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Home > January 2015 > This Month in <em>Intrepid</em>’s History
This Month in Intrepid’s History
Seperator
Posted: 1/23/2015 9:37:14 AM

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.

January 1945: Healing

Intrepid spent all of January 1945 under repair in a dry dock at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in California. Having sustained serious damage from kamikaze attacks off the Philippines in late November, it took most of December to limp back to the West Coast of the United States. Finally arriving on December 20, Intrepid headed for Naval Air Station Alameda and spent the next several days offloading sailors going on leave, passengers, cargo and Air Group 18. Intrepid then headed across the bay to Hunters Point for seven weeks of overhaul. For both ship and crew, this was a period of healing. As the ship’s damage was repaired, physical reminders of the attack slowly disappeared. The emotional scars lingered far longer.

This was Intrepid’s third visit to the dry dock at Hunters Point.  A little more than a year earlier, Intrepid made its first visit following a collision in the Panama Canal. Then in February 1944 an encounter with a Japanese torpedo sent Intrepid back to Hunters Point for several more months. These repeated visits to the shipyard under less-than-happy circumstances gave the ship something of a negative reputation. Roy Erickson, a Corsair pilot who came aboard with Air Group 10 in mid-February 1945, later wrote that Intrepid “had gained a rather bad name for itself. The ‘Mighty I,’ a nickname for the ship, was now referred to by the ship’s crew as the ‘Evil I.’”

 

Intrepid in dry dock with repairs underway on March 23, 1944. In December 1944, Intrepid would return once again to the shipyard.  (Collection of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum)

Three major repairs in 13 months may have given the superstitious pause, but to the shipyard workers of Hunters Point, it meant that Intrepid had become “their ship.” From December 22, 1944, to February 10, 1945, they worked around the clock to repair Intrepid’s battle damage and make a few key upgrades. At the stern, workers replaced a 40mm gun with two new 40mm quad mounts, while new gun sights and gun directors were installed throughout the ship.  Given the seriousness of the battle damage, the pace of repairs was remarkable. Thomas Dugan, an Intrepid aircraft mechanic, later explained that the shipyard workers must have “pulled some miracles” to complete such a big job in just seven weeks. Even the ship’s organ was sent out for a “complete overhauling,” to be done by the Hammond Organ Company of Chicago rather than the shipyard workers of Hunters Point.

 

Intrepid spent seven weeks under repair at Hunters Point, from late December 1944 through early February 1945. (Intrepid Cruise Book, 1963)

When Intrepid arrived at Alameda, the first of four groups of sailors left for 21 days of leave. For Ray Stone and several fellow radarmen, leave meant paying their respects to the family of “Nitro,” one of their number killed during the attack. “Nitro” was from San Francisco, so after contacting his mother, they were invited over for dinner.

While these young men felt duty-bound to express their condolences, actually doing so was a daunting prospect. Stone later wrote, “None of us were experienced in expressing feelings and extending condolences to the family of a fallen shipmate. We felt awkward just talking about it. How to act? What to say?” One thing they did agree on was that they would tell Nitro’s mother he died instantly, sparing her the more gruesome details of his actual demise. Though Nitro’s mother seemed very grateful for their visit, Stone wrote that he “couldn’t stop thinking of the sadness in Nitro’s mom’s eyes and how unpleasant it would be for my mom, if she ever got a ‘how he died’ visit”— a sentiment many of his shipmates likely shared.

As the repairs on Intrepid neared completion, the impending return to the war zone brought the ship’s past brushes with disaster and the odds of survival back to the forefront of the men’s minds. As Stone later wrote, “So far, the ship had been torpedoed, hit by a single kamikaze, and then hit by two more kamikazes. Concern about my own, and the ship’s, invincibility kept seeping into thoughts of the future.”

For some, these concerns were simply too much. “I knew a couple of guys who were thinking of either jumping ship or faking mental illness to keep from going back into action,” Stone later recalled. A few of them actually managed to avoid sailing with the ship, and according to Stone, “They weren’t cowards. They were scared as hell by what they had experienced. There is a difference.”

 

Intrepid leaving Hunters Point on February 20, 1945. Circles indicate some of the modifications made to the ship and battle damage repair, including an additional 40mm gun quad mount on the ship’s stern. (Courtesy of the National Naval Aviation Museum)

By the time the repairs were complete, the crew had changed substantially. While many of those who had survived the kamikaze attacks remained, a few desertions and a far larger number of transfers and discharges decreased the number of crew members. In the meantime, newly assigned sailors arrived, including 242 on January 20 alone. At the end of January, two key personnel changes remained. When Intrepid finally left California in February 1945, it would do so with a new captain and a new air group.

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

 


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