O N T O U R: A Home for Concorde in New York?
In the 2 June issue of ABTN, which featured Big Apple, ABTN gave more than a passing mention to the USS Intrepid, moored at pier 86 along the Hudson River and perhaps 15 minutes walk downhill along 42nd Street from Times Square. What we did not know at that time was that British Airways would be laying up Concorde and that WWII attack carrier (and memorial) would be bidding for one of the redundant aircraft. Presumably the Sea-Air-Space Museum has worked out the delivery process. Whilst Concorde, 203 ft in length, will fit without difficulty onto the carrier”s 820 ft long flight deck without too much trouble, getting it there might not prove that easy.
The Concorde bid gives ABTN the opportunity to return to Intrepid, one of New York”s unheralded but most interesting visit opportunities, particularly for anyone interested in either WWII or seaborne aviation. The Americans like to keep their big historic ships, unlike the British who consign them to the knackers yard (perhaps we should borrow one of the laid up US battlewagons for display at Portsmouth or Plymouth. It seems that the Brazilians still have one of our aircraft carriers ready to give away).
Launched in 1943 the USS Intrepid, CV-11, served the US Navy for 31 years and was one of 23 Essex class carriers that formed the backbone of the Pacific fleet during the latter part of the war against Japan . Throughout the Pacific campaign of WWII, the Intrepid suffered seven bomb attacks, five kamikaze strikes and one torpedo hit; yet the ship continually returned to action after repairs earning her the reputation among the enemy as the "The Ghost Ship."
After WWII, the modernisation of the Intrepid to an angled flight deck enabled the carrier to accommodate jet aircraft. During the 1960's she served as a prime recovery vessel for NASA, picking up both Mercury and Gemini capsules. After three tours of duty in Vietnam and finishing up her career as an ASW (antisubmarine warfare) ship, tracking Soviet submarines during the Cold War, the Intrepid was officially retired in 1974. Destined to be scrapped, a campaign led by the Intrepid Museum Foundation saved the ship and subsequently, the Museum opened in August 1982 and has proved to be a great success with over 600,000 visitors annually. The hangar deck can also be hired for presentations and parties. Sitting proudly during ABTN”s visit was a Mini on a promotional exercise. It looked tiny in the massive space which nearly takes up the whole length of the ship.
Pick up the self-pacing headsets after entering the museum. That way you can take the tour at your own leisure and in the order you think fit. However a must is the presentation theatre when a more or less continuous film sequence includes Remembering 9.11, a journey though that fateful day and Defending our Future, a look at the technology that protects freedoms. Climb up all the decks, from the mess to the Captain”s bridge, its hard work but well worth the struggle. The hangar deck is full of exhibits and nostalgia, including the original Iwo Jima Memorial Statue, modelled from the famous picture.
If a Concorde does find a home on Intrepid it will be joining a unique collection of mainly seagoing aircraft on board the carrier. The hangar deck houses three of the legendary types which originally flew from the carrier during WWII ” a TBM Avenger torpedo bomber, an F6F Hellcat fighter, and a SB2C Helldiver dive bomber. On the flight deck America”s modern military cutting edge is represented by a Navy F-14 Tomcat, an Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon, a Marine Corps AV-8C Harrier, and an A-12 Blackbird spy plane formerly in service with the CIA. International air power is also on display with a Supermarine F-1 Scimitar (ex-HMS Eagle), a French Entendard IV-M, and a Polish MiG-21. The Intrepid”s helicopter collection includes two Vietnam-era UH-1 Hueys, a Marine Corps AH-1J Sea Cobra, and a fully restored Army AH-1G Cobra gunship.
Built in 1958, this recently retired destroyer and veteran of Vietnam served the US Navy for 30 years. The USS Edson was the last of the 18 Forrest Sherman class destroyers to be retired. As the first post-WWII destroyer design, the Sherman class reflected the combat lessons learned during that conflict. From 1963 to 1975 she operated off the coast of Vietnam. During the conflict, the primary role of the Edson was to provide naval gunfire support to the troops who were ashore. In 1968 Edson won Navy”s Top Gun award. In that year she fired close to 28,000 shells in support of troops on the shore. The USS Edson is the most thoroughly restored vessel on display at the Intrepid Museum. Visitors can tour the destroyer's massive engine rooms, mess and berthing areas, 5" guns and magnificent navigating bridge.
Constructed in 1958 the USS Growler is essentially a WWII submarine hastily redesigned to carry rudimentary thermonuclear cruise missiles with a range of 500 miles that were launched on the surface. She remained in service for just six years and today is a forgotten footnote in the development of underwater warfare. What Growler does demonstrate is just how cramped submarines are. Tours are conducted in small groups. http://www.intrepidmuseum.org