Image: USS Intrepid
Seth Wenig  /  AP
The USS Intrepid aircraft carrier began the last leg of its two-year renovation on Wednesday, marking the 63rd anniversary of D-Day.
updated 6/7/2007 12:10:33 AM ET 2007-06-07T04:10:33

The historic aircraft carrier USS Intrepid is fresh from a body scrub and makeover, including a stem-to-stern painting with 7,000 gallons of traditional naval haze-gray — enough to cover about 400 large houses.

The gleaming carrier begins the last leg of its two-year renovation on Wednesday, the 63rd anniversary of D-Day, one of the most momentous events of World War II.

"We picked D-Day to move Intrepid to commemorate the victorious Normandy landing and to remember the thousands of servicemen and women who sacrificed and served to save Europe from the ultimate terrorist," Bill White, president of the Intrepid Air, Sea and Space Museum, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

A ceremony to welcome the Intrepid to Staten Island and to honor the allies who stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944, is planned at the Homeport Pier.

Former Intrepid crew members, Cmdr. Eric Christensen of the Coast Guard, and public officials are to participate in the laying of a wreath to honor those who lost their lives at D-Day.

The 41,000-ton ship-turned-military museum was refloated over the weekend after two months in drydock in Bayonne, N.J., where it underwent the exterior overhaul, including repairs to its weather corroded keel.

On Staten Island, the ship will undergo an extensive interior refurbishment, including the installation of new high-tech exhibits and state-of-the-art visuals and interactive displays. The work is expected to take 18 months.

Museum going 'green'
Intrepid is scheduled to return to Pier 86 in the Hudson River on Manhattan's West Side on Veterans Day 2008, when "a Super Bowl of ship returns" is planned, White said.

The museum will be taking a new "green" approach, changing lighting to conserve energy and requiring vendors to use environmentally friendly material — even the film used to photograph guests.

The $70 million project, which includes $8 million in Intrepid renovations and $50 million to rebuild the aging, city-owned Pier 86, is funded with public and private money.

So far, $4.5 million in private and corporate contributions have been raised, with $3.5 million more needed to cover the cost of Intrepid's renovations.

The Intrepid, launched in 1943, survived five Japanese kamikaze plane attacks and lost 270 crew members in the last two years of the Pacific war, spearheading the naval defeat of Japan. The Intrepid also served in the Korean and Vietnam wars and as a recovery ship for NASA astronauts.

Doomed for the scrap heap in the early '80s, Intrepid was rescued by New York developer Zachary Fisher, who transformed it into a military museum that opened in 1982. It recently drew more than 700,000 visitors a year.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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