From 1965 to 1968, Frank Vacirca and Gene Whitten were fellow Radarmen aboard the USS Intrepid CVS-11, among a large contingent of radarmen and sonarmen in OI Division. We made two cruises to the South China Sea and Vietnam waters, in 1966 and 1967. We met again after 41 years to take this memorable voyage together. We were among the privileged few former Intrepid crew members to be aboard and to man the rail as the Fighting "I" was towed back to a rebuilt pier 86 in New York City from Staten Island, after a two-year renovation. She has never looked better!
We got up in the middle of the night to make the 6 AM Staten Island Ferry from Manhattan on Thursday morning to get to the pier where Intrepid was moored. Then we rode the train two stops. When we got off, we could see the Intrepid in the distance -- the sun still hadn't risen yet. To see that familiar ship's dark outline silhouetted against the pre-dawn sky when we first arrived was overwhelming. That big number 11 was lit up like a beacon. It made me feel like I was just returning from liberty in some foreign port.
Our gracious hosts in New York, dan and Keren, were there to accompany us, aboard a chartered yacht. Frank and I spent a wonderful day on board Intrepid, running around the flight deck, roaming through passageways, meeting other former Intrepid sailors, and making new friends. We especially enjoyed meeting some of the former WW II crew members. On the journey up the Hudson, we stopped for ceremonies at the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center site. A 100-foot WTC flag was unfurled on the starboard side. It was a glorious day and an emotional trip back in time, to be remembered forever.
Our first glimpse of that familiar silhouette from the Stapleton train station on Staten Island.
An emotional sight in the predawn glow.
It's been 40 years since I've seen the Fighting "I" in person.
She looks like she could fire up the boilers and get under way.
Gene and Frank . . . anxious to walk aboard Intrepid once again.
Hold on . . . these sailors look a little TOO salty . . . and old!
Other former crew members . . . impatiently waiting.
Waiting for the Naval Homeport gate to the pier to be opened.
Keren and Gene self portrait.
Keren and dan will be boarding the luxury yacht Atlantica about 0900.
We are walking out onto the pier.
Sunlight bathes Intrepid in an orange glow.
Gene and Frank check out the new paint job.
The New York City Fire Dept. was on hand.
We're waiting in another line . . .
But we're glad to be here.
She's as big as I remember.
We stand in line a little longer. Who is the Master Chief Radarman whose uniform still fits him?
Signing several more waivers . . . just in case we fall over the side.
A special dog tag is our pass to go aboard.
More former crew members coming. Keren and dan watching.
We're ready to walk across the gangway.
A pause while making our way up to the flight deck.
It feels strange, yet so familiar.
Thanks for taking all the great photos, dan!
One more ladder to climb.
See you out on the Hudson.
The mast viewed from the pier.
Still tied up. Departure time is about 1100.
We found the glassed-in space -- it's a very nice huge, carpeted room where we were treated to all kinds of good food.
New York fire boat waiting to accompany us.
Heavy lines hold Intrepid.
View from the glassed-in hospitality room.
Frank and Gene on the fantail.
Reflection of Naval Homeport buildings.
The fantail -- I don't remember those glass doors in '65.
dan and Keren on the pier, seeing us off.
Time to head for the yacht.
Relatives and friends of former crew members waiting to board the yacht.
Some of our escorts: NYC Police boat, US Army Corps of Engineers boat, and NYC fire boat.
FDNY pumping standing water off the flight deck from rains the night before.
Intrepid has about 30 planes on display, 15 of them freshly painted and renovated.
In the "secret" portable hanger is what looks like an E-1B Tracer.
Not sure what will be displayed in here.
The island -- fresh haze gray paint looks great!
Numerous TV journalists and film crews were aboard.
This pretty lady (Magee Hickey) from TV2 in New York interviewed Frank -- I laughed!
Check out the name on the porta-potties. Dangerously close to a high power electric generator!
Battle ribbons . . . the bridge and the lookouts' 07 level station.
Frank on his way to the bridge.
The Manhattan skyline in the distance.
And the other way, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
British Royal Navy Supermarine F-1 Scimitar and behind it an Israeli Kfir fighter.
US Marines McDonnell F-4N Phantom.
Grumman F-11F Tiger, Navy Blue Angels.
Italian Air Force Aermacchi MB-339.
US Marines Douglas F3D-2 Skyknight (Korean War).
US Coast Guard Sikorsky HH-52 Sea Guardian (in front) and Sikorsky S-55/H-19 helos.
Chinese-built MiG-15, painted in colors of a Soviet ace pilot in Korean War.
Polish-built MiG-17, painted in colors of the North Vietnamese Air Force during Vietnam conflict.
MiG-21 PFM, gift of the people of Poland.
1962 Lockheed A-12 Blackbird, first production unit . . . and . . .
. . . more Blackbird -- with it's special starter truck.
Frank photographing something. This blurry picture marks the beginning of the end for my camera -- I dropped it.
A tug astern, moving us toward the pier so the stern lines can be cast off.
One 30,000 HP tug begins towing Intrepid away from the pier.
And we're "underway" as the NY fire boat begins spraying red, white, and blue plumes of water.
McAllister tugs all around Intrepid keep her on course in the stiff breeze.
And the yacht "Atlantica" also gets underway, with friends and family aboard.
She turns to prepare to follow Intrepid.
Leaving Homeport Pier behind.
We have a lot of company.
Flags are flapping in the strong wind.
The New York City Police Band plays.
Ex-policeman Frank took lots of pictures of the Police Band.
Former crew members man the rail.
Or, in some cases, bunch up along the rail.
Big pea shooter -- 5-inch 38.
I can image the World War II sailors manning guns like this.
A little more deck gray needed here.
Frank climbing the mast. Rear Admiral (Ret.) J. L. "Doc" Abbot was aboard this day -- his flag flies above. He was Intrepid's captain from 1960-62.
Passageway to the captain's bridge.
On the bridge -- it seemed bigger way back then.
Gene stands beside one of Intrepid's massive screws.
One of Intrepid's former loose screws!
Components of a yet to be completed display in the hangar bay.
North American FJ-3 Fury in the hangar bay.
Painted in the colors of squadron VF-33, which flew from the Intrepid in 1958.
I can still slide down ladders -- can't I ? This one's stlll very dirty and gunked up.
Many Intrepid sailors will remember this ugly green tile everywhere.
Down several more darkened passageways we found this.
We finally located what's left of CIC. It's a small room, divided in half, with equipment behind plexiglas on both sides.
We spent many hours sitting in front of these radar scopes.
The ECM room viewed through plexiglas.
We found one compartment under renovation, with a porthole view of the Manhattan skyline.
We got lost in a lot of dark, unlighted passageways, but eventually found our way out.
Two former WW II crew members who drove all the way from Georgia. These guys are OUR heroes.
Another WW II Intrepid sailor from Queens, NY who had some stories to tell.
A group of Intrepid WW II former crew members with Rear Adm. Abbot.
View from the yacht Atlantica -- getting closer to lower Manhattan.
We're making about 3 knots. A tug is pulling the stern to port to keep Intrepid from swinging in the wind.
Passing the Statue of Liberty.
And a brief ceremonial stop.
Notice the 50-caliber guns on the bows of these two Coast Guard picket boats.
We stopped for a ceremony at the World Trade Center site.
A sailboat accidently entered inside the picket boat line and was quickly turned back by a Coast Guard speed boat.
Another glorious view of the Intrepid on her way home. What a beautiful day!
Back out into deeper water.
It's hard to believe that one tugboat can tow a 30,000 ton aircraft carrier.
There were at least 7 or 8 tugs.
Midtown Manhattan -- pier 86 isn't far now.
The tugs are pushing Intrepid to get her aligned to tow into the pier.
The World Trade Center flag on the starboard side.
All ahead full -- and no mud!!
Crowds of people lined the river to see Intrepid coming home. And quite a few on that tug, too.
The end of Pier 86 is on the far left.
The Army Corps of Engineers boat.
The band marches down the flight deck, and begins playing as we near the pier.
A large group of people are waiting on the beautiful rebuilt pier.
Pier 86, at last. Those are some HUGE fenders!
The gangway we'll reluctantly walk across at the end of this great day.
USS Intrepid, being tied up.
One last view of the mast.
Saying goodbye to old and new friends.
Walking through the hangar bay.
View from the pier. (Gene on the phone, trying to locate dan and Keren.)
One last look to treasure. We'll be back again soon.