate and dangerous maneuver. Many have described it as a “controlled crash.” Needless to say, there were a few accidents during these first attempts, but no lives were lost. As the month progressed, both the ship’s crew and air group worked out the kinks to become efficient in carrier operations. On October 23, the crew whistled and cheered as Ensign R. D. Phipps of Iowa made the 1,000 landing on board. To the men, this milestone was an important testament to the progress they had made. Phipps was promptly presented with a carrier shaped cake to commemorate the occasion.


Air Group 8, Intrepid’s first group of planes, pilots, and air crewmen, practices Flight Deck operations during Shakedown cruise in October 1943.
Finally, on October 27, after just 20 days of Shakedown, Intrepid headed back to Norfolk to drop off Air Group 8 and head north. Thus far, the Shakedown Cruise had tested Intrepid’s capabilities. Now it was time to test her endurance.