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EXPLORATIONS - August 8, 2001: The Intrepid Museum - 2001-08-07


This is Shirley Griffith.


And this is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program “EXPLORATIONS.” Today, we visit the Intrepid Sea-Air-and Space Museum in New York City. It is an unusual museum that seeks to preserve old ships as an educational experience and as a memorial to peace.



A visit to the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum begins with a ship that carried fighter planes. This aircraft carrier is the U-S-S Intrepid. The Intrepid is a very honored name among ships of the United States Navy. The huge aircraft carrier is the fourth ship to have that name. The first was a small wooden sailing ship that was built in Eighteen-Oh-Three. It was lost a year later in battle against pirates.

The U-S-S Intrepid that visitors see today in New York City sailed during World War Two. Few ships are as famous as the Intrepid. It was so successful in battles during World War Two in the Pacific Ocean that the Japanese Navy began calling it “The Ghost Ship.”

The Japanese believed they had sunk the Intrepid several different times. The ship may have been seriously damaged, but it always came back to fight again and again.

The Intrepid took part in many battles. The most famous of these may have been the battle of Leyte Gulf, near the Philippines. It was the largest naval battle in history. The ship also supported the landings of Allied troops in their effort to free the Philippine Islands from Japanese control.


During the last months of World War Two, the Japanese military attacked American ships by crashing airplanes into them. The Japanese pilots gave their lives in an effort to cause as much damage as possible.

The U-S-S Intrepid was one of the first American aircraft carriers to suffer this kind of an attack. On October twenty-ninth, Nineteen-Forty-Four, a Japanese aircraft crashed into the left side of the ship. Ten American sailors were killed.

That was only the first time this kind of attack would happen to the Intrepid. To better understand happened during these attacks, imagine for a few moments we are on the U-S-S Intrepid on November twenty-fifth, Nineteen-Forty-Four.



It is a bright clear day in the Phillipines. It is a little after one in the afternoon. High above the Intrepid, a group of several Japanese airplanes flies over the American force. The Intrepid’s crewmembers are at their battle stations. They quickly begin shooting at the small Japanese planes. The crew of the Intrepid knows that an aircraft carrier is the first choice of the Japanese pilots who want to crash their planes into American ships.

One Japanese pilot points the front of his airplane down. He increases his speed. He is aiming his plane at the Intrepid.

Faster and faster he dives toward the large carrier. Gunfire from the ship hits his airplane many times. But the pilot continues toward the carrier and his sure death.

High above the ship, another Japanese pilot pushes the control that aims his airplane toward the large carrier.

Within five minutes, the two Japanese airplanes crash into the Intrepid. One explodes below the huge carrier’s landing area. This area is called a hanger deck. It is where aircraft are kept when they are not flying.

Huge fires begin immediately. Smoke fills the sky. The ship burns for about six hours. Sixty-nine crew members of the Intrepid are killed. Another eighty-five are seriously injured. The Intrepid can no longer take part in the battle.

The skill and bravery of the crew saves the Intrepid. Slowly, the carrier leaves the battle area to return to the United States for repairs. When the repairs are completed, the U-S-S Intrepid and its crew return to battle again.



The U-S-S Intrepid also took part in battles during the Korean War and the War in Vietnam. But not all of its working life was in battle. It was used in the American space program. It recovered some space vehicles that landed in the ocean after their flights into space.

The Intrepid was the ship that rescued American astronaut Scott Carpenter after his flight in May of Nineteen-Sixty-Two. Later it was the recovery ship for Astronauts Gus Grissom and John Young as part of the Gemini space program.


In October, Nineteen-Seventy-Six, the Intrepid was the official Navy and Marine Corps ship used in cerebration of the two-hundredth anniversary of the United States. The ship was retired from active duty in Nineteen-Seventy-Four.

When old ships can no longer continue in active duty, they are sold for the metal that can be taken from them and reused. By Nineteen-Eighty, the Intrepid, which had such a proud past, seemed to have no future.

Then, a number of interested people formed a group called the Intrepid Museum Foundation. Their main goal was to save the ship and turn it into a museum. One member of that group became the economic force behind the effort.

That man was Zachary Fisher of New York City. Mister Fisher spent twenty-four million dollars of his own money in order to save the Intrepid. He wanted to make the Intrepid a lasting memorial to those who gave their lives in defense of their country. He also wanted it made into an educational museum.


The United States Navy agreed. The Navy permanently lent the U-S-S Intrepid to the Museum Foundation. In August, Nineteen-Eighty-Two, the Museum opened to the public on the Hudson River on the west side of New York City.

The goal of the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum is to educate the public about the history of the Intrepid and the men who served as members of the crew. The museum also wants it to represent the peace that these men worked so hard to protect.

Later two other ships were added to the Museum’s collection. They are both much smaller than the Intrepid. One is the a submarine, the U-S-S Growler. It was in active duty for only six years. The Growler is the only missile submarine open to the public anywhere in the world. It offers visitors a close look at life on a submarine.

Just behind the Growler is the U-S-S Edson. The Edson is a destroyer. It was built in Nineteen-Fifty-Eight. The Edson served as an active ship for more than thirty years. It is named for Marine Corps General Mike Edson, a hero of battles in the Pacific during World War Two.



Last year, about six-hundred-thousand people visited the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Museum officials say that number is increasing each year.

The first thing these visitors see when they arrive at the Museum is the Intrepid. It is very hard to miss the huge ship. It weighs more than forty-thousand tons and is more than two-hundred-seventy meters long.

On the long flight deck of the carrier are airplanes. Some are very large. Other countries owned several of them. There is a British plane, a French plane, and a Russian built jet fighter that once belonged to the Polish air force.

Perhaps the most famous airplane on the Intrepid is the Lockheed A-Twelve Blackbird. This spy plane could fly higher and faster than any other plane. It could travel faster than three times the speed of sound. One of these planes once flew from Los Angeles, California to Washington D-C in a little more than one hour.


Visitors can move about the Intrepid and see how the crew lived and worked. They can climb the stairs to the room that controlled the ship. Many people bring cameras and have their picture taken with their hands on the wheel that was used to guide the huge aircraft carrier.

On the area called the hanger deck visitors can inspect aircraft used in World War Two. They can also watch movies and see how airplanes took off from and landed on the carrier. They can see pictures of important events in the history of the ship.

Very often visitors can talk to several older men who were members of the crew of the Intrepid. These men give freely of their time to tell the story of the “Ghost Ship.”



You can learn more about the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space museum and see pictures of its famous ships by entering the word Intrepid in a World Wide Web search. It is spelled…I-N-T-R-E-P-I-D. That is I-N-T-R-E-P-I-D.

This Special English program was written by Paul Thompson. It was produced by George Grow. Our studio engineer was Keith Holmes. This is Shirley Griffith.


And this is Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another EXPLORATIONS program on the Voice of America.