World War II: USS Intrepid (CV-11)

USS Intrepid (CV-11). Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command

The third Essex-class aircraft carrier built for the US Navy, USS Intrepid (CV-11) entered service in August 1943. Dispatched to the Pacific, it joined in the Allies' island-hopping campaign and took part in the Battle of Leyte Gulf and invasion of Okinawa. In the course of the World War II, Intrepid was hit by a Japanese torpedo and three kamikazes. After serving with the occupation forces at the end of the war, the carrier was decommissioned in 1947.

Fast Facts: USS Intrepid (CV-11)

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Aircraft Carrier
  • Shipyard: Newport News Shipbuilding Company
  • Laid Down: December 1, 1941
  • Launched: April 26, 1943
  • Commissioned: August 16, 1943
  • Fate: Museum Ship


  • Displacement: 27,100 tons
  • Length: 872 ft.
  • Beam: 147 ft., 6 in.
  • Draft: 28 ft., 5 in.
  • Propulsion: 8 × boilers, 4 × Westinghouse geared steam turbines, 4 × shafts
  • Speed: 33 knots
  • Range: 20,000 nautical miles at 15 knots
  • Complement: 2,600 men


  • 4 × twin 5 inch 38 caliber guns
  • 4 × single 5 inch 38 caliber guns
  • 8 × quadruple 40 mm 56 caliber guns
  • 46 × single 20 mm 78 caliber guns


  • 90-100 aircraft

In 1952, Intrepid commenced a modernization program and rejoined the fleet two years later. The next two decades saw it serve in a variety of roles including as a recovery ship for NASA. Between 1966 and 1969, Intrepid conducted combat operations in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. Decommissioned in 1974, the carrier has been preserved as a museum ship in New York City.


Designed in the 1920s and early 1930s, the US Navy's Lexington- and Yorktown-class aircraft carriers were built to meet the limitations set forth by the Washington Naval Treaty. This agreement placed restrictions on the tonnage of different types of warships as well as capped each signatory's overall tonnage. These types of limitations were affirmed through the 1930 London Naval Treaty. As global tensions became more severe, Japan and Italy left the agreement in 1936.

With the collapse of the treaty system, the US Navy began creating a design for a new, larger class of aircraft carrier and one which drew from the lessons learned from the Yorktown-class. The resulting design was wider and longer as well as included a deck-edge elevator system. This had been used earlier on USS Wasp (CV-7). In addition to carrying a larger air group, the new design mounted a greatly enhanced anti-aircraft armament.


Designated the Essex-class, the lead ship, USS Essex (CV-9), was laid down in April 1941. On December 1, work commenced on the carrier that would become USS Yorktown (CV-10) at Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company. That same day, elsewhere in the yard, workers laid the keel for the third Essex-class carrier, USS Intrepid (CV-11).

As the US entered World War II, work progressed on Intrepid and it slid down the ways on April 26, 1943, with the wife of Vice Admiral John Hoover serving as sponsor. Completed that summer, the carrier entered commission on August 16 with Captain Thomas L. Sprague in command. Departing the Chesapeake, the Intrepid completed a shakedown cruise and training in the Caribbean before receiving orders for the Pacific that December.

Island Hopping

Arriving at Pearl Harbor on January 10, Intrepid commenced preparations for a campaign in the Marshall Islands. Sailing six days later with Essex and USS Cabot (CVL-28), the carrier began raids against Kwajalein on the 29th and supported the invasion of the island. Turning towards Truk as part of Task Force 58, Intrepid took part in Rear Admiral Marc Mitscher's highly successful attacks on the Japanese base there. On the night of February 17, as operations against Truk were concluding, the carrier sustained a torpedo hit from a Japanese aircraft which jammed the carrier's rudder hard to port.

By increasing power to the port propeller and idling the starboard, Sprague was able to keep his ship on course. On February 19, heavy winds forced Intrepid to turn north towards Tokyo. Joking that "Right then I wasn't interested in going in that direction," Sprague had his men construct a jury-rig sail to help correct the ship's course. With this in place, Intrepid limped back to Pearl Harbor arriving on February 24. After makeshift repairs, Intrepid departed for San Francisco on March 16. Entering the yard at Hunter's Point, the carrier underwent full repairs and returned to active duty on June 9.

Proceeding to the Marshalls in August, Intrepid began strikes against the Palaus in early September. After a brief raid against the Philippines, the carrier returned to the Palaus to support American forces ashore during the Battle of Peleliu. In the wake of the fighting, Intrepid, sailing as part of Mitscher's Fast Carrier Task Force, conducted raids against Formosa and Okinawa in preparation for Allied landings in the Philippines. Supporting the landings on Leyte on October 20, Intrepid became embroiled in the Battle of Leyte Gulf four days later.

USS Intrepid, 1944
USS Intrepid (CV-11) during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, 1944. US Naval History and Heritage Command

Leyte Gulf and Okinawa

Attacking Japanese forces in the Sibuyan Sea on October 24, aircraft from the carrier mounted strikes against enemy warships, including the massive battleship Yamato. The following day, Intrepid and Mitscher's other carriers delivered a decisive blow against the Japanese forces off Cape Engaño when they sank four enemy carriers. Remaining around the Philippines, Intrepid sustained heavy damage on November 25 when two kamikazes struck the ship in the course of five minutes. Maintaining power, Intrepid held its station until the resulting fires were extinguished. Ordered to San Francisco for repairs, it arrived on December 20.

Repaired by mid-February, Intrepid steamed west to Ulithi and rejoined operations against the Japanese. Sailing north on March 14, it commenced strikes against targets on Kyushu, Japan four days later. This was followed by raids against Japanese warships at Kure before the carrier turned south to cover the invasion of Okinawa.

Attacked by enemy aircraft on April 16, Intrepid sustained a kamikaze hit on its flight deck. The fire was soon extinguished and flight operations resumed. Despite this, the carrier was directed to return to San Francisco for repairs. These were completed in late June and by August 6 Intrepid's aircraft were mounting raids on Wake Island. Reaching Eniwetok, the carrier learned on August 15 that the Japanese had surrendered.

Postwar Years

Moving north later in the month, Intrepid served on occupation duty off Japan until December 1945 at which point it returned to San Francisco. Arriving in February 1946, the carrier moved into reserve before being decommissioned on March 22, 1947. Transferred to Norfolk Naval Shipyard on April 9, 1952, Intrepid began an SCB-27C modernization program which altered its armament and updated the carrier to handle jet aircraft.

Re-commissioned on October 15, 1954, the carrier embarked on a shakedown cruise to Guantanamo Bay before deploying to the Mediterranean. Over the next seven years, it conducted routine peacetime operations in the Mediterranean and American waters. In 1961, Intrepid was redesignated as an anti-submarine carrier (CVS-11) and underwent a refit to accommodate this role early the following year.

USS Intrepid and Gemini 3
USS Intrepid (CV-11) recovers Gemini 3, March 23 ,1965. NASA

NASA and Vietnam

In May 1962, Intrepid served as the primary recovery vessel for Scott Carpenter's Mercury space mission. Landing on May 24, his Aurora 7 capsule was recovered by the carrier's helicopters. After three years of routine deployments in the Atlantic, Intrepid reprised its role for NASA and recovered Gus Grissom and John Young's Gemini 3 capsule on March 23, 1965. After this mission, the carrier entered the yard in New York for a Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization program. Completed that September, Intrepid deployed to Southeast Asia in April 1966 to take part in the Vietnam War. Over the next three years, the carrier made three deployments to Vietnam before returning home in February 1969.

USS Intrepid during the Vietnam War
USS Intrepid (CVS-11) in the South China Sea, September 1966. US Naval History and Heritage Command

Later Roles

Made flagship of Carrier Division 16 with a home port of Naval Air Station Quonset Point, RI, Intrepid operated in the Atlantic. In April 1971, the carrier participated in NATO exercise before beginning a goodwill tour of ports in the Mediterranean and Europe. During this voyage, Intrepid also conducted submarine detection operations in the Baltic and on the edge of the Barents Sea. Similar cruises were conducted each of the following two years.

Returning home in early 1974, Intrepid was decommissioned on March 15. Moored at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, the carrier hosted exhibits during the bicentennial celebrations in 1976. Though the US Navy intended to scrap the carrier, a campaign led by real estate developer Zachary Fisher and the Intrepid Museum Foundation saw it brought to New York City as a museum ship. Opening in 1982 as the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, the ship remains in this role today.

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Hickman, Kennedy. "World War II: USS Intrepid (CV-11)." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Hickman, Kennedy. (2020, August 28). World War II: USS Intrepid (CV-11). Retrieved from Hickman, Kennedy. "World War II: USS Intrepid (CV-11)." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 7, 2023).