Today, we celebrate the 67th Anniversary of Intrepid’s commissioning. On August 16, 1943, USS Intrepid (CV-11) officially entered active service with the United States Navy in a ceremony at Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Company. The 3,000-plus men of Intrepid’s commissioning crew stood on the flight deck in parade formation as Capt. Thomas L. Sprague accepted command of the ship and Cmdr. Richard K. Gaines, an executive officer, set the first watch.
For Intrepid’s first crew, their mission was clear: sail to the Pacific and help defeat the Empire of Japan. Yet while the ship’s commissioning marked her entry into Navy service, it did not signify her readiness to join the fight. As Capt. Sprague reminded his men, “Entrusted to us today is a fine ship. She has been honestly and skillfully built. It is now up to us. There is much work ahead. There are many problems to solve before Intrepid will be ready to meet the enemy and strike the powerful blows of which she is capable.” Only five months later would Intrepid and her crew be deemed ready for battle. Arriving in the Pacific in January 1944, they would endure 19 months of fierce combat, anxious periods of waiting, deadly kamikaze attacks, and trips home for repairs before victory was achieved.
Standing aboard Intrepid on her commissioning day, the ship’s first crew undoubtedly contemplated the long months of fighting they faced. However, they might not have imagined that Intrepid’s service life would continue for decades, or that over 50,000 sailors would follow in their footsteps. Designed for service in the Pacific, Intrepid’s career took her to the Mediterranean, the Gulf of Tonkin, the Horn of Africa, and the Arctic Circle. She combed the seas for Soviet Submarines, launched combat missions in Southeast Asia, trained midshipmen and aviators, received thousands of visitors in foreign ports, and plucked astronauts from the Atlantic. Just when it seemed that her career was over, she became a museum, educating and inspiring visitors from across the United States and the world.
August 16 is a day to commemorate not only Intrepid’s commissioning but also her entire lifetime of service. Happy 67th Anniversary, Intrepid, and many more!