- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — A month after a failed attempt to move the USS Intrepid, the historic aircraft carrier was finally freed yesterday from the Hudson River anchorage where it had sat for nearly a quarter of a century as a museum.

“This old baby is moving,” a joyous Intrepid Foundation President Bill White said aboard the vessel. Some crew members cried and gave each other high-fives and hugs. Onlookers ashore cheered.

“It’s like it used to be, only better. There’s no bloodshed,” said passenger Felix Novelli, who served in the Intrepid crew during World War II. “I’m 18 again.”

As the Intrepid passed the World Trade Center site, about 20 former crew members unfurled a 50-feet by 90-feet American flag and stood in a silent salute.

The trip began with considerable effort, the historic aircraft carrier-turned-museum inching haltingly away from its anchorage. Finally, it began moving at about 3 to 4 knots, its pier growing more and more distant.

In the previous attempt, thick mud had proved too strong for six “tractor tugs.” Another battle occurred this time, too — the blue water was churned dark brown as tugboats strained to budge the giant vessel from its longtime home.

“If she doesn’t move, we are going to jump in and push her,” a former crew member, 84-year-old Joe Cobert, said on the Intrepid’s deck before the behemoth began to move yesterday.

The smaller boats moved the ship stern-first into the center of the Hudson River, then nudged the bow until it was parallel with the shore and began heading downstream.

The carrier was being towed, still backward, down the river toward New York Harbor for a five-mile trip to a shipyard in Bayonne, N.J., where it will undergo renovations.

Three weeks of dredging removed nearly 40,000 cubic yards of muck from under the ship and around its four giant screws. Based on an assessment by military engineers and tugboat operators, officials had said they expected a smooth departure for the 63-year-old World War II hero ship.

In the first attempt on Nov. 6, the 36,000-ton carrier moved only a few feet before the propellers dug into the bottom, the tide dropped and the mission was scrubbed.

The Intrepid survived five Japanese kamikaze suicide-plane attacks and lost 270 crew members in the last two years of the Pacific war. It later served off Korea and Vietnam and as a recovery ship for NASA astronauts.

Decommissioned in the late 1970s, it was destined for the salvage yard when rescued by New York developer Zachary Fisher and transformed into a floating military and space museum that opened in 1982, recently drawing upward of 700,000 visitors a year.

Intrepid officials said the $60 million overhaul, lasting up to two years, would include stem-to-stern “refurbishment and renovation” to repair deterioration and open up long-closed areas to the public.

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