USS Intrepid (CV/CVA/CVS-11), also known as The Fighting “I”, is one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers built during World War II for the United States Navy. She is the fourth US Navy ship to bear the name. Commissioned in August 1943, Intrepid participated in several campaigns in the Pacific Theater of Operations, most notably the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Decommissioned shortly after the end of the war, she was modernized and recommissioned in the early 1950s as an attack carrier (CVA), and then eventually became an antisubmarine carrier (CVS). In her second career, she served mainly in the Atlantic, but also participated in the Vietnam War. Her notable achievements include being the recovery ship for a Mercury and a Gemini space mission. Because of her prominent role in battle, she was nicknamed “the Fighting I”, while her frequent bad luck and time spent in dry dock for repairs—she was torpedoed once and hit by four separate Japanese kamikaze aircraft—earned her the nicknames “Decrepit” and “the Dry I”. Decommissioned in 1974, in 1982 Intrepid became the foundation of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City.
World War II
Central Pacific operations
Intrepid joined the Fast Carrier Task Force, then Task Force 58 (TF 58), for the next operation in the island-hopping campaign across the Central Pacific: the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign. On 16 January 1944, Intrepid, her sister ship Essex, and the light carrier Cabot left Pearl Harbor to conduct a raid on islands in the Kwajalein Atoll from 29 January to 2 February. The three carriers’ air group destroyed all 83 Japanese aircraft stationed on Roi-Namur in the first two days of the strikes, before Marines went ashore on neighboring islands on 31 January in the Battle of Kwajalein. That morning, aircraft from Intrepid attacked Japanese beach defenses on Ennuebing Island, up until ten minutes before the first Marines landed. The Marines quickly took the island and used it as a fire base to support the follow-on attack on Roi.
With the fighting in the Kwajalein Atoll finished by 3 February, Intrepid and the rest of TF 58 proceeded to launch Operation Hailstone, a major raid on the main Japanese naval base in the Central Pacific, Truk Lagoon. From 17 to 19 February, the carriers pounded Japanese forces in the lagoon, sinking two destroyers and some 200,000 GRT of merchant ships. Additionally, the strikes demonstrated the vulnerability of Truk, which convinced the Japanese to avoid using it in the future. Intrepid did not emerge from the operation unscathed, however. On the night of 17–18 February, a Japanese torpedo bomber scored a hit on the carrier near her stern. The torpedo struck 15 ft (5 m) below the waterline, jamming the ship’s rudder to port and flooding several compartments. Sprague was able to counteract the jammed rudder by running the port side screw at high speed while idling the starboard screw for two days until high winds overpowered the improvised steering. The crew then fashioned a jury rigged sail out of scrap canvas and hatch covers, which allowed the ship to return to Pearl Harbor, where she arrived on 24 February. Temporary repairs were effected there, after which Intrepid steamed to Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco for permanent repairs on 16 March, arriving there six days later.
The work was completed by 9 June, and Intrepid began two months of training around Pearl Harbor. Starting in early September, Intrepid joined operations in the western Caroline Islands; the Fast Carrier Task Force was now part of the Third Fleet under Admiral William Halsey Jr., and had been renamed Task Force 38. On 6 and 7 September, she conducted air strikes on Japanese artillery batteries and airfields on the island of Peleliu, in preparation for the invasion of Peleliu. On 9 and 10 September, she and the rest of the fleet moved on to attack airfields on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, followed by further strikes on bases in the Visayan Seabetween 12 and 14 September. On 17 September, Intrepid returned to Pelelieu to provide air support to the Marines that had landed on the island two days before.