Video: USS Intrepid moving for renovations

By Brian Williams Anchor & “Nightly News” managing editor
NBC News
updated 12/4/2006 7:30:53 PM ET 2006-12-05T00:30:53

"The name is Intrepid. Don't forget that. Intrepid has many meanings, but we are gutsy and we are invincible, so we will be fine anywhere," says Ray Stone.

Stone loves this ship. He served on it, back when it was the backbone of the U.S. Navy — back when the Japanese called it "The Ghost Ship," because it kept returning mysteriously — after being hit so many times.

He's seen the ship survive a great deal with his own eyes.

"First the torpedoing, then, five Kamikazes total," Stone recalls. "I've seen all of the major damage that's been done to the ship."

Its a gray steel monster: three football fields long. It was home to a floating city of 3,000 men from World War II to Vietnam. It was a floating airport, and it was a big welcome mat for all the astronauts who were hauled up on its deck.

So it was more than a little bit embarrassing when the attempt to tow the Intrepid failed.

"Well, you know, they refer to a ship as a lady, so we think that the old gray lady dug in her heels," says Bill White, president of the Intrepid Air, Sea & Space Museum. "She didn't want to leave her home. She's been here 24 years and what we did over the last three weeks is we actually removed her heels and she's ready for the dance."

It turns out four of the propellers were stuck in a cement-like mud speed bump on the bottom of the Hudson River. But since then, divers have looked at it, dredging has chewed away at it, and they say they're ready for the big move Tuesday morning.

It is a special place — a huge attraction in a big city — and it's all about telling the story of America's veterans, not just those who served on Intrepid — though they do feel a special bond. And many have come back to watch this next chapter.

"I will be with it forever, even after it happens, even after I'm gone," says Felix Novelli, a Coarse airplane captain. "The way we were bonded to each other, this is what I try to make people understand out there, 'cause if we could bond up like that, nobody's gonna touch us, and that's the way it was."

And about Tuesday morning — you heard this here first:

Brian Williams: Can you promise us, or as close as you can come, that the next time we see this ship that it will be at its new home?

Brig. Gen. Todd Semonite, Commander of North Atlantic Division of Army Corps of Engineers: "Yes, sir!"

Ray Stone will be on board Tuesday morning — with all his memories of Intrepid.

It has a different meaning to me than it does to the tourist or to the people who run the museum," Stone says. "We gave this ship its heart and its soul, too."

And if it all works on Tuesday, the Intrepid will be off to Bayonne, N.J. We will next see her in 2008, looking $60 million better.

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