The World War II aircraft carrier Intrepid, powered by tugs and accompanied by a festive Hudson River traffic jam, was returned Thursday to the Manhattan pier where it has served for 24years as a military and space museum.
Onlookers gathered along the riverbanks and in passing pleasure craft as the estimated 38,900-ton vessel was ceremoniously escorted Thursday on its 5-mile journey from Staten Island.
The Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum had occupied the Manhattan space until late 2006, when it was moved for extensive repairs and improvements costing nearly $120 million and taking 22 months.
“She looks good, brand new – but I admit to a little bias,” said retired Adm. James “Doc” Abbot Jr., 82, who commanded the carrier in the early 1960s and was back on board as honorary skipper.
The Intrepid arrived home following brief stops to salute the Statue of Liberty and unfurl a large American flag near ground zero, honoring victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept.11, 2001.
When it left the Manhattan pier, problems plagued the ship. Its propellers got stuck in the mud. The Army Corps of Engineers has since dredged the pierside channel to 35 feet, giving the Intrepid 11 feet of bottom clearance at high tide. The channel also was widened to 110 feet to accommodate the hull, which is 103 feet wide at the water line.
Launched in 1943 as one of the Navy's then-new Essex-class attack carriers, the USS Intrepid figured in six major Pacific theater campaigns including Leyte Gulf, the war's greatest naval battle, surviving five Japanese kamikaze suicide planes.
It later saw service in the Korean and Vietnam wars and was twice a recovery ship for NASA astronauts before it was decommissioned and mothballed in a Philadelphia shipyard – slated for demolition until rescued by New York real estate developer and philanthropist Zachary Fisher.