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On December 1, 1941—just six days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II—the keel for USS Intrepid was laid and its construction began. Intrepid served in the U.S. Navy for over three decades and played a role in World War II, the Cold War, the Space Race and the Vietnam War. After this storied career, Intrepid was decommissioned in 1974 and later opened as a museum, where the history of the ship and its crew inspires visitors from all over the world. Here are some highlights from Intrepid’s history.

Intrepid passes under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which was under construction, in 1963. (Collection of Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. P00.2013.01.304)
Flight operations on board Intrepid, October 1944. (Collection of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. P00.2012.01.49)

Joining The Fleet

USS Intrepid (CV-11) was commissioned at the Newport News shipyard in Virginia on August 16, 1943. The ship steamed through the Panama Canal to join the fleet fighting in the Pacific War.


Torpedo Strike

In February 1944, Intrepid participated in a major offensive against the Japanese base on the island of Truk. A Japanese air-launched torpedo hit Intrepid, jamming the rudder.  Eleven men were killed. The ship headed to Pearl Harbor and then San Francisco for repairs.

Battle of Leyte Gulf

Back in action, Intrepid participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944, one of the largest naval battles in history. Intrepid planes helped sink the Japanese battleship Musashi.

First Kamikaze Strike

On October 29, 1944, a kamikaze smashed into a gun tub on Intrepid’s port side.  A gun crew of African American sailors, who usually served as cooks or waiters in the officers’ mess, courageously fired at the airplane as it crashed into their position. Ten men lost their lives. 

Intrepid’s Darkest Day

During action in the Philippines, two kamikaze airplanes crashed into Intrepid within minutes of one another on November 25, 1944. Sixty-nine men were killed, making this attack the worst in Intrepid’s history.


Battle of Okinawa

Intrepid participated in the Battle of Okinawa, a massive amphibious assault that would last nearly three months. On April 16, 1945, a kamikaze airplane plunged through Intrepid’s flight deck, killing nine men. The ship returned to San Francisco for repairs.

World War II Ends

Intrepid returned to the Pacific War just before Japan surrendered. Intrepid supported the occupation of Japan until December 1945. The U.S. Navy no longer needed a massive fleet, and Intrepid was decommissioned and put in mothballs—the reserve fleet.

Intrepid in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, 1959. (Collection of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Gift of Paul A. Grywalski Jr. P2014.79.12)

Ready for the Jet Age

In 1952–54, Intrepid underwent a modernization program to accommodate new jet aircraft.  The ship was recommissioned on June 18, 1954. In September 1956, Intrepid sailed to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for a seven-month modernization overhaul, which included the installation of the angled flight deck and the mirror landing system.

Cold War Missions

During the 1950s and 1960s, Intrepid made numerous Mediterranean cruises. The ship participated in military exercises and showed support to American allies in the region.  In 1962, Intrepid was reclassified as an anti-submarine warfare carrier with a new mission of tracking Soviet submarines.

Astronaut Scott Carpenter arrives on board Intrepid following his spaceflight on May 24, 1962. (Collection of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Gift of Morris B. Mellion. P2014.126.106)


On May 24, 1962, Intrepid served as a primary recovery vessel for the Mercury-Atlas 7 space mission. Helicopters from the ship picked up astronaut Scott Carpenter. Three years later, Intrepid helicopters recovered Gemini 3 astronauts John Young and Virgil “Gus” Grissom and their space capsule on March 23, 1965.

An A-4 Skyhawk from Intrepid flies over North Vietnam, 1967. (Collection of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Gift of Brian Walker. P2015.05.125)

Combat in Southeast Asia

In 1966, Intrepid was converted to a “special attack carrier” and was deployed to Vietnam, where the ship served three tours of duty between 1966 and 1969. Aviators bombed strategic targets in North and South Vietnam as part of Operation Rolling Thunder.

Vietnam War Victories and Losses

Intrepid aviators attacked a range of targets, including transportation links, petroleum resources and industrial facilities. Intrepid pilots scored two shoot-downs of North Vietnamese aircraft. Three pilots became prisoners of war, and 21 men lost their lives in combat or in operational accidents.


Last Years in Service

In 1970, Intrepid returned to an anti-submarine warfare role, tracking Soviet submarines in the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. By this time, the Navy was phasing out smaller, older aircraft carriers like Intrepid.  On March 15, 1974, Intrepid was decommissioned at Quonset Point, Rhode Island.



New York City developer and philanthropist Zachary Fisher spearheaded a campaign to save Intrepid from the scrap yard. The ship opened as the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in 1982, and Intrepid was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. As an educational and cultural nonprofit institution centered on Intrepid, the Museum promotes the awareness and understanding of history, science and service in order to honor our heroes, educate the public and inspire our youth.

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum 2015