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Stuart Elefant

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Intrepid Museum Foundation, Inc.
July 28, 2011

My father, J.J. Elefant, was an original crew member of the USS Intrepid - a "plank owner". He came aboard a week prior to her commissioning on August 16, 1943 and remained with the ship for the remainder of WWII. Dad kept a detaiIed daily journal during those two years, which he shared with me when I grew up. I donated Dad's journal to the Intrepid Museum for three main reasons: 1) because I believe the museum has a sincere interest in its contents, 2) they have a unique capacity to put the information it contains to good use, and 3) because, over time, I believe the museum will give Dad's diary a good home.

This is my personal connection to the Intrepid Museum. Through my father I have always had a keen interest in the Intrepid, the Pacific war, and all things related to aircraft carriers, ships and planes. Ironically, while he chronicled events, he rarely talked about his life aboard the ship unless pressed. My dad was a loving father but wasn't a particularly talkative man; particularly when it came to talking about the war. For him, it wasn't that important to talk, but it was important to remember. Because I felt so proud of his service, I wanted to hear more. Dad's reply was that he didn't think anyone would be interested in hearing the tales. He figured war stories were a dime-a-dozen and he didn't want to be a bore.

Dad was wrong. People do want to hear and learn. There is a huge interest in aircraft carriers, naval aviation, the ships and the planes. And of course, the people who served and sacrificed. When it comes to aircraft carriers, Intrepid is the only game in town!

Stepping aboard Intrepid is like entering a time portal. The ship has a presence. She beckons. Let your imagination flow and it's 1944. A dark February night. A little too quiet. Suddenly, the ship shudders as a Japanese torpedo slams into her stern. Klaxons blare as the crew run to their battle stations....

Standing high up on the Captain's bridge, you look out on an international array of aircraft displayed on the flight deck. I can watch as jet engines scream and catapults launch. Gazing aft, one can almost see returning planes, low on fuel, lined up to land, tail hooks anxious to catch an arresting cable. Look again and it's 1962 as Intrepid helicopters lift off to recover NASA astronauts.

Intrepid is a living piece of history - a meticulously preserved Essex class aircraft carrier. Unlike brick and mortar museums that merely display artifacts, the ship itself is the main artifact. And parked across the same pier is a real, cold war era, missile firing submarine. The airplanes are all real too. I can tell you that the staff of guides, restorationists and volunteers are passionate in their desire to share Intrepid's story. The museum also features science and the exploration of space. When you visit, don't be surprised to find yourself meeting former crew members and aviators who truly enjoy telling their stories and describing their experiences. Though not myself a veteran, I am now an Intrepid volunteer as well.

And as for Dad's diary, I think he would be pleased to know that the museum begins each day with a memo to staff, which draws from his journal, entitled "This Day On Intrepid".

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in that I received correspondence from visitors thanking me for making them aware of the Intrepid's role in preserving American freedom. Most frequently, it is rewarding to see the faces of young children alight on touring the ship and learning about how such a large ship can float, and why airplanes need folding wings.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

If a had to make a change, I would like to see the museum acquire an F6F Hellcat fighter plane to round out their WWII collection.

MY ROLE:
Volunteer & I work as volunteer / docent. .

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