President Bush Helps Welcome Back the USS Intrepid
In 1943 when the USS Intrepid was commissioned into service the champagne bottle failed to break when the ship was christened by Helen Smith Hoover. It was seen as a happy coincidence that the same thing happened on Veterans Day 2008, when First Lady Laura Bush and Mrs. Sally Hoover Casale, granddaughter of Smith Hoover, rechristened the ship as the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
President George W. Bush was on hand, at his last Veterans Day as president, with a visit to the New York pier that is home to the World War II aircraft carrier. During his speech, President Bush thanked all American veterans for their service, and said that after stepping down that he’ll “miss being commander in chief of such a fabulous group.”
The day’s ceremonies included a number of distinguished guests, including representatives from all branches of the U.S. Military: General James T. Conway, USMC, Commandant, United States Marine Corps; General Peter W. Chiarelli, Vice Chief of Staff, United States Army; Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, USN, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command; Vice Admiral Robert Papp, Jr. USCG, Commaner, U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area; and Lt. General Richard Y. Newton III, USAF, Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower and Personnel, U.S. Air Force. Other notable distinguished guests included U.S. Senators from New York Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York State Governor David Patterson and former NASA astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Scott Carpenter. The latter two helped the president lay a wreath into the Hudson River.
Numerous veterans who had served on the Intrepid during the ship’s colorful career were also in attendance, and it was noted many times that it was remarkable on many levels that the ship today serves as a museum. Launched in 1943 as a new Essex-class attack carrier, the USS Intrepid took part in six major Pacific Theater campaigns, including the Battle of Leyte Gulf — the Second World War’s largest naval battle. During the war the Intrepid suffered five Japanese kamikaze plane attacks as well as a direct hit by a torpedo, but the “Fighting I” refused to go down even with a fight! In total 270 crewmembers gave their lives in combat.
Following World War II the Intrepid saw service in both the Korean and Vietnam wars and was used twice to recover NASA astronauts. The ship also was part of the 1976 Bicentennial Ceremonies in Philadelphia, where she was later mothballed following decommission. She was slated for demolition but saved by New York philanthropist and real estate developer Zachary Fisher, who helped transform the majestic warship into a museum on Manhattan’s West Side on the Hudson River.
Here she became a popular attraction and since 1982 had played host to countless visitors as the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Former President George H. W. Bush took part in the June 6, 1994, ceremonies aboard the Intrepid to mark the 50th anniversary of D-Day, and throughout the years the ship was used to mark other notable historic occasions. However, one battle the ship was losing was against time and the elements.
In late 2006 the museum was temporarily closed so that the carrier could be moved for extensive repairs and improvements. And to prove the stubborn nature of this hopefully forever-unsinkable ship, she actually required considerable assistance to get moved from the pier! But unlike the effort it took to get her into dry dock, the Intrepid returned on time to mark the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I.
Now open to the general public, the Intrepid is back on New York City’s West Side once again, where President Bush marked the rededication ceremony to not only the proud crew of the ship, but to all veterans: “Thank you for your courage, thank you for your sacrifice and thank you for standing up when your nation needed you most.”