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Home > November 2015 > This Month in Intrepid’s History
This Month in Intrepid’s History
Seperator
Posted: 11/1/2015 12:00:00 AM

 

This Month in Intrepid’s History

USS Intrepid was commissioned on August 16, 1943, joining the U.S. Navy in the middle of World War II. For the next two years the ship and crew trained, fitted out and 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 was high. Travel with our Museum tour guides here each month as they follow Intrepid’s journey and its crew’s experience throughout World War II.

October 1945—October 2015: Home

“The Intrepid had been my home for nearly two years, two of the most intense years of my young life. My ship and I were close; we had shared the gamut of emotions from joy to sorrow and everything in-between. It’s difficult to articulate love of a supposedly inanimate object, though a ship is not really inanimate. It has almost human life, spirit and soul. It does if you think it – and feel it. I did and still do.”—Raymond Stone

On August 16, 2013, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum commemorated the 70th anniversary of Intrepid’s commissioning with a homecoming celebration. 255 men who served aboard the ship throughout its history gathered on the flight deck with their families.

As the ceremony began, they sat in virtually the same spot the original crew had stood exactly 70 years earlier, when Intrepid first joined the U.S. Navy. 18 of the veterans present had been there that day in 1943, including the keynote speaker, Joseph Barry. Barry began his address by remembering the first time he saw Intrepid: “I couldn’t believe anything that big could possibly float.” His commanding officer assured him that Intrepid “would not only float—she was about to go to sea and win the war.”

Barry stayed on Intrepid long enough to see that prophecy fulfilled. When Japan announced its surrender on V-J Day, August 15, 1945, Barry, a radio operator, copied down a victory message from the secretary of the Navy, who thanked service members for helping to bring the Pacific War to a successful conclusion. In the months that followed, Barry and his crewmates served on occupation duty, first off the coasts of China and Korea and then in Japan throughout November 1945. Finally, on December 2, 1945, Intrepid weighed anchor and headed back across the Pacific for the last time during its World War II service. Barry and thousands of others like him were finally headed home.

 

This Month in Intrepid's History
Intrepid off the coast of Japan, with Mount Fuji in the background. After several months of occupation duty, Intrepid weighed anchor and headed for home on December 2, 1945. (Collection of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.)
 

Intrepid lost nearly two hundred of its men in World War II, but the overwhelming majority survived to see that war’s conclusion. After he returned to civilian life, Barry’s experiences were typical of many of his shipmates. He got a job working for his uncle’s appliance repair business and eventually bought the company. He married a girl he met at a holiday party while on leave from Intrepid and raised a family. By the time Barry returned to the ship for the 70th anniversary, his family had grown to include six children, thirteen grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. During his interview for the Museum’s Oral History Project, Barry proudly joked that one granddaughter couldn’t make it to New York to hear his speech at the ceremony because she was busy working on great-grandchild number eight.

A few weeks ago, I finally had the chance to meet Joseph Barry at a reception celebrating the opening of the Museum’s two newest exhibitions—On the Line: Intrepid and the Vietnam War and City at Sea: USS Intrepid. As he regaled my fellow tour guides and me with stories from his time aboard Intrepid, I realized how lucky we were to have the chance to speak to him. Barry was the only World War II veteran in attendance.

 
This Month in Intrepid's History

Intrepid former crew member Joseph Barry and two of his sons at the opening reception for On the Line and City at Sea. (Photo by Eric Vitale)

 

This year, we lost three former crew members whose World War II exploits have figured prominently in previous installments of this series. On April 7, 1945, Grant “Jack” Young flew an Avenger torpedo bomber off Intrepid’s flight deck, and into legend. He torpedoed the Japanese super-battleship Yamato, helping to send it to the bottom of the sea. After the war, Young stayed in the Navy. He fought in Korea, commanded a carrier air group in the Vietnam War and then served on the staff of the chief of naval operations. In the 1970s, Captain Young retired to his family farm in Dixon, Illinois. He passed away on August 16, 2015.

 
This Month in Intrepid's History

Grant “Jack” Young (middle row center)
November 8, 1921–August 16, 2015 (History of Torpedo Squadron 10)

 

Fighter pilot Alexander Vraciu had only been aboard Intrepid for a matter of weeks in February 1944, when a Japanese torpedo knocked Intrepid out of action and he was reassigned. During his short time aboard, Vraciu shot down seven enemy aircraft and became Intrepid’s first ace. Soon after, he was reassigned to USS Lexington and ultimately finished World War II as the Navy’s fourth-highest-scoring ace, having shot down a total of 19 enemy planes. Vraciu passed away on January 29, 2015.

 
This Month in Intrepid's History

Alexander Vraciu
November 2, 1918–January 29, 2015 (Courtesy of the National Naval Aviation Museum)

 

Raymond Stone was a “plank owner” like Barry, a member of Intrepid’s inaugural crew. Describing his ship as “home,” Stone recalled feeling “empty” following his reassignment in June 1945. After the war, he put his artistic talents to use in the advertising industry. Eventually he found his way back to Intrepid, serving as a museum volunteer and as a leading figure in the former crew member association for three decades. Stone’s memoir My Ship has been a vital resource while writing this article series. Stone passed away on March 5, 2015. A few months later, dozens of family members, friends and shipmates gathered aboard Intrepid to pay tribute to him.

 
This Month in Intrepid's History

Raymond Stone
April 14, 1925–March 5, 2015

 

Intrepid’s75th anniversary is less than three years away. Perhaps a few plank owners will be in attendance for that important milestone. However, we face the reality that at some commemoration in the not-too-distant future, the only World War II veteran in attendance will be the ship itself. Today, efforts like the Museum’s Oral History Project and Seats of Honor program, along with our education programs, exhibitions and Guided Tours, help to ensure that the stories of those who served aboard are preserved and continue to be told.

As artifact or eyewitness, the ship itself remains the most important link.  While we might speak of the crew and the ship’s service during World War II in the past tense, we can also speak of what Intrepid is and will always be. Intrepid still is very much a World War II battlefield, hallowed ground where lives were lost and the war was fought and won, a behemoth of steel that matters because of what veterans of that war and their Vietnam War and Cold War successors did here. No matter how much time passes, Intrepid’s place in history will never change and will never be forgotten.

 

Michael Murtagh
Senior Tour Guide
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

 

Read the previous installments of "This Month in Intrepid's History":

October 1943
November 1943
December 1943
January 1944
February 1944
March 1944
April 1944
May 1944
June 1944
July 1944
August 1944
September 1944
October 1944
November 1944
December 1944
January 1945
February 1945
March 1945
April and May 1945
June and July 1945
August and September 1945

 


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