U.S.S. Intrepid CV-11 (Aircraft Carrier)
The fifth of the 24 ship Essex class, U.S.S. Intrepid was built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company and commissioned into the US Navy in the summer of 1943. Intrepid arrived in the Pacific in early 1944 and distinguished itself with service in campaigns against the Japanese in the Marshalls, Philippines, and Okinawa.
Intrepid was damaged by an air-launched torpedo in 1944 and returned to the west coast for repairs before rejoining the fleet for the invasion of the Philippines. During that campaign, after participating in several actions, the ship was struck by two kamikazes, causing heavy casualties and severe damage. The ship was forced to again retire to the west coast for repairs. Joining the fleet once again in time to participate in the invasion of Okinawa, Intrepid was again the victim of a kamikaze assault. Although less severely damaged than in the previous attacks, the overwhelming superiority of the American fleet allowed the luxury of once again sending the ship to California for repairs.
Intrepid supported the occupation of Japan following the surrender in Tokyo Bay and remained in Yokosuka until December of 1945, at which time the ship returned to the United States, arriving in San Pedro just before the end of the year.
In 1948 Intrepid shifted berths to San Francisco and was placed in reserve, remaining in that status until 1952, when the ship was moved to Norfolk. After modernization in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Intrepid began service with the Atlantic fleet. Further modernization was accomplished in 1957 and for the remainder of the decade, Intrepid alternated Atlantic operations with deployments to the Mediterranean.
Throughout the 1960s the carrier operated in a variety of roles in the Atlantic, now designated as an anti-submarine warfare aircraft carrier. In 1962, Intrepid served as the primary recovery ship for astronaut Scott Carpenter’s Mercury spaceflight in Aurora 7, a role it would repeat in 1965 when the carrier would recover the first manned Gemini flight.
The second half of the 1960s found Intrepid making three deployments to Vietnam, operating aircraft striking land-based targets and engaging North Vietnam’s Russian built and provided airplanes. Returning to the Atlantic in the early 1970s, Intrepid conducted training exercises and participated in US and NATO operations. In 1974 the carrier was again placed in reserve and moored in Philadelphia. Although scheduled for scrapping, a successful campaign was launched to have the ship preserved as a museum in New York, a role it assumed in 1982.
In 2012 the retired space shuttle Enterprise was displayed on the flight deck of the recently refurbished Intrepid.
Asbestos Exposure on U.S.S. Intrepid
Like all ships of its vintage, U.S.S. Intrepid was built using a significant number of materials and components containing asbestos. Lessons learned in the Pacific about the potential hazards of fire aboard aircraft carriers forced the Navy and its builders to employ asbestos as an insulator and fire retardant in the construction of ships. (The United States lost four aircraft carriers in combat, largely due to fire damage, before Intrepid joined the fleet).
The use of asbestos-containing materials was widespread throughout the vessel, but one component in particular was found in virtually every compartment and space on the ship. The use of asbestos cloth to insulate pipes meant that miles of asbestos-laden insulation could be found on board. This insulation, as the paint which covered it deteriorated due to normal degradation or the harsh conditions aboard ship, would release asbestos fibers into the air, where they were freely dispersed about the ship by contact with skin or clothing, or by the ship’s ventilation system.
Intrepid served its entire career before serious asbestos abatement efforts began in the late 1970s.