About 300 former crew members of the battleship-turned-museum the USS Intrepid returned to it on Friday to mark the 70th anniversary of its commissioning during the height of World War II. The Navy veterans served on the aircraft carrier between 1943 and 1974, when it was decommissioned.
The 27,100-ton vessel has been a tourist attraction since it opened as the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum on the West Side in 1982.
World War II veteran Joseph Barry, of North Carolina, remembered his first sight of the Intrepid a few weeks before its Aug. 16, 1943, commissioning in Virginia.
"I couldn't believe anything that big could possibly float," said Barry, 88.
But he said his commanding officer told him "it would not only float, but she was about to go to sea and win the war."
The Intrepid took part in several campaigns in the Pacific Ocean Theater and was damaged five times by kamikaze aircraft, museum president Susan Marenoff-Zausner said.
The Intrepid was modernized after the war and became an anti-submarine carrier. It participated in the Vietnam War and was the recovery ship for two space missions.
Some of the oldest veterans attended the ceremony in wheelchairs, assisted by children and grandchildren. Daniel Kaszubski, of western New York state, accompanied his 89-year-old father, John Kaszubski, and said he was overcome by emotion at the sight of the Intrepid and the thought of his father's service.
"It brings tears to my eyes," he said.