In mid-1971 the U.S.S. Intrepid (CVS-11), a World War II-vintage Essex-class aircraft carrier, was being used by the United States Navy to keep an eye on the Soviet Union's submarine fleet in the North Atlantic and other bodies of water adjacent to Western Europe.
At this time, the war in Vietnam was still receiving the lion's share of media attention. Consequently, most Americans, including (probably) sailors serving aboard the Intrepid, were distracted from the fact that it was not a re-unified Communist Vietnam that posed the greatest threat to the security of the United States but rather the Soviet Navy's SLBMs (Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles).
In 1971, I was one of those sailors and I regret that it was not until more than three decades later that I began to fully comprehend the scope and importance of the service that my shipmates and I rendered to the nation--a service that I and probably most of my shipmates took for granted. Owing to its seemingly routine nature and also because Vietnam was getting all the attention at the time, I don't think our contribution was ever fully appreciated by the American people either--and probably still isn't. What I am suggesting then is that Cold War veterans are just as deserving of recognition as those who served in Korea or Vietnam. Consequently, I think it is a situation that needs correcting--and what better way to do it than through websites such as this one?
By the time I served aboard the Intrepid, she was more than a quarter of a century old, having seen service during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. In early 1970, after the U.S.S. Yorktown (CVS-10) was retired, Intrepid took her place as an ASW carrier based at NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island and operating in the North Atlantic.
On 16 April 1971, the Intrepid departed Quonset Point, Rhode Island for the cruise this website commemorates, returning in mid-October. Unlike my first cruise aboard the U.S.S. Yorktown, which I did not actually join until it was about mid-way through its deployment, I was present for the entire six months of the Intrepid's journey as her pilots and aircrewmen hunted Russian subs in the North Atlantic, North Sea, Norwegian Sea, Arctic Ocean, Baltic Sea, and also the Mediterranean. I will be honest: Most of the time we were at "ops," I was pretty miserable. Like a lot of my shipmates, I had joined the Navy as an alternative to being drafted into the Army. Consequently, I was not the most enthusiastic of sailors. Most of all, I hated being apart from my pretty, young English wife, to whom I had only been married seven months before we sailed from Quonset Point. Fortunately, unlike most of the rest of the crew, who did not see their loved ones the entire time (except for those whose wives came to Hamburg on the dependents flight), I was able to spend some time with my wife, who visited me in six of the twelve ports Intrepid called at (one of them twice). Conversely, I took leave on two occasions to visit her in London, where she was staying with her parents while I served aboard ship.
Two things inspired this website. One was the recent realization that more than forty years had passed since I enlisted in the Navy (in January 1968). The other was the recently-aired PBS television documentary series, "CARRIER," which tells the story of the crew of the U.S.S. Nimitz as they go on a six-month deployment to the Middle East, transiting the Pacific and Indian oceans.
What struck me, as I watched the "CARRIER" series, was not so much the many things that have changed (such as women now serving aboard ship) but rather the things that remain the same. For instance, although sailors today have email and on-board pay phones to keep in contact with family and friends, they still look forward to mail call. I also noticed that the flight deck is still a dangerous place to be during "ops," that port calls are still eagerly anticipated, and that a huge difference in outlook remains between "lifers" (career sailors) and those who can hardly wait for the day their enlistment expires. (I was myself one of the latter.)
I want to make it clear that the purpose of this site is not to glorify war or to glamorize military life but rather to share my recollections of one of the most unforgettable events in my life--even if it wasn't a welcome one--as well as to show what life was like as part of a carrier crew operating in the North Atlantic (and several other bodies of water) during the Cold War. I am a historian "by trade" and therefore I have taken a historical approach toward this project. In any event, I hope you both enjoy and learn from it.
A word about the images on this site: Many are either personal photographs or pictures I created using image editing software. One example is the carrier at the top of the page, which was made from one of my own photos of the Intrepid. For all these I claim copyright, which means they may not be used without permission (but don't be afraid to ask!). Other images, such as the flag divider near the bottom of this page, are freely distributed on the Internet. Some, such as the gold seal on the home page and the cruise map accessible from the chronology page were scanned from my U.S.S. Intrepid 1971 cruise book, on which there is no copyright owing to it being a U.S. Government publication.
Finally, an acknowledgement: The lady in the photo below is my still lovely English wife--the same one I married only seven months before I went on the cruise this site commemorates, and the very same who kept me from going out of my mind all those years ago by coming to visit me in port as frequently as she could and by writing me lots of letters. I will forever be grateful to her.
-- Steven R. Butler, Ph.D. (formerly PR3, VS-24)