“It isn’t a piece of steel — it’s a piece of history,” said Ed Coyne, as almost 200 former crew members gathered on the USS Intrepid yesterday to celebrate its 80th anniversary, it was a time for celebration and reflection.

Ed Coyne Intrepid veteran
Intrepid veteran Ed Coyne at the 80 year event. Photo: Shannon Renfroe/US Navy

Coyne was just 17 when he boarded the new ship. At 97, he is one of the oldest surviving members of that crew — known as a Plank Member. “When we looked up at it, we said it was awesome,” he recalled. “Even after 80 years, it’s still awesome! I’m one of two here who helped put the ship in commission. I made the decision that as long as I am alive and not in a hospital, I would be here.”

The newly commissioned Intrepid was sent straight into battle, serving in the Pacific Theater and surviving five kamikaze attacks. “They tried everything to hurt it, they couldn’t sink it,” said Coyne proudly. In the 1960s, the aircraft carrier was the first thing US astronauts saw as they returned from space.

Intrepid 80 years US Navy Chief Carlos del Toro
US Navy Chief Carlos del Toro speaks at the Intrepid 80 years celebration. Photo: Shannon Renfroe/US Navy

Yesterday, it was alive with memories as veterans reunited and reminisced, with some former crew members meeting for the first time. Those assembled came from all eras of service and all corners of the US, including World War II veterans, some of whom had not seen their ship in decades.

The event also allowed the museum, past crew and their families to collectively pay tribute to the service of all who had been part of the ship’s history in a ceremony on the ship’s hangar deck that featured a special presentation to the World War II crew members and a moment of silence and performance of Taps to honor the fallen.

United States Secretary of the Navy, Carlos Del Toro — a 22-year naval vet who emigrated to Hell’s Kitchen from Cuba in 1982 with his father, was honored to be back in his old neighborhood for such a special occasion. “I can’t tell you how many times I travel around this country and I have some sailor come up to me that as a young child, they came here to this ship and met one of you and it was that experience that inspired them to join our Navy,” he said.

Intrepid 80 years Carlos del Toro
US Navy Chief Carlos del Toro talks to veterans at the Intrepid 80 years celebration. Photo: Shannon Renfroe/US Navy

“Throughout World War II, the USS Intrepid endured aerial torpedo and kamikaze attacks, her crew never faltering in their damage control duties to keep the ship in the fight,” he added. “ The Intrepid preserves the legacy of the men who served onboard — including members of our greatest generation, who bravely fought for our Nation’s freedom.”

Wilmer Lindey, 74, served on the ship from 1970 to 1974 and donated his last cruise jacket to the Intrepid Museum — where it hangs to this day.  “I enjoyed [my time on the Intrepid], I had a good time,” he said. “I would do it all over again. I try to see as many of my friends here as I can because I never know when’s the last time I’m going to be able to see them.”

Tom Barrow came in honor of his father, James R. Barrow, a gunner who served on the back of a torpedo plane aboard the Intrepid and a member of the Navy for 36 years.

“This ship was his home away from home. This was more than a job to him and he served an additional two years without pay,” said Tom. “All these guys here, they did it to wear their uniform because they love their country and they know how important it is.”

It was the fourth reunion for Nick Grecco, 77, who served on the Intrepid from 1965 to 1969 as a ship fitter, welder and pipe fitter. “I was on the Intrepid for all four years of my enlistment during Vietnam. I did a lot of stuff up on the flight deck.” said Grecco. “I think back to all the countries we’ve gone to and all the things I did. I lost four of my very good friends during that time.” 

Paul Ramirez, a former public school history teacher who became fascinated with the Intrepid, has volunteered in the museum for 14 years. “I just love the looks on people’s faces when you start to explain certain things about the exhibits. When you show people as well as explain it it becomes alive, it becomes history. It’s no longer just a story, it becomes real,” he said. 

Paul Ramirez Intrepid
Volunteer and veteran Paul Ramirez at Intrepid Museum. Photo: Ariel Pacheco

“Today was outstanding. To meet with and greet all the people who’ve been aboard this ship. It’s absolutely amazing to be able to sit and talk with these guys and listen to their stories.”

The Intrepid was decommissioned in 1974 and destined for the scrapyard — until it was saved and turned into a floating museum in 1982. It is located at Pier 86. For more information, visit the museum’s website here. 

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  1. This is SUCH a moving story. How wonderful that those guys are around to enjoy the Intrepid again. Brave men!

  2. The Fisher Family (of Fisher Brothers – a large commercial building developer) were instrumental in saving the Intrepid from the scrapyard, and to this day, they build housing all over the USA to house disabled veterans.

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