USS Intrepid freed from thick New York City river mud

Wednesday, December 6, 2006
The USS Intrepid Air, Sea and Space Museum aircraft carrier passes the Statue of Liberty as it heads to Bayonne, N.J., for repairs, traveling along the Hudson River in New York, Tuesday Dec. 5, 2006. Banner reads "Honor our Heroes." (AP Photos/Bebeto Matthews)

NEW YORK -- Finally pulled free from the Hudson River bottom, the historic aircraft carrier USS Intrepid was on the move again Tuesday, passing majestically through New York Harbor, bound for a long-awaited overhaul at a New Jersey shipyard.

The Intrepid's owners scrubbed an attempt a month ago when the floating military museum's rudder and four giant propellers got stuck in the mud at the pier that had been the ship's home for the past 24 years.

"I'm 18 again. And I have my beautiful broad right here, my ship Intrepid," said Felix Novelli, who served during World War II.

Three weeks of dredging removed nearly 40,000 cubic yards of muck from under the ship.

As happened on Nov. 6, the blue water was churned dark brown Tuesday as powerful tugboats strained to haul the giant vessel from its longtime home.

"If she doesn't move, we are going to jump in and push her," said 84-year-old Joe Cobert, a former crewman.

The engineless carrier was towed stern-first past the Statue of Liberty on a five-mile trip to Bayonne, N.J., where it will undergo a $60 million renovation.

In addition, its pier will be demolished and rebuilt, and some of the carrier's 20-plus vintage aircraft will be restored. Several of the planes, some of them shrink-wrapped, remained on deck as the ship made its way downriver.

As the Intrepid passed the World Trade Center site, about 20 former crewmen unfurled a 50-by-90-foot American flag and stood in a silent tribute.

Residents who had come to know the Intrepid as a permanent gray presence paused to watch from sidewalks, cars and skyscraper windows.

"I love that ship. I live nearby and I have seen it every day for years," said Norm Jacob, an actor.

The Intrepid survived five kamikaze attacks and lost 270 crewmen in the last two years of World War II in the Pacific. It also served off Korea and Vietnam and as a recovery ship for astronauts after their space capsules splashed down at sea.

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

Associated Press Writer Pat Milton contributed to this report.

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