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Home > February 2016 > 1966: The “Fighting I” Returns to War
1966: The “Fighting I” Returns to War
Seperator
Posted: 2/26/2016 12:00:00 AM

 

Intrepid steams up the East River on the way to the Brooklyn Navy Yard in April 1965. (Collection of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Gift of John W. Taylor. P2012.49.14)

 

By 1965, the ship known as the “Fighting I” had not seen combat since World War II, two decades earlier. New classes of supercarriers—Forrestal, Kitty Hawk, Enterprise—represented the most powerful ships in the U.S. Navy’s fighting force. Like other older, smaller aircraft carriers of its generation, Intrepid had transitioned to an anti-submarine warfare role, tracking Soviet submarines in the Mediterranean.

In April, Intrepid commenced a major overhaul as part of the Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization II (FRAM) program. The ship received upgrades that improved its ability to track submarines. At the time, the Navy expected Intrepid to return to its anti-submarine role.

However, hostilities in the Gulf of Tonkin—and the United States’ decision to deploy aircraft carriers to Vietnam—altered Intrepid’s mission. Intrepid’s post-refit training in late 1965 included simulated attack sorties and training for battle conditions. This training offered clues that the ship was headed for something other than anti-submarine warfare.

Intrepid underway in December 1965. (Collection of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Gift of David L. Rost. P2013.169.13)

 

On February 26, 1966, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara announced that Intrepid would join the fight in Vietnam:
 
“In order to maintain the attack carrier force off Vietnam, we are… deploying one of the Atlantic-based carriers, the INTREPID, to Southeast Asia. Very minor modifications are required on this vessel to permit it to operate light attack aircraft and it can be quickly reassigned to its anti-submarine role. What is involved mainly is a change in the aircraft complement. The anti-submarine air group is being retained in the active fleet, thus giving us the capability to operate the carrier as a CVS on short notice.”

The ship underwent minor modifications so that it could carry attack aircraft. By the spring of 1966, Intrepid was on its way to Southeast Asia. 

To learn more about Intrepid’s role in the Vietnam War, visit the exhibition On the Line: Intrepid and the Vietnam War, now on view at the Intrepid Museum.

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