World War II Memoirs
I joined the Navy on November 7, 1942 at the age of eighteen and was shipped to Boot Camp at the Naval Training Station located in Norfolk, Virginia. My next assignment was the Naval Air Station located in Anacostia, DC. After serving a few months at the Anacostia facility, I was given orders to report to the USS Intrepid located in Newport News, VA. I was assigned to the Radar Division, V3. I felt that this was an exceptional opportunity and an enormous challenge for me. The reason for this was that radar in, those days was highly classified and a newly developed weapon. We were sworn to secrecy and were told “don’t say the word and don’t write the word”.
After attending extensive radar training I went aboard this great ship, The Intrepid. I was present at the commissioning ceremonies that took place on August 16, 1943. In Navy terminology, I became a Plank Owner
Served aboard the USS Intrepid, CV11 from August, 1943 to May, 1945.
Assigned to teach Radar Operation to Naval personnel in Hawaii from May, 1945 to November, 1945.
Assigned to teach Radar Operation to Naval personnel in San Diego, California from November, 1945 to December, 1945.
Discharged from the Navy on January 10, 1946.
I achieved the rank of Radarman 2C
USS Intrepid CV11 Statistics
Aircraft Carrier, Essex Class
3,348 officers, enlisted men and airmen
Length – 898 feet
Earned 5 battle stars
Nickname “Fighting I” and the “Mighty I”
Commissioned August 16, 1943
Maximum speed 32.7 knots
Weapons – Armament
8-5 inch/38 cal twin mounts
4-5 inch/38 cal single mounts
. 32-40 MM quadruple mounts
.46-20 MM single mounts
Aircraft as of 1945
15 SB2C, dive bomber
15 TBM, torpedo bomber
( total aircraft 103)
Japanese aircraft shot down by the Intrepid:
Ship’s gunners -14
Pilots – 306
Pilots destroyed on the ground – 288
Japanese ships encountered by the Intrepid pilots:
28 ships sunk, including the Battleships Yamato and Musashi
22 probable ships sunk
31 ships damaged
Intrepid Engagements Against the Following Pacific Locations
Wake Island I Japan
Naval Action “Fighting I” Historical Calendar – Pacific Theater
The Intrepid was the most hit Naval Ship by enemy aircraft in World War II. However, this ship’s officers, crew and pilots did their job to assist in the total defeat of the enemy. We would not give up!! In addition to the many attacks on Japanese held Islands, aircraft and ships, we experienced many direct hits by suicide planes also known as, Japanese Kamikazes. It was during these encounters that we lost many, many good men. The Japanese referred to the Intrepid as “The Ghost Ship” because they could not sink her.
The Kamikaze, Japanese suicide planes, hit and bombed many US Naval ships in the last stages of the war. It was utterly amazing that these pilots would fly through a thick curtain of flak from our ship’s guns and then hit our ship. They would attack either by flying in an angle glide toward the ship or fly above the ship and come straight down in a perpendicular dive or approach the stern of the ship flying just above: the water line then nose the plane up and nose down into the flight deck.
February 17, 1944
The carrier Intrepid was torpedoed at Truk Island. The torpedo hit 15 feet below the waterline in the starboard stern section. As a result the starboard rudder was jammed. We immediately headed for the open sea and the Captain was faced with a very serious problem. Due to the loss of one rudder (the ship was equipped with two rudders) the ship would not respond to the helm. As quoted by our Captain “this ship would weather cock with the wind. The ship kept turning west toward Tokyo: at the time I didn’t want to go to Tokyo”.
Ingenuity prevailed and with the help of canvas sails which were “jury rigged” to catch the wind, this mighty ship arrived at Pearl Harbor on February 24, 1944. Probably this was the only naval ship in history to arrive at this naval base or any other naval base under full sail!! This torpedo attack cost us
– eleven men killed and seventeen injured – a terrible loss.
Our dead were always buried at sea with military honors, religious services and respect. Their grave markers are latitude and longitude.
October 29, 1944
We had taken on a big role in the battle of the Sibuyan Sea. The Intrepid helps to sink the Japanese battleship Musashi and caused damage to other warships. The “Fighting I” task force helped to destroy the enemy’s carrier fleet in that particular location. On October 29, a Kamikaze suicide plane hit the ship on the port side forward. The area was manned by 20MM gunners, all black, steward’s mates. Ten of these brave men were killed. One steward’s mate made a gallant attempt to free his shipmates from a fiery death, however, this failed and he luckily survived. This hero, several years later, received The Navy Cross for his bravery. This tribute was presented to him by President Ronald Reagan aboard the Intrepid.
November 25, 1944
We were engaged in one of the biggest naval battles in history, namely Leyte Gulf. The Intrepid was hit by a Kamikaze suicide plane. The plane penetrated the flight deck, exploded and landed on the hanger deck. As a result fires and other explosions spread throughout the ship. Six minutes later the Intrepid was hit by a second Kamikaze suicide plane. These planes carried a bomb, which detonated on impact. The second suicide plane also exploded and fell to the hanger deck causing more explosions and fires. This was the worst day that our ship ever encountered. We lost 69 men and seriously injured 85.
The ship was on fire with explosions erupting throughout the ship for more than three hours. Fortunately the firefighting crews and damage control crews were able to control and eventually put out the fires. Luckily, we did not have to abandon ship. In my division, 26 of my shipmates, friends and buddies were killed. At the time of this attack, I was a radar plotter for Admiral Bogan and his staff. After the planes hit us, the alert was communicated throughout the ship for volunteers who had been trained in artificial respiration to report to the flight deck. I was given permission by the Admiral to help since I had been trained to perform this function. Several bodies were taken to the flight deck away from the large holes in the flight deck and fires where the planes had hit us. The ship’s doctors assigned two men to each body. We performed artificial respiration on each man for several hours. None of these men survived. The sailor that I tried to revive was from my division, a young man and a friend from Arkansas.
March 18, 1945
We were off the coast of Japan when the Intrepid managed the most incredible escape of the war. A Japanese heavy bomber, a Betty, just missed our ship by a matter of a few feet. This bomber was attempting to crash dive into our flight deck, but the ship’s guns hit the plane and this avoided a major disaster.
The aircraft exploded alongside covering the ship with flames. The explosion and resulting fire was twice as high as the ship was long. The fires were extinguished in minutes. The Intrepid stayed in action.
April 16, 1945
The US Fleet is attacked by 354 aircraft during the naval battle at Okinawa. Five enemy planes attacked the “Fighting I” simultaneously. All were shot down, but one, which crashed into the ship. More fires and more explosions erupted. Eight brave men were killed and 21 were injured. This was the last time the Intrepid would be damaged throughout her career.
The Men Who Gave Their Lives for the USS Intrepid and Our Country
Ship’s company 104
Air Group 8 2
Air Group 6 16
Air Group 18 69
Air Group 10 12
Today the USS Intrepid is a “Sea-Air-Space Museum” berthed in New York City, on the Hudson River. At the present time, September 2007, she is undergoing a complete renovation at another location. Upon completion of this extensive restoration, she will return to her pier in New York City. The return will take place sometime in 2008. Again, this ship will be available to the public to stroll on her decks and marvel at this gallant ship’s travels and history. Since 1982, when the ship became a museum, thousands of visitors have come aboard the “Mighty I”.
I can truthfully say that I am extremely proud and privileged to have been a crew member of the USS Intrepid – “My Ship”.
Jack K. Alexander Ocean Pines